The technology operations playbook


Overcoming Hotel Staffing Shortages Using Technology

The hotel industry is experiencing a vicious cycle of absences and overworked staff. When we spoke to Curtis Cummins, Co-Founder of Roomza, he was definitive about how he saw the situation going forward:

“We all need to wake up to the reality that there’s not a group of applicants that we’ve missed somewhere; nobody else is coming.”


What can you do to deal with vacant positions on your team, untrained staff, and half-hour-long lines at the front desk? In Curtis’ words, “take some of that immediate pressure off of your staff. And if you can accomplish that by automation, do that.”


In this article, we explore some of the solutions that make you less dependent on staff and keep morale high without negatively impacting the guest experience: 


  • Digital front desks     
  • Digital guidebooks
  • Virtual communication methods
  • Keyless access
  • Maintenance optimization solutions
  • Smart devices

Free up your staff and optimize the check-in experience with Operto Guest.

Discover Operto’s Noise and Occupancy solutions.

Why is there a staffing shortage in the hospitality industry?

While low wages and a lack of opportunities for growth have historically led to high staff turnover rates in hospitality, since the pandemic, staffing shortages have reached an all-time high. Forced to explore other avenues during layoffs, former hotel employees are now looking for work that offers them better work-life balance. 


For example, one report from CGA and Harri shows that 54% of hotel staff point to unsociable hours as a reason for understaffing issues in 2022. And, when we spoke to Curtis Crimmins, he pointedly observed that, “there’s plenty of opportunity for people to make a minimum wage,” looking to brands like DoorDash as a means for people to earn similar money on more flexible terms. 



It’s clear that to compete with the intrinsic benefits of working within the gig economy, you can’t rely on the same practices you used pre-pandemic; you need to respond to your teams’ needs, optimize all your processes, and operate with a leaner team. 


But how can you resolve the issue of hours in the face of increased staffing instability? First, you need a clear overview of how labor shortages are impacting your work.



How labor shortage affects hotels

In speaking to hotel staff about their experiences, Curtis has found that there is burnout “on every level.” Managers are tired of constantly training new staff, staff are tired of trying to handle too much work, and guests are tired of long lines and reduced service.

“People are getting into the room and noticing that the wallpaper’s dirty, the hallways are not vacuumed, there’s hair in the shower. These are all symptoms of the larger problem,” Curtis says. 

So, you need a tech solution that will give you the space and oversight you need—so you can help that leaner team deliver.



How using technology can help overcome hotel labor shortages

Prague Residences, which has 16 short-term rental apartment buildings and two hotels all run by one front desk, provides a great example of how technology can assist with hotel staffing shortages. 

By implementing contactless check-in, they have created more autonomous guests and relieved pressure on existing staff, who can now focus on meaningful guest interactions and priority tasks. 


Here are our recommendations so you can achieve that same level of operational efficiency and guest satisfaction. 


Create a digital front desk

Digital check-in allows hotel guests to check in from their smartphone without ever needing to head to the front desk. This frees up your staff to the point where you might not even need a traditional front desk, at all.

And, by giving guests the ability to arrive and go straight to their rooms, you create a remarkable arrival experience, more in line with modern guest expectations.

With Operto Guest, guests access your branded web app from their booking confirmation email. This provides them with:

  • A fully customizable digital guidebook (see how this takes questions and requests away from your font desk, below)
  • An auto-generated unique access code or mobile key (we look at the fastest, most cost-effective way to get keyless locks below, too)
  • Enhanced online check-in with automated ID verification and guest screening
Screenshot of Operto’s mobile self check-in solution
Take stress away from your front desk with automated check-in.

Now, you can automate not just digital check-in, but related processes too. Guests can request early check-in within the web app, access their room without staff assistance (looked at further, below), and your front desk doesn’t have to manage the same volume of ad-hoc guest-facing tasks.   


Be proactive with digital guidebooks 

Digital guidebooks minimize the number of guest interactions for your staff by making your guests more informed and independent. 


By being proactive and giving guests information upfront, you optimize front-desk operations and the guest experience, giving guests access to all the information they could want right in their pocket.


