Modern Training

3 data-backed tips to improve employee productivity in hospitality

Posted on: June 6, 2023Updated on: April 16, 2024By: Maliyah Bernard

Every visit is an opportunity to make customers feel confident about spending money on experiences like dining out and traveling—especially with many prioritizing saving. But, without strong frontline performance, organizations in the hospitality sector won’t be able to reliably and consistently deliver these stand-out experiences.

We partnered with RedThread Research for Getting Real About the Frontline Workforce, a new report that looks at the state of deskless workers, and three significant challenges emerged that hospitality leaders need to address to better enable and acknowledge their frontline workforce.

Hospitality Hotel Worker Maximizing Productivity

1. Make access to information easier for hospitality workers

Giving employees access to information in the moment of need is a big challenge for many organizations. While some have found communication solutions to keep their employees in the loop, others still struggle to ensure their teams have everything they need to stay safe at work and perform well.

Long delays between training sessions, storing procedural binders far away from the floor, limited or sporadic access to technology and overburdened managers and supervisors are a few things that get in the way of hospitality workers’ access to critical information.

RedThread Research’s report offers both low and high-tech recommendations for giving hospitality workers this crucial access:

  • Use stand-ups to give people the information they need: Daily pre-shift huddles or shift-change meetings are a great time for passing on collective information, conveying side work priorities, coordinating shift coverage and flagging challenges and concerns.
  • Provide information based on the nature of the work: You have goals for your workforce, but tailoring the delivery of information to the type of work your employees do helps keep these goals role-relevant and achievable on an individual level. The report revealed that at The Coca-Cola Company, leaders think about 3 types of workers: those that work on a factory floor, those behind a wheel and those behind a screen.
  • Make integrations with work tech easier: How seamless is your work tech stack? Putting instructions, job aids, videos, checklists and other resources into whatever systems frontline workers are using centralizes information so they can find what they need.
  • Expand employees’ access to devices: Digitizing resources along with adopting a BYOD policy on your frontline, if it’s the right fit, offers a flexible solution for employees to get information on the devices they already know, use and love—whether that’s their own smartphone, a POS machine or company tablet. 

2. Offer more worker autonomy to solve problems, amaze customers and improve service quality

If you want your employees to make headlines for the right reasons and create memorable customer experiences, first they have to feel comfortable and supported in making decisions and taking actions that go beyond the checkboxes and exercise a level of independence without explicitly needing to consult their supervisors every time.

In a restaurant, giving employees more autonomy might mean shift managers have empowered servers to stop a production line if they see a quality or safety risk or step in to comp a meal when needed to rescue a challenging dining experience. At a hotel, managers might encourage concierge staff to speak up to ensure every guest feels welcomed and respected or look for new ways to improve reservation processes.

Shifting mindsets, legacy processes and expectations won’t happen overnight, but there are ways to build up employee confidence to turn unplanned situations around:

  • Expect employees to do the right thing: If you expect employees to uphold values like customer service, safety or quality, building trust between team members and leadership is imperative. Job descriptions, regular meeting agendas, feedback and coaching conversation prompts and templates, and how leaders talk about organizational values are points of communication with opportunities to align on expectations.
  • Remove unnecessary oversight or approval: How many decisions does management really need to be involved in? Cutting the extra layers from tedious decision-making processes frees employees to make decisions appropriate to their situations.  
  • Celebrate autonomy and proactivity: When employees are proactive or exert autonomy in ways the organization wants, reinforce the good behaviors—it’s a reason to celebrate! 

“We’re allowing staff to make decisions independently rather than going to somebody at the office for things that they could probably problem solve themselves.”

Melissa Schultz, Head of HR, Union Community Care  

3. Stabilize their personal lives and finances

An employee’s performance can suffer when they are exhausted or anxious about paying bills, maintaining stable housing, dealing with food insecurity, or experiencing childcare, transportation or healthcare struggles. 

While the choice to get involved in the personal lives of their employees is a matter for every business and leader to determine, it’s important to consider that the nature of many hourly, low-wage frontline jobs can present more of a challenge when it comes to meeting these needs. 

To echo the words of Harvard Business Review contributors Joseph Fuller and Manjari Raman: “No matter how hard or how long they work, many low-wage workers cannot climb out of poverty…[and] are often on the verge of homelessness, food insecurity, and insolvency.”

Many leaders that have agreed to help employees gain stability to help the organization have done so by:

  • Experimenting with different scheduling approaches: Unpredictable and often-changing schedules are a notorious challenge for many hospitality workers. Some organizations are introducing scheduling tech, allowing employees to swap shifts without manager approval or reworking their scheduling approach to help address this challenge. One company even changed to a condensed, fixed schedule to help employees “plan their lives…plan vacation, childcare, school.”
  • Providing resource-navigation services: Does your community or government offer access to agencies, resources or services like childcare, caregiver support, transportation or housing assistance? Encourage employees to find and access these services directly or enlist the support of collectives like WorkLife Partnership or The Source to help employees navigate the bureaucracy. 
  • Tailoring benefits to their employees’ needs: When choosing which benefits to offer, many organizations opt for ones that address their specific frontline populations’ needs or give employees options to tailor the benefit themselves (e.g., a broader wellness stipend instead of a narrow gym stipend). Jessica Lee, SVP of Global Talent Development at Marriott International & The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, shares that her team puts its employees front and center by investing in benefits that appropriately acknowledge how important they are to the support of cornerstone properties. This stance means Marriott may choose not to offer benefits packages that employees from other industries might be used to. But Lee revealed that it’s a trade-off leaders have made to provide relevant and meaningful support for the bulk of their workforce.
  • Raising pay, if possible: Recently, major players like Walmart, Amazon, Target and Best Buy have upped employee pay. Whether your organization chooses to make this type of investment will depend on many factors, but it’s important to consider that it is one way to offer frontline employees more stability.    

Hospitality workers want to do the best job they can when they show up for work but they can’t stay productive and deliver on your brand promises without the information they need at their fingertips, financial security, and autonomy and permission to go beyond checkboxes to bring customers joy. Try these tips to get started and check out the full report for more frontline insights.

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Maliyah Bernard

Maliyah Bernard is an academic writer turned content writer. As a former frontline worker, she loves writing about all the ways organizations can support these essential workers smarter.

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