Support your people and business with workforce technology


As the hospitality industry focuses on generating business through different operating models such as takeaway and delivery and keeping costs under control to ride out the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, operators must not lose sight of their most important asset – the team around them. With some simple steps in place to handle the administration tasks associated with workforce management, they can free up time for those all-important personal interactions and safeguard the physical and mental wellbeing of their people.

Hospitality staff challenges when we start to re-open

The biggest staffing challenges operators are facing in the wake of COVID-19 are uncertainty and unpredictability. Most staff are currently on furlough. But when hospitality is permitted to re-open again, there aren’t any established trading patterns to base staffing on, with the timing, frequency and duration of customer visits likely to lack any consistency. In the absence of historic trends and patterns, operators will be managing workforce commitments in the dark and getting workforce planning right and treating staff honestly and fairly will be a constant battle.

Businesses will, largely, be operating with fewer employees and need to have increasing flexibility with staffing models to run the business as efficiently as possible. Hospitality needs to rebuild and grow whilst responding to the restrictions placed upon it but must retain an efficient operating model that eliminates staff downtime. Workforce management software is an essential aid to get as close as possible to a realistic forecast and provide the tools that allow for flexing plans to help achieve this efficiency goal. It can adapt a forecast based on the best estimate of what might happen, rather than starting from scratch, allowing immediate response to different situations as we saw with the short-notice imposition of a 10pm curfew. It helps develop a best- and worst-case scenario to plan for labour demand and keep employees in the picture whilst still allowing for reactive changes to be made.

How workforce management technology has adapted

Focus on workforce management tech has been reappraised in recent months and moved on from letting the system do what it is designed to do, that is using the integrated algorithms to develop a workforce plan based on previous trading patterns, to responding to unforeseen situations and an operators’ intuition about what might happen next. This has been supported by new features, such as the Access Hospitality option to easily and quickly uplift or drop down a forecast in response to anticipated footfall changes.

Operators have also recognised the benefit of workforce management software in strengthening employee relationships and managing their wellbeing. Historically, staff haven’t talked enough about how they feel, their insecurities and worry over whether they will have enough shifts and their motivation affects their long-term health and the way they interact with customers.

The use of self-service portals gives employees more control over their own work experience, but also enables operators to use the technology to check how they are feeling, physically and mentally.

Creating a work-life balance for hospitality staff

The importance of using workforce management technology to give employees ownership of their working life is incredibly important in helping them to manage their work-life balance better. The wide use of employee self-service software across hospitality has transformed workforce planning and given staff more power to manage their own work-life balance, creating a more content workforce and efficient operation. The option to view available shifts and fill gaps gives employees flexibility and control, enabling them to give up or swap shifts with colleagues in an instant rather than waiting for managers to action or authorise. With full visibility of skills, the process of filling shifts is simplified and liaison between suitably trained colleagues increases teamwork and collaboration.

Benefits of technology integrations

Where workforce management is integrated with other technology solutions, the benefits are even greater. A full HR service with mobile responsive operating systems enables employees to update their personal details or select training courses at a time that is convenient to them and in the format of their choosing. Connecting to a supported payroll system can give employees access to an on-demand pay scheme, with the option of drawing down their wages when they have been earned rather than waiting for weekly or monthly payroll runs. At a time of uncertainty and unpredictability, practical technology measures to help employees manage their own finances and work opportunities are invaluable in managing their work, life and wellbeing.

Feedback tools to monitor employee wellbeing

As awareness of the need to look after employee wellbeing has intensified during the last year, operators have started to use workforce management software more effectively so that it is no longer just a workforce tool, but more of a support mechanism. At Access Hospitality, we have upgraded the capability of our Access People for Hospitality system to include a feedback campaign, which engages with staff every time they log in, out or connect via their mobile device. This might include running a COVID-19 survey detailing health aspects, their current sentiment and whether they feel safe and supported in the workplace. It could also include sending alerts to the team if they have been in contact with someone who has subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Workforce optimisation will continue to evolve and automate more processes and, with time at a premium and the need to react quickly to changing needs, integration with other products has become an essential factor. Having one platform to engage with is key as it is not time efficient or cost effective to have one interaction with an HR solution, one for workforce and another for payroll. 

The benefits of enabling your staff to self-serve

Technology will increasingly be used to identify where there are challenges, prompt unit managers to act and put more responsibility in the hands of employees. An example of this, is a leading UK department store which has developed its own employee app and posts all available shifts from the outset, relieving departmental heads from the duty of scheduling an initial rota. This bold move to empower employees could have risked leaving gaps in the scheduling, they have seen the opposite effect, with staff eager to fill the rota as quickly as possible and upskill to have a better choice of shifts to select from.

Looking ahead, we should expect other processes to be reshaped by technology, with employees increasingly taking responsibility for booking holiday and training courses, linking Learning Management Systems to staff records, pay and shift availability resulting in improved job satisfaction and engagement. Further automation of specific operational requirements will free up time by removing additional layers of admin, with improved functionality scheduling individuals with particular skills on the rota in the first instance ensuring, for example, that there is always a first aider, duty manager or fire marshal on shift.

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