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Hospitality's Best Tool for Employee Retention: Automation

The benefits of using automated communications for employees goes far beyond scale and efficiency. The data shows it positively impacts engagement and retention of the workforce.
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AI, robotics, and automation are quickly becoming standard tools across the hospitality industry. Hotels like Hilton are using robots at the front desk. Restaurants are using AI to take mobile and drive thru orders. And it’s working. Tools like SoundHound increase efficiency and sales, and up to 77% of travelers are interested in using automation for customer service requests in hotels.

“Digitization has become an essential requirement in the hospitality industry and those who adapt the fastest will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” says Carlos Díez de la Lastra, CEO of Les Roches International School of Hotel Management. And although Diez de la Lastra is espousing the benefits of using AI for customer interactions, the use of automation is just as critical for employee interactions. In fact, it could be the best tool you have for improving retention. 

If you’re not yet using automation for your frontline employee communications, you’re more than likely missing a big opportunity to engage them. 

Frontline worker communication tools are quickly evolving, making it easy to communicate at scale quickly and efficiently. And thankfully so. When it comes to frontline communications, corporate leaders and frontline leaders have long been beholden to the inefficiency and confusion of text chains, Facebook groups, or apps that nobody downloads. But automation is quickly providing much better alternatives. 

The benefits of using automated communications for employees goes far beyond scale and efficiency. The data shows what a positive impact these types of communications have on the engagement and retention of their workforce. 

And, the timing of this adoption is, well, timely. Retention and engagement continue to be major concerns for hospitality and service industry leadership. At goHappy’s Industry Summit in October 2022, over 60% of attendees said employee retention was their biggest concern for 2023 and that it was absolutely critical to their organization. Retention ranked above training, development, and even recruitment. As a member of the hospitality industry, you know that retention is tough—average turnover sits at 100-140%. 

That’s not too surprising considering levels of engagement, even across industries. In a recent Gallup poll of employee engagement, only 32% of U.S. employees were “engaged” — meaning they were involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. The other 68% are either “disengaged,” meaning they are doing just enough to stay employed, or “actively disengaged” and actually working against the goals of the organization. 

As hospitality leaders know, these concerning trends are especially prevalent in frontline employees, those who are still responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations and the majority of direct customer interactions. A large proportion of frontline employees feel undervalued and disconnected from their leaders, and thus lack commitment, engagement and hesitate to voice the ideas and innovation they might bring to the organization. 

Luckily, what we are finding through our work at goHappy is that employee engagement is a leading indicator of turnover and retention. Organizations with high levels of employee engagement have 24% lower turnover, 41% lower absenteeism and 17% higher productivity

So how can you increase engagement and retention through automated communication? Here are three tips we give leaders just getting started with automated frontline communications:

1. Personalize your communications 

Even if you’re using software for messaging, or a message is going out to a group, you can make a stronger connection by personalizing those messages. Many programs will let you add an employee’s name to a message, send the message in their preferred language, or use the name of their role or position. Personalization, even when it’s automated, helps each employee feel more valued and connected to the organization, which lowers turnover and increases retention.

2. Find opportunities to make employees feel seen and appreciated 

Increasing engagement can be as simple as regular and thoughtful communications. And, yes, this works even if many of those messages are automated. Reach out to an employee on their first day letting them know you’re glad to have them as part of the team. Wish them a happy birthday. Recognize them on their work anniversary. Remember that all of this can be automated. Some platforms, like ours, can even use automated triggers to send these messages for you, and that doesn’t make them any less valuable to your employees. 

3. Offer regular opportunities for frontline workers to provide feedback

Creating regular feedback loops is one of the best ways to increase employee retention, development, and feelings of connection. In fact, open communication beats out other perks like food and gym memberships when it comes to retention. One of goHappy’s most loved features is our Feedback Module, and we see extremely high response rates from employees. They want to be asked for their thoughts, and by providing opportunities for them to share feedback, you’re showing you care. This is the best way to truly measure engagement, and it’s what’s going to help you assess the health and retention of your workforce. 

The use of AI or automation for customer interactions has been making headlines. But using these types of tools to stay connected to your workforce is arguably even more powerful. If you’re not using intelligent tools yet to make sure they’re engaged, the time is now. After all, your frontline workforce are the ones delivering your most important customer experiences.


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