Two months into the new year, U.S. businesses and those they serve are facing familiar pressures from supply chain disruptions to high inflation impacting consumer confidence. In the hospitality sector, these issues feed into industry-specific worries, like a slow restart to business travel and the number of long-distance vacations dampened by COVID-19 surges.
While some are predicting that 2022 will be a year of resurgence, such as TripAdvisor’s assessment that travel and spending levels will both increase, others are more cautious and bracing themselves for a repeat of the shaky labor market and disrupted occupancy rates that characterized 2020 and 2021.
In the past few years, the industry has witnessed several shifts, especially in the employment and staffing sector. Change will remain a constant for the foreseeable future, meaning that preparation and foresight will work in favor of businesses. While far from an exhaustive list, emerging evidence points to the following four trends impacting staffing that institutions can anticipate in the coming months:
1. Fluidity in the Labor Market
The labor market will continue to be fluid in the foreseeable future. It is unlikely that the markets will go back to the way they were pre-COVID. Solutions will not be as simple as raising pay or offering sign-on bonuses. Success, instead, will include both short- and long-term responses. The former includes targeted investments in technology, and the possible outsourcing of operations that do not innately require human skill, such as simple data entry or payroll processing tasks. An answer that transcends both the short- and long-term is the upskilling of current workers by doubling down on training programs and encouraging promotions and upward mobility from within. Businesses can spend the first quarter of the year carefully reviewing their budgets and projected revenue to determine their fiscal firepower for implementing these changes.
2. Disparities in Recovery
Hospitality markets will likely continue to experience disparities in how they bounce back from the pandemic. Many have speculated from 2021 data that recovery will return for smaller areas rather than big cities. Budget and economy hotels could expect a similar situation compared to luxury destinations. This suggests building back from COVID-19 will produce winners and losers, depending on geographical location and costs to consumers that will be difficult to mitigate. Hotels and restaurants—particularly those outside large, national chains—will need to prepare for the possibility of slower revenue growth, as well as how this will impact their teams.
Creatively adapting to trends will be essential. For instance, while even fewer events and meetings will be held in-person than before, hotels and resorts are well-positioned to take advantage of a situation where traditional revenue sources, like industry conferences, switch to virtual or hybrid formats. This will mean recruiting or training along with technology, IT, and event planning skills with the benefit of diversifying the capabilities that hotel team members have.
3. Remote Work
Additional external pressures on operating models, such as the popularity of teleworking, will continue to impact hospitality. Rather than resisting this, jobs that do not require a presence in the hotel itself can and should be done remotely. Indeed, having some members of staff taking such a step could help the establishment’s bottom line, at a time when this is most needed.
4. Customer Expectations
As expectations for customer experiences change, establishments can use this as an opportunity to maximize their differences and place this at the forefront of their branding strategy. Particularly for independent hotels and smaller chains, keeping pace with the competition will mean focusing work experiences on what truly sets them apart. They should examine how, on a day-to-day level, roles from guest services to facility maintenance leave a personalized mark on what guests see, hear, feel, and remember. The latter will play an especially large role in customer loyalty and word-of-mouth reputation.
Hospitality establishments everywhere are at the beginning of what can be a successful year for the sector with confident and prepared teams serving the public. But, as always, much of this will depend on the choices made and steps taken to better position themselves to face coming trends.
This column originally appeared in LODGING Magazine and was written by Joe Ruzicka, the Director of Business Development for Adams Keegan.