Industry trends

Using hotel automation to alleviate staff shortages

Petra Hancz

Petra Hancz


Hospitality staff shortages continue to blight the landscape with hoteliers still struggling to recover recruitment numbers to pre-pandemic levels. More than half of hoteliers are currently running at 25% to 74% of the workforce they had in 2019, according to Deloitte, and less than 10% expect to be back to full staffing by the end of 2023. 

Recruitment and retention within the industry is a serious concern that impacts both businesses and consumers. There are a number of problems compounding this issue, as highlighted in a survey conducted by Harri and CGA, which found that 54% of people didn’t want to work unsociable hours, 49% reported an increased workload and 47% said that the pay doesn’t match the demands of the job.

During a time of rapid digital transformation, hoteliers are under enormous pressure from consumers for seamless, personalised guest journeys, but lack the people to deliver it.

Automating manual tasks

This is forcing hospitality businesses to embrace alternative, digital strategies, but operators are stopping short of replacing humans altogether. Instead they’re opting to automate manual tasks in some parts of the customer journey so staff have time to improve the guest experience in others.

This is usually a win-win for the guests and the operators. As soon as check-ins are automated, for example, guests don’t have to queue at a front desk and staff aren’t chained to them either. Freeing staff from carrying out repetitive tasks immediately improves their quality of life at work, giving them more time to do the things that require that personal touch. Automation can prevent staff becoming bored and disengaged, and presents greater career opportunities.

This is why a set of KPIs routinely measured to validate well-implemented automation adoption includes employee turnover rate, employee performance and even staff absence. All of these aspects can be monitored to ensure automation strategies are working, not forgetting other metrics such as ROI on time saved vs investment, accuracy and productivity. 

One provider that has successfully adopted automation is ADAPT Apartments, which implemented it at each stage of the guest journey. This saved the business 50 hours every week, resulting in a 50% cost reduction, demonstrating the significant cost and time savings that can be made.

Below are five ways that hoteliers can effectively implement automation by working smarter, not harder:

1. Focus on error-prone tasks

As well as solving a staffing crisis, automation can remove the risk of human error in manual tasks. A great place to start when adopting automation is to look at which processes have been prone to mistakes. Online bookings, guest communications, check-in and the payment cycle can all be automated saving time, money and the mistakes that frustrate guests.

By using your property management platform as an orchestrator, it is possible to automate workflows between apps for a seamless solution. For example, if payments are a big pain point for an operator, they can be integrated using different apps to cut down on errors related to billing, accepting payments and recording financial transactions. 

2. More with less

It is a good idea to approach automation in structured steps, rather than overhauling a system all at once. With the ultimate goal of achieving more with less, automation should be implemented using a modular approach that focuses on unlocking one area of operations at a time. This reduces the risk of moving too fast, and allows you to take staff on the journey with you. You’ll first work on those areas of the business where automation will have the biggest impact.

3. Tech partners

Deciding what to automate first requires the right tech partner, capable of delivering expert advice when it comes to which areas of your business to automate first — or at all. A good technology partner will guide you through this process, flagging which automations will work best for you and gradually replacing small parts of your business as your needs change. You’ll be able to future-proof your tech stack without causing huge disruption in the process.

Eva Klausner, Director of Guest Experiences at Numa, recently highlighted the importance of finding the right partner to help the team scale and automate its operations: “We constantly look for new tools in the market, assessing potential alternatives, keeping an eye on future scalability. It's crucial that the tools we adopt not only meet current needs but also align with our rapid scaling. The past roadblocks have highlighted the necessity of finding partners who can keep pace with our sometimes unconventional ideas and adapt to our growth trajectory.” 

4. Staff training

Another area of automation is staff training. Hoteliers are able to train staff using a virtual-reality sandbox that can simulate real life situations. This ensures staff are trained quickly and any remaining potential for error is eliminated. Personalised training programmes can even be created automatically, shaped by data captured on staff behaviour and performance to suggest areas for improvement.

5. Tech-savvy staff

Across the broad economy, almost 70% of businesses report being held back in their digital adoption because of a shortage of tech professionals but, by creating a tech-savvy workforce, operators can unleash the impact of automation right across the shop floor. Members of staff who are proficient in the use of technology are better able to take on new roles, swap roles, and take on additional responsibilities.

“What's truly empowering is observing individuals utilising the technology and becoming proficient in its use, fostering literacy across the organisation and the team,” Eva Klausner, Director of Guest Experiences, went on to say. “Then you begin to witness the results, as your people start to appreciate it. They now approach us with ideas on how to enhance the technology, suggesting ways it could perform better and how we could improve our processes. This ongoing business improvement is the real proof, indicating that we've indeed done something right.” 

Developing a long-term digital strategy that unleashes the full potential of automation will ensure you’ve got a well-loved product that continues to evolve and isn’t at the mercy of the labour market. However, don’t try to do it all at once. Take it in stages and you’ll see how automation in relatively few areas can have a disproportionate impact on the business as a whole.

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