How clever technology can attract the best talent

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Speaking at a recent HOSPACE event in London, our Regional Director, UK & DACH, Dean Madge was asked how clever technology can attract the best talent and we thought his response was too good not to share!

Who is Dean Madge and why are you so passionate about employment and technology?

Recently my role was more aligned with the vast majority of hotel management. I had the great pleasure of holding the position of Head of Sales and Commercial for Red Hotels - the Bedruthan and Scarlet Hotel in North Cornwall, UK. 

I had a fabulous five years transforming the commercial strategy and we were well on plan when a visit from Lady Corona provided us with the opportunity for a major rethink across all functions, facilities and roles within the hotels.

What has the employment landscape looked like in the past couple of years and what do we need to be mindful of?

As I'm sure many are well aware, recruitment has continued to be a huge challenge, retention even more so. Over 70% of hospitality employees had been placed on furlough, which provided individuals with space and time away to re-evaluate what was important for them and their families. For many this time was an investment in themselves. A recent hospitality report claimed that 40% of hospitality employees said they are thinking about leaving their positions in the next three months with many willing to quit without securing another role.

Are people rethinking why they are working in tourism and what things are driving them?

In the past employees and management may have been more accepting of underperforming systems and workarounds but post covid this is becoming unacceptable especially when paired with colleague shortages, increased occupancy levels and guest expectations.

In a survey conducted by Oracle, people were asked the question "which of the following best reflects your labour strategy for 2025"? The top answer, with a staggering 65% of people, highlighted it would incorporate new technologies for attracting and retaining staff. So when reviewing your tech stack it's even more vital to ensure that all elements of this are best in class and work hard for you. I know from personal experience the impact of implementing a good and not-so-good new piece of tech and the impact this can have on the wider team. 

This can lead to a lack of confidence or can have a significantly positive impact on morale and engagement from the team. I know that introducing Profitroom into my last two hotels provided a hugely positive impact that rippled throughout both businesses as we witnessed a more engaged reservation and sales operation and a reduction in turnover within the team. It provided them with a noticeable increase in time available to focus on the detail, the future business trading and conversion of enquiries through the personalised offers functionality in our Profitroom suite. It goes without saying that teams simply enjoy being at work more when systems work.

The workforce is varied, how should hotels be factoring in the different employee demographics?

A Forbes article published this year focused on Gen Z and Millennials and how they are rewriting the rules and what this means for the workplace. One paragraph of this interesting read instantly resonated with me. 

"This confident, open-minded and optimistic generation grew up steeped in technology. Resourceful and resilient, the new workforce is always looking for better ways to get things done. They won't suffer fools who lack the emotional intelligence to tune in to their frequencies. If Senior Managers kill new ideas and initiatives, the next sound you hear will be the revolving door as your new employees run".

I think it's also important to remember that whilst we talk about our employees, our commercial eye is always on our guest demographics and their booking behaviours, and there is a very fine line between them both. The behaviours of Gen Z and Millennials are largely reflective of tech requirements in the workplace. They want technology to be intuitive, they want to clearly see that organisations are looking for new and innovative ways of leveraging technology across all areas of the business, they want to be personally engaged and most importantly it has to work and be best in class. These two groups now make up 65% of the global workforce.

Whilst these are only two groups it is critical that you understand your employee demographics just as well as you understand your customer demographics. By doing so you will be better placed in positioning your tech stack thus ensuring everyone can thrive working with it. Technology cannot replace people, it can however provide teams with a platform in which to be the very best versions of themselves without the stress of poor-performing systems.

For the older demographic in the workplace, intuitive, easy to use tech with clearly demonstrated benefits and fully supported with training will widen the pool of potential talent available to you. A great example of this is Watergate Bay in Cornwall, who has recently overhauled its employment strategies to account for the differing demographics and how to ensure they're supporting their requirements in the workplace.    

How can clever tech attract the best talent and what should hoteliers be doing?

Whilst for some employees the more traditional "benefits" are attractive, for a large majority of potential applicants this needs a rethink. Why do we not talk about having best in class systems to those potential applicants? Surely the reassurance that you will be provided with systems that are not only guest focused but are driven by the needs of a team and will provide a joy for those users. 

If we want to attract more people of all ages into the industry we need to recognise two distinct groups. A more mature group of employees will be less tech savvy and need reassurance that training and support will be priority and those that have been born into a tech generation will be less forgiving of systems that are not fit for purpose for both they will need to know that tech implemented will take into consideration the role or roles they are being asked to fulfil. 

So how can this be worked into recruitment? If we have a solid commitment to ensure that we provide the very best technology, coupled with a commitment to not only provide training for the onsite technology but a commitment to upskilling employees' tech skills in general, this could open up a new employees that might not have traditionally applied for roles that require a tech element. As we look towards asking teams to be multi-skilled, a blocker in the past has been a fear of "systems"; this could be one way of removing this obstacle. 

All businesses are looking at lowering costs or managing a reduced workforce by positively embracing technology and providing technology growth for employees; this would not only assist with recruitment but also retention and morale. 

One of the saddest things in our role (apart from ghosting) is being told they don't have time to review their booking engine or time to review our tech stack and in my past roles I would have been guilty of doing both. That said if retention and recruitment are a priority for you, if providing your clients with the very best booking journey is a priority for you or improving your commercial results is a priority for you then maybe it's time we should talk as we'd genuinely love to help and be an active partner in your business.

Are there any final thoughts you want to add? 

Finally, I will leave you with one further thought: Are employees resigning or are they redesigning what they want work to be and what type of organisation they want to belong to? As employers, we have the opportunity to listen and redesign our organisations to ensure we are retaining teams and clients alike through the very best use of technology. Break the norm, rethink your employment strategies and align them with your commercial strategies and start to think about how you can entice people to want to work for you, rather than needing to, because your employees and potential candidates certainly are. 

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Jane Young, Marketing Manager