Although performance in early 2022 is uncertain, there are encouraging signs for hotels and restaurants around the world1. Booking ahead is back, business travelers are on the road again, and restaurants are hard to find seats during the holiday season. But if the hoteliers and restaurant owners are thinking they can operate the business as before, you might need to think twice. Labor shortage and unexpected travel restrictions are only a few challenges the service industry is going to tackle in 2022. Whether by choice or by force, technology like automation and Artificial intelligence (AI) are going to massively disrupt the hospitality workforce. As you look ahead to appealing to customers, attracting new employees, and refining your operations, consider how these 11 trends will transform your business.
1. Vaccination tracking will be a top priority.
Despite a temporary halt to the federal vaccine mandate for employees, more employers will be focused on monitoring the health status of their workers. Tracking vaccination status and/or test results will be the number-one issue in 2022. As booster shots become the norm and the world deals with the uncertainty of new Covid variants, finding the right technology to monitor who is in compliance with the company policy will be critical. It will not be confined to workers, either. Your staff needs to feel equally safe when new people walk in the door. That’s why more hotels and restaurants will require guests and customers to provide evidence of vaccination2, too.
2. Waiting for a paycheck will be part of the past.
In addition to thinking about the physical health of staff members, employers need to focus on their financial health, too — and that means breaking the tradition of a two-week pay cycle. According to a recent article on Forbes3, 83 percent of workers believe they should have access to their wages at the end of each day or conclusion of a shift, and 78 percent indicated that they would be more loyal to an employer who embraced an on-demand pay model. Expect more employers to integrate a faster approach to pay — such as Unifocus’ partnership with Rain for instant pay capabilities — to improve the finances of their workers.
3. The five-day workweek will no longer be the default.
Eight hours each day, five days each week — it’s been the standard routine for the American workforce for quite a long time. However, employees today want different options. In fact, 42 percent of employees between the ages of 22 and 35 who had recently left their jobs said that a four-day workweek4 option would have convinced them to stay. Expect to see more companies rethink the calendar and embrace the Fair Work Week framework to provide staff with more advanced scheduling and confidence in their hours.
4. Flexible scheduling will be demanded.
Rachael Rothman at CBRE said it perfectly at the 2021 Lodging Conference5, “The labor crisis is not a wage issue. It’s a flexibility issue.” Next year, more employers in the service industry will take cues from the gig economy. Uber, Lyft, Instacart and other big names in the gig economy61 that have attracted workers have done so by offering a major incentive: The chance to choose your own hours. Tools like Unifocus’ ShiftGenius are designed to deliver that appeal and put each employee in control of determining when — and how long — they want to work.
5. Points won’t just be for guests.
Loyalty points have proven to be one of the most valuable pieces of customer retention. In 2022, the points game will expand to employees. From offering points for a certain number of consecutive shifts to bonus points for overtime, hoteliers will recognize that points can pay big dividends for employees, too. Think about how appreciative hourly employees will be when they can cash in those points for a free stay with their families or other incentives like a gift card at their local grocery store.
6. Employers will have a real-time approach to employee feedback.
Forget annual performance reviews and six-month check-ins for employee satisfaction. Retaining employees has never been more challenging, but part of the solution is very simple: Ask them what you can do better - NOW. Real-time insights allow managers to identify and address issues before they become a major problem that sends employees running for the hills. Unifocus launched upgrades to Pulse Surveys earlier this year to make sure that workers feel valued and heard. With easy-to-distribute options via email and SMS in an employee’s language of choice, the tool will be a key ingredient to success in 2022 and beyond.
7. Retired employees will re-enter the workforce.
Whether by choice or by necessity, we have seen the rise of mature workers (workers over 55) in the labor market like never before. Research from the Federal Reserve Board7 estimates that approximately 33 percent of those who retire eventually return to the workforce in some capacity. This is a tremendous opportunity for the service industry that can offer an environment and a schedule that appeals to workers over 55. But it also comes with different challenges employers need to conquer. The technology implementation needs to be intuitive and flexible schedules become even more critical.
8. Employees will wear multiple hats.
The labor shortage will likely continue as the economy reshuffles. That means that cross-utilization will play a key role in 2022. Employers will identify the team members who are equipped to handle responsibilities outside their typical routines — housekeeping staff shifting to room service delivery or hosts helping with table service, for example. Companies that invest in better Learning Management systems (LMS) and task allocation technology will see positive impacts immediately.
9. A commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion.
Employees aren’t just concerned about their pay and their schedules. They also care about who is working alongside them. A recent survey from Glassdoor8 revealed that 76 percent of those looking for jobs indicated that they evaluated the diversity level of a company. Employees want more than lip service and PR statements about the importance of diversity and inclusion. They want to see it in action — and if they don’t, they’ll work somewhere else.
10. Guests are going to expect more — and automation will help them get it.
The latest forecast from the Global Business Travel Association9 projects that hotel rates will increase 13 percent next year. That higher price tag is going to put even more pressure on hoteliers to deliver an extraordinary experience. A continuing labor shortage means that hoteliers will need to invest in tools designed to eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth internal communication to expedite service requests. Additionally, it means that there isn’t time to wait until that post-stay review to address guests’ frustrations while onsite. Tools like Knowcross Glitch will be essential to provide real-time solutions for dissatisfied guests and allow staff to make things right before the guest checks out.
11. Digital disruption will actually (finally!) happen.
The entire industry has been hearing about artificial intelligence, robotics and other futuristic-sounding elements for the past decade. Until now, they still actually felt like they were part of a distant future. In 2022, though, that disruption will happen. Advancements in 5G technology mean that the technological infrastructure will have the necessary bandwidth to fuel all those devices. UniFocus is ahead of the curve with the introduction of Odin, a virtual workforce management assistant powered by AI technology this summer.
2022 will be a year about redefining and reshaping the status quo. If you’re looking for help navigating 2022 and beyond, we’re here to lend a hand. Click here to set up a time to connect with us and discuss new opportunities for your company to take advantage of the evolving service industry.
 PwC Research: Travel and hotel forecast 2022. October 19, 2021
 The New York Times: Some hotels are mandating vaccines. Whill others follow? August 27, 2021
 Forbes: Most workers want to be paid automatically every day according to new poll. September 13, 2021
 CNN Business: Workers are crying out for a four-day week. It’s time for their bosses to pay attention. November 17, 2021
 15 Takeaways from the 2021 Lodging Conference. October 6, 2021
 How a gig mindset can help solve the labor shortage. October 26, 2021
 Federal Reserve Board: Labor force transitions at older ages: burnout, recovery, and reverse retirement.
 The Washington Post: For younger job seekers, diversity and inclusion in the workplace aren’t a preference. They’re a requirement. February 18, 2021
 Business Travel News: Hotel rates projected to lead price rises in 2022 and beyond. November 17, 2021