As part of their weekly Friday Opinion column, Propel Info is featuring guest posts from Eko’s management, sharing their take on interesting topics concerning technology in the hospitality industry. Propel is a leading UK publication which has the largest readership in the casual dining and food service sectors. Read the first instalment of the series here, from Eko’s CCO/COO Robert Darling.
Keeping millennial employees engaged, by Robert Darling
It’s become second nature to me that once a week I find myself in a different city for something work-related. Lots of travel comes with checking into many different hotels, all with differing room quality, staff quality and overall experience. There are some that I look forward to returning to one day, and there are some that I vow to never return to again.
Earlier this week, I was checking into a hotel in Central London when I met a young receptionist named John.
As I approached the desk, it appeared that John was just settling into his shift, taking over from another young woman who was getting ready to leave. “Don’t forget the late checkout for room 203,” she said as she packed up her things. “Text me the details,” John said to her, as he took my credit card and started processing my payment. He later told me that he doesn’t usually handle this shift, but was temporarily taking over for another colleague who’d just quit. His manager was hopping between branches and would only check in once a week. “I’m sorry, it’s all a bit chaotic at the moment,” he said.
There were two things about this encounter that made me think about employee engagement in the hospitality industry. First, was the fact that John and his colleague would text each other about an internal work process. It reminded me of something Bob Cotton, an expert in the hospitality industry who has received an OBE for his services, had told me once. Millenials are used to sharing information online – chatting on instant messenger, tagging friends in news articles, and learning about the world in online forums.
This is hardly breaking news, but what can employers in the hospitality industry take from this?
“These young workers communicate best through technology. They don’t really speak to each other face-to-face,” explained Bob. “If that’s the way the majority of the workforce likes to communicate, gain knowledge and share information, then the industry has to embrace the technology needed for this.”
And it’s true: 58% of frontline hotel staff in the UK are aged between 20-30. Introducing a tool that’s familiar to them brings with it an array of benefits. It significantly saves both time and money when it comes to teaching them how to use it. The familiarity means they’re more likely to want to use it and actively engage with it. There’s nothing worse than spending huge budgets on a system that no one wants to check.
But on top of their reputation for being technology-obsessed, millenials are also notorious for their willingness to quickly hop from job to job. Studies have shown that once employed, there is a 50% chance that an entry-level hotel employee will leave his or her job within one year. With such a high turnover, it’s hard to maintain a positive company culture, and eventually only makes more people want to leave. As John had conveyed to me while I waited for my hotel room key, having his colleague quit meant several things: tasks left unaccounted for, lowered team spirit, and longer hours for John. Eventually, John will likely quit his job too – and the cycle continues.
But with the right internal tool, John’s manager would be able to remotely thank him for taking on the extra shift, and recognise his hard work. John’s colleague would be able to inform him, and his manager, about the details of the late checkout in room 203 in an organised manner and easily keep it on record in the system. All of these things would’ve ultimately made John feel more engaged to his job, by being more informed about his tasks and having a better connection with his colleagues and manager.
Strengthening workplace relationships and boosting employee engagement in a non-desk workforce doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the young worker’s close-knit relationship with technology makes it even easier than before. These days, talking to each other through a chatroom, receiving an announcement from management, and seeing someone acknowledge your message to them can be enough to build a sense of connection. One notification on your phone from your boss recognising your hard work can make you want to go that extra mile to serve a hotel guest. And sometimes, that’s enough to make a difference between whether you want to stay or leave the company.
So, the next time you look to implement a new internal tool for your employees, you may want to consider one crucial factor: would a millennial want to use it?
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