Employee communication is the backbone of any business, in any industry. But hospitality has been hit particularly hard by events of the last five years (looking at you COVID-19 and Great Resignation). This has made the importance of effective communication in the hospitality industry even more dire. Due to the nature of most jobs in the hospitality sector, from scheduling woes to dealing with angry customers and relying on tips, there’s a lot of downsides that have made recruiting and retaining employees increasingly difficult.
But you have the chance to turn this challenge into an opportunity for growth and change in your industry. By adopting new strategies and investing in better technology for your frontline staff, you can make a meaningful difference.
Let’s dive in!
The State of Hospitality Industry Communication
It’s no surprise that the hospitality industry was particularly hit hard by the pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020. But many of those challenges haven’t eased up. They’ve even gotten worse.
Let’s talk about the top challenges facing the industry today.
The Race for Talent
Hospitality has always been known to have a high turnover rate. From high reliance on seasonal workers to the realities of the industry, restaurants, hotels, and retail are always hiring.
But this high demand for talent has only increased with the hospitality industry growing faster than any other sector in the United States over the last two years.
In 2022, 94% of hotels were understaffed and 47% were severely understaffed. This creates very difficult working conditions for everyone else.
With this high demand, it goes without saying that companies are laser focused on retaining their workers and filling open positions.
We’ve been talking about digital transformation for years, but it’s finally catching on in a big way. From recruiting to operations, more of the hospitality experience has gone digital.
Areas that are lagging behind in tech advancements still include employee communications and employee engagement for hospitality workers.
Adapting Working Arrangements
Anyone who has worked in food service or retail is very familiar with traditional shift schedules.
You only learn your schedule a week or two in advance, with last minute changes always inevitable when people call out sick.
If you need time off, you often have to get your own shift covered.
Your manager might try to give you the same shifts every week, but it’s certainly not a given with high turnover rates and flakey coworkers.
While in office staff demand flexibility, the same is starting to come for frontline roles too. With the gig economy giving workers more options than ever, employees are going to start having more choice around when and where they work. This might be the catalyst for changing the traditional scheduling system in hospitality for the better.
The only question is: can we get there and then sustain it?
An Evolving Customer Experience
The customer experience is everything in hospitality. But advancements in technology (like AI) and new trends have more and more hotels and casual restaurants adopting contactless digital touchpoints. In a hotel, you can checkout on your phone and in many fast-casual chains, you can order on a kiosk (if you go out to the restaurant at all).
Though there are fewer human interactions to control and train for, that doesn’t mean that employee training and personalized guest experiences are going away. But it does mean we need to adapt our training programs going forward.
Travel is Back
Whether it’s business leisure (bleisure) travel or revenge trips, more people are traveling again than before.While this is a great sign for our economy and locations reliant on tourism, too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. This surge in travel has led to popular destinations being overwhelmed (like our national parks). And that’s not good for the employee experience or the guest experience.
Why It’s Important to Improve Communication in Hospitality
When we break all these trends down into the big issues, we’re left talking about:
- Employee Engagement
- Employee and Customer Experience
- Digital transformation (and required training)
All of these issues fall in the wheelhouse of human resources and internal communication. The workforce management strategies we rely on and our ability to communicate effectively with our frontline hospitality teams is vital.
So, we believe that we can’t improve retention or engagement if you don’t start by auditing how you communicate. Are you getting through? Do your employees care? Are they receiving the information they actually need? And how are you making their lives easier?
That all starts with your channels, messages, and targeting/segmentation abilities. To see where you currently stand, try using our free internal comms strategy audit 👇
Barriers to Hospitality Communication
Once you have a handle on your current employee communication tools and resources, now it’s time to take on the barriers to effective communication.
In hospitality, there are a few common challenges:
- Limited employee access to communication channels. Unfortunately, most of your employees are hourly, which means they don’t have a business email, work phone, or computer for their job. Even your managers likely rely on a shared, back of house computer. This means it’s very difficult to get messages directly to all your people. You either have to rely on printed signage for staff break rooms or the cascade of communication where you rely on managers to relay all key messages.
- Turnover. In hospitality, you constantly have new employees. Unlike in many corporate environments where tenure is longer and historic knowledge is able to build up, you constantly have to consider that part of your population has no previous knowledge to give them context to your communications. It also means that if you do have channels for your frontline teams, you need to have a way to constantly manage the user database and distribution lists so you aren’t sending content to employees who are no longer with your company.
- Lack of interest. Many of your hourly employees probably aren’t planning to work for you for life. Hospitality attracts a lot of part-time, seasonal, and temporary staff. Unlike employees who might be trying to grow a career and develop with you, these employees are automatically less engaged and invested in communications about anything outside of daily operations. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you should give up on culture programming and engagement initiatives, but it does change who those campaigns should really be targeting.
Tips for Connecting Your Hospitality Workforce
Given the state of the industry and the many challenges you might have in reaching and engaging your audience, let’s review a few tips to help you see more success with your internal communication strategies.
- Targeting is key. Who you send content to, and what those messages include, is everything. Your general managers are going to need very different types and amounts of information than shift supervisors or the rest of your non-managerial staff. Even part-time vs. full-time employees will need different information (think benefits and career development comms). Bottom line: you won’t see success if you blast all messages out to everyone. You have to target them and adapt your messaging for each audience’s needs.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Even if you can’t ask your employees what they want (but we recommend trying some surveys), you have to try to empathize. What is a manager and a part-time, seasonal worker going to care about? Despite what we might want our employees to engage with, we have to get the basics right and set reasonable expectations and goals.
- Invest in channels. At the end of the day, relying on scheduling tools, back of house posters, and managers for all your communications isn’t a great system. It doesn’t give employees the choice to engage with you on a deeper level. So, invest in solutions that give you the ability to directly communicate with your frontline employees.
Finding the Right Tools for Effective Communication in the Hospitality Industry
If you’re ready to find the right communication channels for your workforce, we’d love to talk with you.
Our content management system (CMS) enables you to share targeted content with your hospitality teams on a mobile app they can access directly on their personal devices. And we offer unlimited texting as an add-on to help you get more urgent messages directly to employees who might prefer not to have a business app on their personal phone.
If you want to see it in action, request a 30-minute demo today!
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