2020 has created a hospitality landscape unlike anything we ever experienced or expected. From increased adoption of ghost kitchens, takeout, delivery, and online fulfillment, to a decrease in travel and restaurant dining, hospitality leaders had to shift quickly and act decisively. According to a recent McKinsey survey, “Most digital and contactless services have seen increased adoption since April, with more than half of new and increased users reporting an intent to continue post COVID-19.” While no one can accurately predict what’s in store for hospitality, or any other segment of our economy for that matter, we can learn from three trending behaviors and share some thoughts on what 2021 – and the hospitality new normal – might look like.
1) It’s Still About Agility
With regulations constantly changing, and the COVID-19 crisis still very real, restaurants and hotels alike are facing another tumultuous year of closings, openings, layoffs, furloughs, hiring, rehiring, and re-openings – which can certainly be a lot for employers and employees alike to juggle. Heading into 2021 and beyond, successful hospitality leaders will need to continue to pivot and embrace new technologies to fulfill the change in demand from both a consumer and employee perspective. As a first step, hospitality leaders need to replace disparate, outdated workforce and human capital management systems with intelligent technologies that can help engage employees, and ensure seamless, safe staff coverage.
It’s no secret that consumer satisfaction and employee satisfaction go hand-in-hand. Therefore, the hospitality workforce needs to have strategies and modern technologies in place to allow for a proactive approach to the current disruptive environment and in preparation for disruptions to come. 2020 impacted many workforce operations. Many employers found that the new demands for improved communication, real-time business visibility, and changes in laws simply overwhelmed the rigid legacy platforms in place.
Organizations will need to leverage new tools to promote workforce confidence, focusing on workforce training, learning and financial wellness, and improved efficiencies. 2020 has shown us that these tools are no longer a luxury, but a requirement.
2) Collaborative Work Models, Skill Consolidation
When COVID-19 hit hard in the spring of 2020, a great deal of restaurant/hospitality establishments were forced into major staff reductions. As things gradually started to normalize, those establishments were, and still are, at 40% of staff at best. These forced changes led to the development of more collaborative work models and a consolidation of skills among employees to ensure coverage with less staff. Those who once specialized in a certain task or function now had to expand their skill set and perform cross-functionally for the staff coverage to work and the hospitality establishment to remain solvent. The need for this will likely continue through the next year and become a hallmark of the hospitality industry.
The pandemic not only took away our basic freedom to move about at will, but it also took routine and predictability out of our daily lives. For the hospitality worker, working hours were cut severely, if not eliminated, and the ability to count on consistent pay became equally elusive. As a result, a new practice we’ve witnessed coming out of the pandemic is the tendency to talent-share. Increased access to and use of mobile technologies will continue to foster employee self-service and engagement, strengthened by a desire to build more predictability into their lives, especially during uncertain times. Armed with these tools, together with a desire to work cross-brand and cross-location, hospitality employees can opt to share their talent to survive financially, while at the same time helping their employers operationally to optimize their labor spend.
No matter what the future of work brings us, the hospitality industry must remain agile, flexible, and collaborative while staying focused on what matters: ensuring a safe, rewarding work environment for their people, which in turn, will create a high level of service quality for their customers.