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Hotel operations have changed, but the importance of communication has not

by Andrada Paraschiv

There is a radical change in the way the hospitality industry is operating compared to the last decade. From shifting guests away from the front desk and favoring mobile check-in to new sanitization regulations that call for constant vigilance, it can be a lot for any organization to process and maintain consistency ― particularly right now as guidelines and state regulations are subject to abrupt changes. The need for communications is increasing tenfold between hotel leaders, employees, and guests, as everyone must navigate the ongoing uncertainty and changing societal norms. Covid-19 has forced hotels to make changes in line with the physical distancing requirements which make communication more difficult. Several properties have installed plexiglass windows at the front desk to separate employees and guests. Most employees, as well as guests, are wearing masks that obscure the mouth and muffle speaking voices. Because pre-shift meetings are difficult to hold, it eats away at team unity. And since employees are not on property as consistently as before, they may miss out on crucial information on operational changes.

Because communication has been hindered, we must all work harder to be understood. With social distancing becoming an established social norm (and in many states, a legal requirement), digital communication has become a strong option for communication to reinforce and complement the traditional in-person communication. There is no surprise this is happening, as the digitalization of communication has already been taking place over the past several years in our private lives and it was bound to catch up in all aspects of business.  Therefore, hoteliers must realize that they are not losing out on customer touchpoints by shifting their attention to digital communication rather than face-to-face conversations. Actually, there is a time and place for both.  

Here are four ways digital communication technology is helping hotels adapt to the changes around them

It Keeps Everyone Informed Many changes have been made to hotel operations over the past five months, and more are coming. Hoteliers need a way to convey to employees in a timely manner information about scheduling, sanitation, and other on-property changes. Because it’s not “business as usual,” procedural changes come at a moment’s notice, and failing to stay informed can put hotel workers’ and guests’ health at risk. Imagine you are a front desk worker at a hotel. You have a daily commute to consider, as well as other major life changes brought on by COVID-19. You need to know what your schedule is each day, and you will want a way to get in direct contact with your manager, as the uncertainty of what is taking place on property in your absence is likely wearing on you. Employees using a digitalized communication system will have access to information from hotel leaders at any time. This reduces opportunities for miscommunication and can clarify employee questions. Digital communication is also useful for creating a paper trail used when proving compliance with safety regulations and allows managers to track who has not seen relevant notifications. These tools enable hoteliers to ensure all employees are on the same page, even when they are not on property.

This is not the time to gamble with your hotel’s communication, as the consequences can be severe. A missed message between a manager and employees could lead to additional room cleanings, fines, or even sick employees. This is less likely to happen if employees feel a sense of community on the property and are aware of all the processes that come with re-opening your hotel or operating with limited rooms.

It Enables Management and Staff to Focus on What is Important Hotel leaders want to know their employees are informed of their decisions and their property is being run in a consistent manner every day. By using a digital hub to enable communication with their frontline employees, operators will have a greater ability to lead their teams. They will be free to focus on attracting guests to the hotel and providing them with an exceptional experience rather than deal with menial tasks that can be automated, such as contacting employees regarding schedule changes. Consider this: Housekeepers are some of the hardest working people in hospitality, and COVID has not made their jobs any easier. Some may not even speak the official language of the hotel. By making the information easily accessible in their language of choice and digestible at their own pace, digital communication tools will help them do their jobs better and be confident they are doing it right. 

It Fosters Employee Engagement No industry is prepared to furlough most of its staff and continue to do business, but that is exactly what hotels were forced to do earlier this year as COVID cases continued to climb worldwide. Hoteliers are fixated on protecting the health of guests and workers, but many operational changes have faced employee engagement consequences, such as requiring workers to wear a mask for hours on end; no one signed up for that, yet it’s expected. Many of the traditional ways to engage employees have been shelved to avoid spreading COVID. Since monthly team meetings are not taking place, how can hotels recognize great effort from staff members, or share inspirational stories from within the company or property? The answer is through digital channels. 

By sharing success stories over digital internal communications, hotel teams can see the ways they are excelling. By staying in contact with employees and taking an interest in their personal wellbeing, employers can bring some level of humanity to a challenging period of business. Even a small viral response to your team’s achievements can have a great effect on your hotel’s culture.

It Aids with Crisis Management Hurricanes, fires, floods, and criminal activity are ongoing crises hotels will continue to face even post pandemic. Operators need better ways to reach all employees instantly ― when it matters the most ― and provide up-to-date information on the property, policy, and operations. Hoteliers need to know that their employees are safe, and digital communication will help facilitate that with a push of a? button and analytics. You don’t know when a crisis hits, so you need to be prepared. The digitalization of communication has been an ongoing trend throughout society — and within hospitality — over the past decade, and hotel operators cannot afford to avoid this movement anymore. Without an effective way to improve communication at the property level, costly mistakes can occur, not to mention lost productivity, employee confusion and frustration. Without a doubt, this can quickly spill over into the guest experience.

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