How workforce management technology can help the hospitality industry overcome the impact of the national living wage

19/08/2016 - 11:48
The introduction of the compulsory national living wage is great news for the UK’s six million workers. However, increasing wage bills are forcing the hospitality industry to think about how best to offset these rising costs, while keeping both employees and customers satisfied. Jason Shorrock from technology solutions company JDA has his say.

A recent study by the Resolution Foundation revealed that accommodation and food services wage bills are set to rise by an average of 3.4% by 2020. This is the largest average increase of any sector and would bring the national living wage to £9.00 an hour by 2020. To combat these huge changes, the hospitality industry has looked to reduce staff, make cuts to benefits and even reduce premium payments – all of which are unpopular decisions. Moreover, these actions are unlikely to actually help the industry offset costs without compromising customer service quality and hampering workforce morale.
 
So what can be done? For the hospitality industry to remain productive, and overcome these new pressures, it must rise to the challenge of creating workforces that are happier, more productive and increasingly agile. Through adopting a smarter approach towards workforce management using technology, companies can make the most of the new national living wage, deliver a better quality of service and thrive in this ultra-competitive market.

Being in the right place at the right time

The hospitality industry demands access to an incredibly multi-skilled workforce. Filling such a broad range of roles – from front of house, all the way to chefs and porters – means having staff in the right place at the right time is vital to maintain excellent customer service. Managing a hospitality workforce is no mean feat; it requires a workforce management solution that can plan and schedule employees according to demand, as well as ensuring the fixed tasks requiring activity are completed diligently and on time. This is particularly important when it comes to tackling both compliance and lawful operation.
 
For example, a busy hotel serves a roast dinner every Sunday lunchtime, available to both hotel guests and walk-ins. By using an effective workforce management solution, management can ensure that all staff are in the right place at the right time, whether that be on the restaurant floor serving customers or in the kitchen preparing food no matter how busy it gets throughout the afternoon. This can be achieved, even if it means utilising staff from a nearby sister restaurant which is much less busy. Using workforce management technology effectively means employers can maximise the potential of every employee, better match staffing to demand throughout the day and the venue type (e.g. the demand profile of a motorway service station will differ to that of a hotel restaurant based in the middle of town), and allow managers to quickly react to everyday realities.
 
Mobility takes you miles

As an industry that relies so heavily on its workforce, it is crucial the hospitality industry looks after and empowers its employees for success. A key aspect of this is to avoid costly employee churn. Even today, staff turnover costs UK businesses £4bn a year, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; a cost the hospitality industry will do well to mitigate given the additional impact of the new national living wage. Furthermore, today’s consumer demands an increasingly high level of customer service. From front of house, to waiting and kitchen staff, the daily performance of a workforce can mean the difference between success and failure.

Taking advantage of the latest mobile solutions – where employees can access their schedules, complete on-the-job training, and view payroll, benefits and annual leave information – stands to not only increase employee engagement but most importantly, increase productivity. Maximising productivity is essential if the industry is to overcome any financial uncertainties caused by the new living wage. In addition, mobile solutions will also attract millennial talent and reduce staff turnover, resulting in monetary and time savings, due to the lack of staff churn.
 
Mobile technology has the additional benefit of empowering management staff. No matter how well an organisation schedules and equips its workforce, things can happen that aren’t planned for. For instance, if an employee becomes ill or fails to report for work, management can use mobile workforce management solutions to deal with the issue. These solutions alert managers to these variances as they occur, allowing them to take immediate corrective action to optimise service levels. This minimises the time management spends in the back office dealing with unforeseen events; enabling them to stay front of house while still retaining full visibility into the team and its critical activities.
 
Manage expectations and tackle problems head-on

The deployment of a workforce management solution, like any technological implementation, should be underpinned by the buy-in of the end user. Without this, the solution stands to fall flat and investment will be wasted. Successful implementation of a workforce management solution will also not be possible without the support of the CEO, and HR and IT departments, each acting as sponsors of a new technology deployment. However, businesses must not rush a new workforce management implementation. When it comes to a fundamental change like this, simple and steady wins the day.

Having an effective workforce management strategy is no longer a nice to have, it is a must have. By using latest technology, the hospitality sector can empower their workforce, improve customer service and ultimately deliver greater efficiencies at a time when employment costs are on the rise. 

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