How Hotels Can Use Tech to Triage Their Way Through Layoffs, Work-From-Home

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How Hotels Can Use Tech to Triage Their Way Through Layoffs, Work-From-Home

By Michal Christine Escobar - 03/19/2020

On March 17, President Trump met with the leaders of the nation’s largest hotel, travel and tourism industries including but not limited to: Marriott, Disney, MGM International, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association. During that meeting, Marriott’s Arne Sorenson told the President that its business was down 90% worldwide and that the United States portion of the business continues to drop every day. Other hoteliers echoed that sentiment with many saying that occupancy rates at hotels around the country were averaging 10% with hotels in large cities averaging single digit occupancy rates.

(Check back regularly as this article will continue to be updated with new tech solutions.)

A Giant Jobless Workforce

Hilton’s CEO Chris Nasetta pointed out that this sudden and major loss in revenue is causing hotel companies to lay-off or furlough their employees in mass quantities. He pointed out that MGM International was forced to close all of their properties leaving 80,000 workers without jobs, and that Hilton would also be laying off tens of thousands. (Marriott announced on March 17 that it would furlough 10,000 workers and Nordic Choice announced on March 18 it was laying off 7,500 employees.) During their meeting with the President, industry leaders emphasized over and over again that they want to put employees first and help them out as best they can but could not ignore the fact that there was no money available to hotel owners to pay the vast majority of their staff.

With that in mind, Hyr, a staffing company that typically connects experienced waitstaff with restaurants and hotels in need of temporary hires, said it is working to reverse engineer its model. Instead of providing workers to hotels and restaurants, its working with hospitality companies to on-board their furloughed or laid off staff and provide them with temporary positions in grocery, pharmacy, gas/convenience and manufacturing industries. This provides hotel staff with access to income and work until they are able to go back to their original employer. Hyr is offering this service for free.

Additionally, losing so many employees so quickly means "losing essential institutional memory, focus, and hope," says HelloShift

During this time, hotel HR and payroll departments will likely be overwhelmed with a spike in demand for off-boarding and the policies it triggers while complying with applicable labor laws and hour/wage rules, Ceridian says. Effectively using workforce and human capital management technologies will enable employees to easily access resources, forms, as well as communicate with peers and managers. Leveraging cloud-based solutions allows employees to access information anytime, anywhere. These technologies also help employees manage their schedule during this uncertain time as well as manage and book sick time.

The use of an effective HCM system can also help employers more easily manage off-boarding and forecast what their company may look like after, Ceridian adds. And HCM systems should be flexible enough to handle special pay codes and tracking to be prepared for absences during COVID-19, and for any federal or state relief for wages paid for non-work, training investments, etc.

Additionally, clear and constant communication is essential within organizations, Quinyx notes. As Americans try to navigate these difficult times, it’s critical that companies are able to communicate with their workers. In the hospitality industry, this is especially important as the employment and livelihood of these workers are contingent on how this situation evolves. With constant news of layoffs and closures, hospitality professionals need to prioritize communication that is consistent with the current pace of change. Having fundamental communication tools that workers can rely on, like a company hub or central workforce management platform, allows hospitality leadership professionals to quickly and effectively communicate with their staff; keeping employees informed and supported through this period of difficulty. Sharing information promptly is important, but fostering that social connectivity between co-workers and the c-suite will be just as vital. 

In some cases, the massive layoffs means that hotels are operating with a skeleton crew, says Whistle Messaging. For those hotel locations that remain open, this reduction in staff presents its own set of challenges. One being that that the staff who remain are “overwhelmed and are not equipped to handle the influx of calls and emails.” While certainly not a new solution, hotels can and should take advantage of automation to help in this instance. They can use services – such as messaging – to reduce the workload of the staff.

Those who remain on staff could also turn to staff collaboration apps help teams stay on task in uncertain times and to ensure that assets are protected and processes are followed even during adverse and shifting environments, HelloShift adds. And managers who might have their eye on multiple properties could also use these types of apps to manage properties effectively without having to personally visit every site.

The Work From Home Conundrum

Not only do hotels have to deal with the loss of a major amount of their workforce, but they’re also being tasked with setting up corporate employees to work from home. This is unfortunately leading to cybersecurity challenges and overwhelmed IT support, says LTI (Larson & Toubro Infotech), a global provider of IT services and solutions.

According to LTI, employees are a big cybersecurity risk. Corporate systems can have strong defense systems to block outside attacks, but the number of vulnerabilities increases with each remote worker especially if that worker were to use a personal laptop or public Wi-Fi to access the corporate system. Additionally, many of these remote workers may be working remotely for the very first time which is causing IT staff to be overwhelmed with possibly hundreds if not thousands of questions – both big and small. To help IT staffers, some corporations are moving to AIOps, an AI-driven system that learns the types of issues users have over time and creates a set of responses and feedback to end users.

Additionally, companies may be concerned about team member productivity and team communications. To make the transition smoother, Ceridian recommends that companies set up daily team conference call, host company-wide all-hands calls frequently, and create online resource hubs for the staff to easily access for company updates. HCM technologies allow employees who are working from home to have easy and quick access to their personal information, including pay stubs and tax forms, and can easily access their calendar and time-off requests should they need to. These solutions can also act as learning and resources hubs and can help employees stay in the loop with the organization, teams, and peers, thus helping with productivity and engagement.

Hotels could also turn to Apple’s ecosystem for help, says Jamf. Modern technologies in the Apple ecosystem include Apple Business Manager, modern cloud identity services, mobile device management (MDM), and many apps. Apple’s deployment programs paired with a modern management tool can be used to connect employees who are working from home with technology while providing communication and collaboration apps that will help them accomplish their tasks in their remote environment. In this model, organizations can leverage their employees to perform what are historically in-person IT tasks like securely setting up a new Mac to provisioning new mobile app licenses directly from the comfort of their own homes without an IT ticket. And, for employees or guests who are still on site, iPad or Apple TV and a great digital signage application can provide an up-to-date and remotely manageable stream of communication at all times, even when staff may not be readily available.