Employee Engagement in Hospitality: Tips and Benefits

Employee Engagement in Hospitality: 3 Tips from a Former Frontline Worker

Employee Engagement in Hospitality: 3 Tips from a Former Frontline Worker

Last updated on March 21, 2024 at 07:24 am

Cracking the code on employee engagement in hospitality doesn’t have to be challenging. Having worked in several hotels and restaurants, I have seen and experienced a lot. I’ve been fortunate to work in some restaurants and hotels where they really figured out how to engage their teams. But I’ve also seen the various ways where communication can break down in the hospitality industry.

In this blog, I hope to offer guidance on what information your frontline hospitality workers might be looking for in their communications.

What is Employee Engagement in the Hospitality Industry?

Before I share my tips for improving employee engagement in hospitality, let’s cover some important context. What do we mean by employee engagement for hospitality workers?

theEMPLOYEEapp defines employee engagement as how committed and involved an employee is at work. And therefore, engagement is a key part of the employee’s relationship with their company. 

Within the hospitality industry, engagement is especially important. Why? Because hospitality employees, like restaurant teams and hotel staff, are the face of your company. They are the ones interacting with your customers all day, so how engaged they are directly impacts the customer experience (CX).

What is an Example of Employee Engagement in the Hotel Industry?

You might be wondering what an engaged employee looks like. What does that really mean in practice?

Let’s look at a hotel employee. If they were highly engaged at work, that employee would:

  • Promptly show up to work ready for their shift.
  • Go above and beyond for the customers.
  • Strive to create WOW moments for guests to create repeat customers.

And that’s the goal: to have employees who want to show up and give their best, helping their own careers as well as the business they work for. And it’s even better when those employees become advocates for your brand.

Now let’s dive into my three tips for how to improve employee engagement in the hospitality industry.

Tip 1: Get the basics right.

The basic things really do matter. I’m talking about that need-to-know stuff like your schedule, benefits information, time off, training, and other on-the-job resources that you need.

Even though all of these things probably seem like a no-brainer, it’s shocking how difficult it can be for employees to access that kind of information. For example, with shifts constantly changing and turnover being high in hospitality, access to the most updated schedule is critical—but sometimes hard to deliver on.

But getting this kind of essential information to your teams is still key for improving employee engagement in hospitality. Why? Because how can you expect someone to care about the nice-to-know things (e.g. culture, business stories, etc.) if you don’t communicate about the things that matter to your frontline employees?

Okay, so how do we actually do this? There are two things I’d recommend based on my experience:

  1. Improve the communication skills of your managers. Without the right communication technology, you are going to have to rely on your managers to share updates and information with your teams. They are an invaluable resource to you! So focus on their communication skills and ensure they’re giving their hourly workers access to the information they care about.
  2. Survey your hourly employees to learn what they need. Taking the time to ask your frontline workers what they need to feel cared about and valued is key to better employee engagement in hospitality. You can’t fix what you don’t know about, so go straight to the source.

Tip 2: Empower and trust your hospitality employees to improve CX.

Your frontline teams are, ultimately, responsible for the customer experience. That’s a lot of power over a brand’s reputation. And I’ve seen this play out in a few ways.

Often, a company will provide very strict guidelines for how customers should be treated and how the flow of service should go. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach, but it doesn’t really give the frontline worker much say or power. Typically in this environment, the server or bartender has to go ask a manager for permission to make something right for a customer.

But I’ve also worked in a model where the employees were empowered and trusted. There were still brand guidelines, but we were all given a budget to not just make things right, but to surprise and delight our customers. No asking for permission. This company’s culture was: we create outstanding guest experiences. And the way we do that is by trusting and giving our employees the power to create that WOW moment. Not only did this make us feel more like an ambassador of the brand, but it also saved time and led to a better customer and employee experience.

ways to improve employee engagement in hospitality: 1 improve onboarding, 2 trust your teams, 3 invest in continuous training

So, what does it take to create a better employee experience that trickles down to the customer experience?

1. It starts with training. 

This restaurant didn’t just hand over the power on day one. They gave examples, walked us through scenarios, and taught us about the culture and brand we were representing. And honestly, this was the most thorough and robust onboarding experience I have ever had. This not only built knowledge, it built confidence.

2. Let go a little and trust. 

When your employees aren’t scared to fix something, you would be amazed at how often they take accountability and make it right. Taking that step to trust can be a little nerve-wracking, but it’s important. Trust is a two-way street, and if you want to really engage your hospitality teams, you have to build that trust.

3. Invest in continuous training. 

This company didn’t let training go stale. It was a continuous process. This ensured employees remained clear on what the policies were and why they were important.

Tip 3: To engage your hospitality teams, focus on your managers. 

Employee engagement in hospitality ultimately hinges on your frontline managers. They impact the employee experience, the guest experience, and how smoothly your business runs.

That’s a massive job.

Let that sink in. Unlike people managers in a corporate environment, a GM of a hotel or restaurant is managing a large team with high turnover rates, all while being responsible for day-to-day operations and the experience of hundreds (or thousands!) of guests—a day.

If you want to increase the engagement of your hourly employees, you have to start by giving your managers the tools to succeed. How can you expect frontline managers to thrive and perform if they are set up to fail with limited training, support, or resources?

So, how do you give managers what they need?

Often, internal comms professionals focus on providing more talking points and FAQs for managers, and getting those messages to managers with some advanced notice. Although that’s a step in the right direction, it’s not enough. This strategy doesn’t take into account how busy a restaurant or hotel is. Hospitality teams are often short staffed, which means managers are jumping into roles when they can’t get those shifts covered.

Instead, we need to focus on real leadership training. Teach managers how to communicate more effectively. Strategize with them on how to retain their teams—and give them the resources to do so.



Next Steps to Drive Employee Engagement in Hospitality

Ultimately, improving engagement is going to require an investment. Better training, improved communications, and more focus on managers are going to go a long way. 

But we also encourage you to look at the technology you’re using. Are tools like 7shifts doing enough to improve transparency and give employees what they need?

Audit your channels of communication and see if there are barriers to good communication—especially for your managers. Doing this is a great first step to improving the morale and retention of your teams.


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