By Greig Johnston, CEO at employee engagement specialist Engage4 (https://engage4.vidatec.com)
The hospitality sector is no stranger to juggling busy, fast-paced teams who are constantly on the move.When it comes to cohesion, team spirit and forming the cultural ‘glue’ that holds a business together, pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels have, in many ways, been disadvantaged from the outset.With naturally high staff turnover, varying shift patterns and team members that often pass each other like ships in the night, mastering workplace culture and balancing team morale is a complex affair.
Little did it realise, this ‘deskless’ sector has been preparing for a post- pandemic landscape the whole time, and we’re now seeing a technologi- cal shift that could see it bounce back even stronger and leaner than it was before. Onboarding, connecting and engaging with staff may well end up being more manageable than it was before COVID-19, and we’re about to explore why.
A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
While the deskless hospitality workforce has been coping with distributed teams and complex shift patterns for generations, the desk-based workforce has had it comparatively easy.That’s because desk-based office workers tend to share the same communal space during the same hours of the day. Most will have their own desk or office, they’ll be easy to find during the hours of nine to five, and their work schedules are predictable. That is, until the pandemic forced non-essential desk-based businesses to ‘shut up shop’ and enable their teams to work from home, often with more flexible schedules and only occasional check-ins with management.
Suddenly, the desk-based sector faced the very same challenges that the hospitality sector had been coping with for years. It’s a shame that it took desk-based sectors being shaken to their core for large-scale innovation to happen. Still, a technological revolution is now on the horizon, and hospitality is one of the many deskless sectors that stands to benefit.
THE SHIFTING FOCUS OF TECHNOLOGY
Prior to the pandemic, the deskless workforce that you find in hospitality attracted less than 1% of technological investment and innovation when it comes to business management, according to a report from Venture Beat. Just about every tool, platform, app or software package being developed was designed to help desk-based teams manage things like workflow, onboarding and employee engagement, while those in hospitality were largely left to fend for themselves.That’s surprising, given that more than 80% of the world’s workers are deskless, from lorry drivers and care workers to pub landlords and hoteliers, as reported in research by venture capitalist firm Emergence.
One small silver lining to be gleaned from the pandemic, despite how badly it has bruised the hospitality sector, is that the focus of this technological innovation and investment is now finally starting to shift. Because desk-based teams now share many of the same challenges that deskless workers always had, the scales are about to tip in favour of hoteliers, caterers, restaurateurs and pub and cafe owners.
BOUNCING BACK WITH TECHNOLOGY
As the hospitality sector emerges from its long pandemic hibernation, it will find there are more options to choose from when it comes to onboarding and management of teams effectively. Many existing desk- based tools will have been adapted to cater for more agile and flexible working, and countless new ones will have emerged to help businesses wrest back control and keep their company culture strong. For instance, onboarding no longer has to be limited to filling out paper forms at a desk.There are already apps out there that will let managers onboard new team members flexibly and in their own time via their smartphone. Or allow staff members to connect via exclusive online communities that can also host business news, events and updates. Calendars, rotas and schedules can be shared and edited in real-time, allowing staff members to seamlessly swap shifts or request holidays from the palm of their hand.
This technology is only going to get better as we emerge from the pandemic, but it’s up to hospitality businesses themselves to seek it out and take advantage.We often hear the UK government uttering the phrase ‘build back better’ when talking about a post-pandemic world. Thanks to new apps, tools and other technologies, the hospitality sector can take this literally.