It’s a challenging time for frontline workers across every industry, including those in hospitality. During the pandemic, we saw travel come to a halt, only to ramp back up in new ways as many stayed closer to home and shifted to different transportation methods. We’ve also seen expectations change, with travelers anxious but still expecting great experiences. Meanwhile, shutdowns and staffing shortages have created uncertainty for the workforce.
The latest research from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index shows that hospitality frontline workers are at an inflection point. Amid the Great Reshuffle, frontline workers cite pay and benefits, work-life balance, and flexibility as reasons for considering a job change. Still, there are positive signs that the industry can meet this workforce challenge.
The research, based on a survey of frontline workers across industries conducted in October and
November 2021, sheds light on the difficulties that nearly every business is facing right now. It also
reveals an opportunity for technology to be part of the solution in helping ease the burden on essential workers. Namely, organizations can reimagine how frontline workers operate and connect—with customers and each other—to more confidently navigate the COVID era. And this can lead to higher customer satisfaction and better business outcomes.
High-value tools—and workers—benefit from high-priority training More than three-quarters of hospitality frontline workers say the digital tools—think reservation and messaging systems, food delivery apps, and capacity and supply chain tools—in use at their company make communicating with customers and guests more productive. And more than half are excited about the job opportunities that technology brings to their industry.
But 59 percent say they’ve been learning on the fly, with no formal training on the necessary skills. And many find digital interactions with customers challenging, creating job frustration and anxiety. So while employees understand the value of new technology improvements by their company to enhance the customer experience, underinvestment in their tools contributes to 38 percent of responding hospitality workers saying they feel undervalued.
By prioritizing and accelerating training, companies can give workers quicker access to the knowledge they need. This also boosts a workforce’s ability to concentrate on tasks that make an impact for customers. Responding in this way amid a massive labor shortage (which about half of survey respondents say is complicating their jobs) is a smart strategy to address workers’ mental health and build skills for managing COVID-era guests and travelers.
Connected workforces depend on powerful, integrated communication channels To weather the storm, frontline workers in hospitality have turned to each other, with 76 percent reporting that they “feel very bonded to coworkers.” However, as the number of digital tools in the workplace multiplies, a majority of frontline workers across industries feel communication and collaboration are stunted. Close to one in three frontline workers in hospitality note weakened relationships with managers and company leadership from a year ago, and 59 percent say communication from leadership often does not reach them effectively.
They also say the right technology can help. Hospitality workers rank tech higher than mental health support and wellness benefits in terms of what would reduce work-related stress, but they don’t want just another app to learn. Better, not more, technology—solutions like Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Viva—can provide employees what they say they need to feel connected: a single pane of glass that integrates many functions.
What makes workers want to stay
Employees want to stay in the workforce, but they’re seeking greener pastures. The survey found that the top reasons hospitality frontline workers give for planning to change jobs in the coming year are making more money and gaining better work-life balance. They’re also looking for flexibility, communication and recognition, and growth opportunities to enhance their work.
This is another area where technology can help, with tools that promote employee collaboration and connection, enhance productivity, and show the workforce members that they’re valued. For example, Microsoft Viva Learning can empower frontline workers to upskill and learn right in the flow of daily work.
Meeting challenges with connection and partnership The pandemic and current economic realities are putting immense pressure on businesses of all sizes.
Our data suggests that businesses can meet the moment by focusing more squarely on reducing
stressors and beefing up support for the front line.
Microsoft is collaborating with hospitality industry leaders to address the technology needs for more seamless skills training, strengthened ties between management and workers, and a frontline workforce empowered with cloud solutions that make its work easier.