Maximize Workforce Efficiency
By Vicki Powers, Contributing Editor
One side affect of the recession: employee productivity levels are at an all-time high, largely because the economy is so tight. A leaner staff leads to greater workloads on each individual, and since those who are employed are eager to maintain that status, they’re willing to boost their productivity in these grin-and-bare-it times.
According to David Heath, principal of Atlanta-based Heath and Company, with
hotel finances upside down operators have had to make hard choices to cut labor and increase productivity. Hospitality operators are managing workloads by determining what services can be scaled back without truly impacting guest satisfaction. “The better ones determine which services are important to the customer and what to cut,” Heath relates.
In many hospitality operations, technology has come to the aid in helping increase workforce efficiency and especially communication. Whether it’s pushed out to employees or accessed on-demand, Heath says the big-picture trend is towards greater communication to enable a flexible workforce. With fewer people on staff, a well-informed and highly nimble workforce is critical. Tech solutions now offer the ability to push information to managers and employees at unprecedented rates.
For employees, having their schedules sent to their phones or using them to request days off from wherever they are is not only a convenience, but an incentive to stay with that employer. It can also help the hospitality operator to better manage payroll and coverage. Joe’s Real BBQ (www.joesrealbbq.com
) in Gilbert, Arizona, added Web-based time keeping and payroll in early 2011 from National Payroll Systems (www.nationalpayroll.com
) and Time Data Systems Inc. (www.timedatasys.com
). This enables employees to compare their timecard at home to ensure they didn’t miss a punch. Before the technology addition, co-owner Tad Peelen had to manually print employees’ timecards from the computer when they requested to see them. Now they can examine them on the Internet at 3 a.m. if they want. Peelen saves about an hour per pay period using the Web-based technology. “Employees enjoy the transparency of seeing their timecard online, and are paid for every minute,” Peelen relates.
The quick-service restaurant, serving around 1,000 folks each day, requires a fast-turnaround. Employees also can view their weekly schedules and pick up additional shifts on their cell phone thanks to Schedulefly’s (www.schedulefly.com
) Web-based communication and scheduling technology solution. For the social media user, customers can log into their schedules via Facebook.
“The cool thing about Schedulefly is employees all have a cell phone, whether they’re Web-savvy or not,” Peelen relates. “They still have a schedule in their hands, and it’s cool that it helps these folks.” Peelen’s results are compelling. Attrition rates are down. He’s maintaining his workforce longer than before, and the number of uncovered shifts has dwindled to almost nothing. “For people who live on the Web it lets them cover their own shift,” Peelen says. “In this economy someone will pick [the shift] up, which is nice for a manager because I don’t need to get involved.”
In 2010, Hyatt Hotels Corporation (www.hyatt.com
) deployed Infor’s (www.infor.com
) workforce management (WFM) Workbrain solution in its shared service model to more than 110 hotels and 40,000 individuals working in North America and the Caribbean. According to Hyatt’s CIO Mike Blake, its properties needed a better way to report on costs and automate processes than its manual workforce labor processes could provide.
The Web-based Workbrain solution replaced many manual processes at Hyatt, including payroll close, time-off requests, and retroactive adjustments. A key aspect is empowering hotel employees through self-service capabilities, including visibility of hours and time-off requests. Employees access the system’s Employee Transaction Manager for time-off requests and schedule views via PCs in the employee cafeteria area of the hotel.
“The operational impact was significant and continues to improve the way Hyatt properties operate today,” Blake relates. Not only is daily efficiency increased, but Hyatt can roll out centralized policies while also providing individual properties the flexibility they need to meet their needs.
“Varying regulations from state to state may necessitate a certain policy for hotel employees in one state but a different policy for hotel employees in another state,” Blake says. “However, both states can use the Infor system with ease.”
In addition to employee-facing efficiencies, workforce management tools are helping managers to better allocate labor based on demand. Wendy’s of Southern Oregon’s 13 locations are using an analytic piece from WAND Corp. (www.wandcorp.com
) and Clear-View Technologies (www.clear-view-tech.com
) to consolidate and push out real-time data. “The dashboard technology pushes alerts to management for quick decisions, rather than getting labor hours after the day is over to guide decisions,” says Scott Anderson, director of operations at Wendy’s of Southern Oregon and a member of the Wendy’s International Technology Subcommittee.
For example, if an alert reveals one restaurant has four more staff members than it needs at that moment, that’s important to catch as early as possible. Anderson says this technology has a big impact on the ability to control and increase profitability. With next-gen technology, Anderson says so much data is available, live at your fingertips. But the analytical tools provide the critical link.
“Labor is a big part of business expense, especially with rising minimum wage,” Anderson says. “Once you waste those labor hours, you can’t recapture it. The technology provides a huge savings.”
Instant engagement is an upcoming technology that the Wendy’s International Technology Subcommittee is looking to for the future, Anderson says. This involves guiding employees’ to decisions, such as how many employees are needed to work lunch, or the number of salads to make based on forecast and trends. “Employees like to be engaged with the technology and are not opposed to a computer telling them something to do,” Anderson relates.
Technology is a win-win when it provides additional efficiencies for the hotel or restaurant – and makes employees lives easier, to boot.
“[The hospitality industry] has made huge, huge gains by employing technology for workforce management,” says Heath. “The breakeven point for hotels has dropped from 66-68 percent to occupancy to 52-53 percent, because [operators] are doing things more efficiently.”