Hotel Labor Standards Must Evolve with Guest Expectations

By: Ralph Varble, VP of Operations, UniFocus

When your labor force fails to live up to guest expectations, it can indicate a larger issue within your operations and workforce. Alternatively, if your staff consistently exceeds performance standards, it could also mean the standards themselves are outdated in comparison to a dynamic marketplace.


Either way, a misalignment between real labor performance, guest satisfaction, and your performance standards could signal it’s time to reevaluate your labor, re-engineer your standards, or both. Failure to make necessary adjustments makes it more difficult to satisfy guests long-term, ultimately affecting their intent to return and recommend.


Thankfully, hotel operators now have the tools they need to consistently monitor standards versus labor performance, allowing their operations to naturally evolve with market changes, demand, and expectations. One of the biggest hurdles, however, is recognizing the shortcomings of traditional, deep-seated practices that might have served them well at one time but cannot easily adapt to today’s market. Embracing labor management innovations and a workforce optimization strategy will create the competitive advantage that comes with thorough, accurate insights and greater flexibility.


An Indispensable Barometer


Your labor standards serve as a constant gauge. Working with your forecasts, they tell you what you’re going to need from your workforce and operations to meet demand at the level of quality expected by your guests.


Read Next: The Only Hotel Guest Satisfaction Score That Matters


Every hotel, no matter the class or size, needs that gauge to ensure they understand what is required to satisfy guests and provide the best experience possible. From day-to-day performance, weekly metrics, and even seasonal changes in demand and expectations, your labor standards are an indispensable barometer that should inform what you’ll need from your workforce at every turn to meet your dynamic demand.


Further, labor standards directly inform your scheduling, taking the intersection of those standards and forecasting to determine how many staff members will allow you to meet expectations.


The difficulty with labor performance standards exists in the transition from concept to reality.

The difficulty with labor performance standards exists in the transition from concept to reality. Or, simply put, applying static standards to evolving expectations creates a recipe for inefficiency. Over time, that leads to wasted labor costs and lower guest satisfaction rates.


Change Is Inevitable


Think back to the hotel industry just a decade or two ago. Bell staff were a guest expectation then, but times have changed, and they are now an exception to the rule. Although such a service will always be an expectation at many hotels, guests generally no longer expect to have bell staff take their bags, escort them to the elevator, and guide them into their rooms. In fact, the typical business traveler prefers to check-in from their phone and walk straight through the lobby upon their arrival and up to their room.


If your hotel caters to a business traveler, keeping bell staffing at levels based on prior history, means you’re going to have quite a few idle employees. Even worse, business travelers might find your well-meaning bell staff more annoying than beneficial. Therefore, your labor costs are both needlessly higher than they should be and harming your reputation. Assuming you don’t have unlimited resources, you're far better off devoting the money you’re spending on bell staff to areas that create actual value for you and your guests.


Rewriting the Value Equation


It all comes down to value. Our work with thousands of individual hotels gives us countless examples of stale labor standards that lose their ability to change with shifting guest expectations. The value that a hotel and its guests derive from certain services changes as expectations shift. From bell staff to clean linens every day, room service to a fleet of staff at the front desk, guests have different expectations than they did just a few years ago, a trend that will continue.


The value equation changes over time, and if your labor standards don’t keep pace, you’re not optimizing your workforce. As we’ve discussed, workforce performance optimization is critical for a hotel to effectively compete, satisfy guests, and drive the  intent to return. The same premise holds for understanding expectations relative to your hotel class. If the luxury property down the street charges $450 per night and still has bell staff, room service, and mints on the pillow, that doesn’t mean you should follow suit at your $85 nightly rate. An operator should gauge their services, staffing, and standards relative to the available resources, market niche, and realistic guest expectations.


Workforce Optimization Leads the Way


So how does an operator transform labor standards into a dynamic tool that keeps pace with a changing marketplace and guest expectations? An optimization system provides a constant stream of insights and metrics that help managers perpetually measure demand and performance. Our LMS platform, for example, is a comprehensive solution that combines far-reaching forecasts, automated and nimble scheduling, budgeting, and reporting to let hoteliers always judge performance against standards.


Download: Ultimate Hospitality Workforce Optimization Playbook


Operations can change over time, so re-examining labor standards occasionally will help you stay aligned with changing guest expectations. A  guest feedback solution, for instance, expands the power of evolving labor standards, allowing a hotelier to have a consistent, accurate pulse on guest expectations and adapt their standards accordingly.

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