Your digital guidebook can include information about things like:


  • Arrival instructions
  • Parking
  • WiFi
  • Amenities
  • The local area  

In Operto Guest, you can create customizable call-to-action smart buttons for add-on services from within the mobile web app. With these in place, it’s now easy for guests to:


  • Request poolside service
  • Book a gym session
  • Hire equipment
  • Book a guided tour
  • Directly book a future stay

Providing guests with an accessible and intuitively simple guide to their stay means they have less reason to seek out your busy team.


Streamline communication

Curtis has strong opinions about the problems with front desks within the context of the ongoing labor shortage:


“A front desk might have had four people before—now it has one person for a 600-room hotel…What you’ve got is what you’ve got, and you need to stop romanticizing and fantasizing that you’re going to go back to, you know, 2008.”


Unfortunately, handling questions and requests at your front desk just isn’t a sustainable, scalable solution anymore. With in-app two-way communication, though, it’s possible. 


Implementing a digital solution, like Operto Guest, where your guests can find answers to all their questions and use a two-way chat, means you can be more accessible and more responsive.


Inside the Manager Dashboard, you can see the full history of guest interactions, room status, and guest details. And, when a question comes in, you can handle that within the dashboard without burdening your on-the-ground team.

Screenshot of Operto guest messaging.
You can bring your guest management and communications into the all-in-one dashboard with Operto Connect.

Provide keyless access

Self check-in, a digital guidebook, and two-way comms within a branded web app are all crucial parts of the jigsaw, but it’s keyless access that brings it together—alongside an automated process for sharing unique, temporary access codes or mobile keys.


With no need for staff to hand out or collect keycards, you can make your guests independent and completely eradicate lines.


This is how the automated workflow works with Operto: 


  • We connect to your smart locks and your PMS.
  • When a guest’s booking is confirmed, we create a unique access code or mobile key.
  • Guests get a booking confirmation email with a link to the Operto Guest web app, where they can find those access details.

Pro-tip: You can implement cutting-edge technology to turn old locks into smart locks without the hassle or cost of replacement. Using Operto Boost could save you $1000s, and it’s a much faster way to get locks with BLE functionality.

Automate maintenance and housekeeping task scheduling

Key to managing hotel operations more efficiently is streamlining task scheduling, task tracking, and pulling reports. 


With task-management software, you can simplify operations and communications for your management, housekeeping, and maintenance teams. 


For example, with Operto Teams, maintenance and cleaning schedules are automated based on your customized rules, which are triggered by the latest booking details from your PMS, and check-outs as they occur via information from your smart locks.


On the ground, cleaners can report tasks for maintenance as they arise within their smartphone apps. Within the drag-and-drop Master Calendar, it’s easy to set priorities and manually fine-tune schedules. And you can track task completion, see where there are urgencies, and review and compare productivity.

Screenshot of Operto Teams Master Calendar.
Operto Teams allows for easy organization of tasks.

Use smart devices to take pressure off staff

Most hotel team members feel the companies that employ them could be making better use of technology. And there’s a range of smart devices out there that can help hotel workers feel more in control of their time and happier at work. 


Smart thermostats can automatically adjust room temperature based on your pre-set conditions and the latest booking information from your PMS. Noise monitoring also reduces the need for staff intervention, with software such as NoiseAware delivering real-time messages in the case of loud noise. 


And, to gain a high-level view of operations and communications, you can consolidate all your solutions into a single dashboard.

Screenshots of Operto Guest and the Manager Dashboard.
Operto Connect brings your smart devices and tech solutions together, connecting them to your PMS.

Manage understaffing and deliver a fantastic guest experience 

With a diminishing labor pool and your existing team struggling as a result, you have to adopt tech solutions sooner rather than later. 


Luckily, the same solutions that will help you manage your labor shortages will also help you provide an enhanced guest experience. These include:


  • Digital check-in
  • Digital guidebooks
  • Two-way in-app chat 
  • Keyless access
  • Housekeeping management software
  • Smart devices

By facing the problem of understaffing head on, and by implementing and integrating a variety of tech solutions, you can operate with a leaner team without your guests ever realizing.