4 things hospitality workers want (and need!) to deliver next-level service

Posted on: August 16, 2023Updated on: April 16, 2024By: Paige Magarrey

Hospitality frontlines are in desperate need of support. According to our recent research, nearly half of hospitality associates want to quit their jobs, one of the highest instances of all industries polled. And 54% of hospitality managers are feeling burned out on a daily basis. 

Hotel worker answering phone call at front desk

Post-pandemic burnout, economic volatility and staffing issues are just a few of the stressors impacting the frontline’s ability to stay productive and deliver next-level service on a daily basis. In fact, 60% of hospitality workers and managers polled said understaffed locations are significantly impacting their day-to-day work—and 54% said the same regarding employee burnout. And while some of those factors are beyond what organizations can reasonably control, some can be addressed by enabling and empowering frontlines with what they want—and need—to maximize productivity. 

Sentiments from hospitality frontlines

And those wants and needs might be different than leaders think. Looking at more findings from our research, there’s a hierarchy of needs that hospitality frontline workers and managers need to have met, and when the more foundational needs—feeling heard, development and growth, and even a sense of community—get overlooked, there’s an increased risk of disengagement, inefficiencies and turnover.

The hierarchy of hospitality workers' needs

Let’s explore this research to identify the specific things hospitality workers are looking for to stay engaged, motivated, productive and loyal at work. 

What hospitality workers want

For the Deskless Report 2023, we asked frontline workers and managers from a range of industries (including hospitality, retail and more) to rank their top drivers of happiness and success—everything from recognition and perks to training and technology. In other words, we asked frontline workers what they need to thrive at work. 

Chart displaying the top contributors to frontline happiness and success among hospitality workers

The top success drivers ranked by hospitality workers and managers were illuminating. Hospitality workers are coming to work overworked and burned out. So, how can hospitality organizations enable and empower their people with some of the foundational support they need to deliver the expected quality of service? 

Let’s look at the top success factors ranked by hospitality frontlines: 

1. A sense of community

It speaks volumes that a strong sense of community outranked equitable compensation as the top driver of employee success and happiness. With 46% of hospitality managers and workers wanting a strong employee community, they are closely aligned with the overall sentiment of all industries polled. Amid recent volatility and uncertainties in the market—and beyond—the need for strong relationships and connections among peers has never been stronger. 

The balance that organizations need to find is between smaller communities—of specific regions or locations—against the broader workforce as a whole. Finding ways to help smaller employee groups flourish and connect with the communities around them, while also scaling that connection to the whole organization, takes time and effort. But it’s well worth it. 

2. Equitable compensation

Our research found that 45% of hospitality managers and workers ranked equitable compensation as one of the major drivers of success and happiness at work. Unfortunately, 48% said inadequate compensation is significantly impacting their day-to-day work. 

It’s no surprise that compensation ranked so high. Again, thinking of these success drivers in the framework of a hierarchy of needs, livelihood is the foundational layer on top of which all other needs are built. This is how workers support themselves and their households. Without this layer in place, it becomes difficult for organizations to build up the others: stability, community and culture. 

3. Empathetic leadership 

A rallying cry for empathy and compassion has been ringing through frontline industries in the years that followed the pandemic—and it’s only growing. One report found that 68% of CEOs believe empathy needs to evolve in U.S. organizations (up from 43% in 2022) and 42% of CEOs see the value of empathy to employee retention (up from 23% in 2022). Frontlines so want to feel more connected to HQ and see their own needs and challenges acknowledged and addressed that empathetic leadership earned a spot as a top driver of success for 42% of hospitality managers and workers, according to the Deskless Report.

But for empathy to make a real difference, it has to start at the top. And accountability at the CEO level is dropping. Only 53% of CEOs feel they have the strongest influence on workplace empathy, a number that dropped from 69% in 2022. As Elizabeth Thompson, founder and Chief Experience Officer for Intuitive Quest, LLC, put it in a recent interview, “Companies can transform the world. We have a lot of responsibility as organizations to make positive change. But in order for a leader to really influence their culture, they have to take a hard look in the mirror. Transformation starts with you.”

4. Recognition

While 42% of hospitality managers and workers ranked recognition as one of the top drivers of success and happiness, many don’t have access to it. The Deskless Report found that instances of recognition were lowest in the hospitality industry—a whopping 27% of hospitality leaders said recognition wasn’t offered at all. 

Shocking? Yes. For an industry that prioritizes memorable guest experiences and next-level service, employee recognition should be par for the course. But this gap is also a great opportunity. Recognizing employees doesn’t necessarily require substantial budget or bandwidth; with the right tools in place, identifying star performers is possible, no matter the size and scale of the organization. And finding simple and consistent ways to celebrate employees that exceed expectations can have a major impact on KPIs and company goals. 


The hospitality industry has more than its fair share of challenges at the moment. But the insights above present major opportunities to engage and retain frontline workers who are pivotal to organizational success. By finding ways to give hospitality workers what they want and need, organizations can foster the above-and-beyond service expectations they’re after and maximize productivity, while keeping their people happy and engaged. Win-win-win.

Paige Magarrey

Paige Magarrey is a writer, editor and content marketer obsessed with telling epic and informative stories about the frontline experience.

Read More by Paige Magarrey