Hospitality Labor Shortages Are About to Get Worse. Here’s How to Improve the Employee Experience.

A woman hospitality worker stands behind the front desk of a hotel, smiling and handing back a credit card to a guest

A recent Medallia survey highlights how employee experience is affected by hospitality labor shortages. As travel demand surges, many workers are under more strain than ever — which worsens the quality of the guest experience. What can companies do to help? The answer is simpler than you might think.

After travel restrictions and new health and safety ordinances were enacted in 2020 and 2021, the global travel & hospitality industry needed to adapt more quickly than most. By rising to the occasion, new innovations in the guest experience, from contactless check-ins to redesigning meals, are expected to live on.

In the near term, however, the industry is facing a new set of challenges. A recent Medallia survey uncovered that with increased demand in travel, coupled with less staff to handle it, the employee experience at large is getting worse — and many workers are planning to leave the industry by the end of 2021. To curb the impact of this, leaders must turn their attention to innovating the employee experience to help boost engagement and retention.

Why the hospitality labor shortage is growing
61% of hospitality workers say that they are having to do more with less

The Medallia global staffing survey asked 1,250 workers in travel and hospitality (in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany) how they feel about their workplaces. Almost 70% reported that their organization has seen a surge in guest activity since the widespread availability of vaccines, which is putting a strain on already precarious working environments.

Many industries are affected by the conditions causing the Great Resignation, and travel & hospitality is no exception. As lockdowns ease and people resume travelling, hospitality workers are reporting a decline in engagement. This is hardly a surprise, considering:

  • 59% say their company has less staff now than prior to the pandemic
  • 61% feel they have to do more with less
  • 24% admit that they are less engaged

With more strain on daily work due to lack of internal support, 38% of travel & hospitality employees report that they are considering or have plans to leave their jobs before the end of 2021. The hospitality labor shortage is about to get even worse.

Leaders must also pay close attention to how this is impacting customer experience, as we know that employee and customer experience are inextricably linked. In fact, 27% of travel & hospitality workers acknowledge that the guest experience has suffered. They are witnessing a concerning uptick in bad experiences for guests, including 37% higher levels of irritation and rudeness when interacting with employees and other customers. 

If leaders don’t recognize this reality and develop smart strategies to support employees, these downward trends in employee and customer experience will continue and will no doubt have serious implications on their businesses. Fortunately, the biggest driver for change is not hard to plan for and implement. 

Hospitality workers are asking for better communication tools

36% of American travelers say that when they have questions for a hotel, they expect a response within 5 minutes or less

Careers in hospitality can always be challenging, as workers must juggle high expectations from both guests and internal leadership, and as a result, this workforce has always faced high rates of stress and burnout. The high expectations include the need to positively connect with guests and to serve them quickly. Very quickly. In the U.S., 36% of today’s travelers expect a response to their questions from a hotel within 5 minutes.

But how can frontline staff meet these expectations with yesterday’s lines of communication? They need easy access to information in real time, and phone calls and emails alone are no longer the best way to receive or convey information at a moment’s notice. Implementing better communication technology, such as text messaging platforms, alleviates friction for employees and their guests. This not only allows staff to respond to guest questions in real time, but it also allows employees to feel more connected to their teams.

For the guest experience, 41% of hospitality employees say that the ability to automate guest interactions with technology — such as automated text messaging — would make their jobs easier. Thankfully, the industry is showing signs of willingness to invest in this digital transformation, with 42% of IT and HR managers considering existing or emerging technology to support employee engagement.

Increased communication creates a more engaged workforce and better guest experience

In order to combat employee burnout and turnover in the travel and hospitality industry — even long after the pandemic ceases to exist — companies must increase their focus on deploying the communication technology that alleviates barriers to information. This will not only help employees connect with their teams and leadership better, but also reduce unnecessary workflow burdens, which will increase productivity at large. Empowering employees in this way creates a more engaged workforce that is more likely to create a positive and memorable experience for guests. 


Looking to learn more about the current state of travel & hospitality? Read the survey results and analysis in the Global Staffing Report: Employee Experience Impacts Hospitality