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Getting Down to Work


The ways a hospitality organization uses labor can mean the difference between delighted guests and dissatisfied ones, and can drain or boost the bottom line. Savvy executives are turning to workforce-management systems to help them walk this fine line, and forecast, plan, schedule, track, report on and analyze their use of labor.

For Island One Resorts, Orlando, operator of seven properties, the advent of Web-enabled workforce management solutions was the ticket to faster payroll processing. "We've saved 25 to 35 percent in man-hours in the payroll department," says Darlene Jones, director of payroll services, by posting pay data on an intranet for supervisor approvals using a solution from Stromberg ( Not only does payroll receive approved schedules faster, "accuracy has improved tremendously, because now managers are forced to speak to employees when they do not clock in and out."

Deployment of biometric time clocks in conjunction with the rollout now prevents buddy punching among its 1,000 workers. "We couldn't tell how much buddy punching there was, but we're saving on payroll and seeing less overtime, so it's working," Jones says.

Romacorp also saw the Web as the way--once the company could justify the expense of high-speed broadband by also deploying a Menulink ( back end. Servers clock in and out through the Aloha POS (, and managers can access that data via Radiant for local reporting. Data is also fed into the Menulink back-end for corporate reporting, analysis and scheduling. The turnkey system makes it more appealing for franchisees, says Timothy Douglas, director of IT for Roma, which operates more than 260 Tony Roma's locations.

Raising awareness
In addition to improved reporting, "there is more awareness" of labor use, says Douglas. "If someone knows you're watching they pay more attention." Roma used the solution's labor scheduling enforcement function for about 14 weeks, and saw a 1 to 2 percent payroll savings in that time, he reports, but management chose to disable it for more local flexibility.

Moving to an enterprise, Web-enabled platform also had a transformative effect. "We got a huge reliability increase from legacy DOS to 21st century systems," Douglas adds, including better data access and visibility. Next, Roma will enhance its use of the system by developing labor matrixes by job position, to fine-tune labor allotment.

As "farmers of snow," the operators of Mammoth Mountain's four ski and recreation resorts in Mammoth, Calif., are heavily dependent on weather. "One of our main focuses now is keeping on top of budgets, because the business varies so much depending on weather," says Stacey Crockett, project manager. The resort recently deployed Kronos ( Workforce Central to gain more real-time control of labor use.

Mammoth cross-train employees and receives snapshots of the previous day's labor use by department, location, project, building, and other labor levels, shifting employees--and pay data--among resorts as needs and budgets dictate. The workforce management data classifications mirror the set-up of their general ledger system. Integration with the payroll system means the resorts can process payroll for 2,500 people in 24 hours, with increased accuracy, despite a variety of pay formulas and rules.

"We also have more flexibility in reporting, and the ability to easily import and export, for example, to manage the ski schools," says Crockett. With the rollout, the resort also changed its workweek to a Saturday to Friday schedule to make it easier for general managers to spot and react to overtime.

Mammoth plans to make use of advanced scheduling in the future, defining and scheduling by position, improving its use of loss reports and getting a better picture of next year's needs for hiring and budget purposes. They'll also begin real-time tracking of paid time off.

Improving collaboration
Ameristar Casinos was already happy with the hard-won best workforce management practices developed and shared through its collaboration-oriented organization, which includes six properties. "We wanted a platform to refine and share best practices," centralizing workforce management while not hampering local control, such as weighing local market indicators according to its impact on labor needs, says Michael Berry, director of labor management systems.

An application grounded in casinos, with a similar labor philosophy, was essential, Berry says. The company ultimately chose UniFocus (, spending six months refining the product prior to rollout in Spring, 2005. Flexibility was also key, in enabling different constituencies to view labor in different ways, and allow Ameristar to incorporate its best practices into the system.

Ameristar uses UniFocus to forecast, plan and schedule its labor, utilizing common data and tools to drive consistency and share ideas. "Everyone is on the same page," says Berry. "There is a tremendous organizational benefit to knowing the entire process is done in a consistent and complete way by every property, every time."

Once the company grows accustomed to the new system, the application will be used for further functions such as electronic schedule delivery.
Hospitality organizations approach workforce management with different goals and criteria, but what they share in common is the need to streamline processes and boost visibility into their labor use, and to employ these tools to balance fiscal and guest service needs most effectively.

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