While the service industry was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, dining out levels are now at 80% of pre-pandemic levels, and travel is expected to be back to 80-95% of pre-pandemic levels this year. As the leisure and hospitality industry saw a loss of almost a million workers from February 2020 to December 2022 in the U.S. alone, this sudden demand has created a major imbalance between customer demand and staffing availability.
The hospitality industry is feeling the strain, so it’s important to assess your summer staffing needs to meet demand, get more applicants in the door, and ensure things run smoothly this summer.
Seasonal Staffing Challenges
Summertime has always been busier for many companies in the hospitality industry, but especially post-pandemic; people are itching to travel, dine out, and make up for the lost time and experiences of the past few years. The demand for summer staff in the service industry speaks for itself—the restaurant industry’s workforce typically increases by 400,000 during the summer period.
Continuously tight labor market
Pair increased demand with a continuously tight labor market and you have a recipe for disaster. While we’re nowhere near the record-level number of career exits marking the Great Recession, people are still more than eager to switch jobs if they feel unsatisfied or underappreciated—especially in the hospitality industry. Squeezing the labor market even further is “labor hoarding,” as employers are retaining talent even amidst fluctuating demand.
Lack of onboarding for seasonal workers
Because of the staffing gaps, many employees feel they aren’t sufficiently trained in a wide variety of skills to have a successful career in the service industry. Especially in the busy summer month, seasonal workers are expected to adapt to a new company’s policies and operations quickly, yet onboarding often fails to prepare them properly. This leads to increased churn which puts added strain on an already tense season.
Low employee satisfaction in the service industry
Burnout is common across every industry right now, and the service industry is certainly no exception. When asked in a survey why service industry employees left their summer positions, 27% of workers stated they were unhappy with management, and another 25% of workers found the pay too low.
Right now employees are having to deal with a cost of living crisis and an additional mental health crisis–with more than 40% of workers claiming they have higher work-related stress than before the pandemic. Additionally, the service industry has been especially hard-hit by the reduction of the use of cash by customers and the inflation, which has led to a decrease in the normally generous American way of tipping–something many service workers count on to make ends meet. This all leads to general dissatisfaction among workers in the service industry.
How to assess your summer staffing needs
Now that you understand why there’s such a strain on hospitality companies during the summer months, it’s time to actually solve these problems so you can capitalize on the high demand of the busy summer months. Strong customer service and employee performance are key to maintaining successful revenue for a business in the summer months. Studies show that a consumer could love a brand, but one in three stated they would cease interaction with that brand after just one bad experience. 92% of consumers overall would stop using a brand after 2-3 bad experiences.
These are the questions you need to ask yourself in order to make sure you’re well-prepared for a solid summer season.
What did last summer look like?
What product, service, or menu item was most popular? Was there enough staff equipped with the skills to meet this demand? Reviewing last year's data is a good way to identify your staffing gaps. From here you can create cross-training opportunities, increase your employee’s confidence, and increase their skillsets. Cross-training and up-skilling mean you are more likely to be able to successfully cover any staff absences. What are the vacation and time-off needs of your current staff?
Communication is key; one of the most important things to communicate between staff members is who will be taking time off during the summer months—and when. The best idea would be to have a schedule that is accessible to all, highlighting when people are off, and for how long. Putting in a deadline for requests for vacation is a good way to minimize stress for both you and your employees.
How much can you leverage existing staff?
Utilizing your existing staff is crucial to a proper summer season for your hospitality business. Ask your staff what other areas of the business they’d like to learn about. Perhaps there is a part of the job they’re interested in but don’t feel qualified to take on. Do you have hosts who’d like to train to be servers? Or front desk staff of your hotel who have secretly wanted to learn another skill on the floor?
If there are opportunities to teach your staff different skills, they'll be grateful for the variety and more likely to stick around. This is also useful when there is a staff shortage present, so the current staff has the capabilities to be able to manage multiple roles.
What are your current staffing gaps?
Examine your company’s gaps in staffing and what skillsets may be missing. What roles are absolutely critical to fill for the summer? Are you able to cross-train existing employees—as outlined above—in order to fill in some of the gaps?
5 ways to ensure you're fully staffed for the summer
1. Improve employee retention
The most critical first step is ensuring your existing employees don’t leave right before the busy season gets underway. The best way to improve employee retention is to provide meaningful benefits and incentives that actually impact your employees' lives. These may include:
- Switching to cashless tips. With the decrease in cash tips since COVID, it’s best to integrate a system in which tipping is a seamless transaction for both employer and employee. Switching to cashless tips means you can have tips directly sent to an employee’s account after their shift—resulting in faster payments and improved employee satisfaction. Plus, without the need to manually input the information, admins save time and each employee’s payments are trackable and automated.
- Offering earned wage access. Attract and retain talent with earned wage access (EWA). Businesses that offer financial wellness benefits like EWA can cut turnover by 25% or more, and 60% of workers reported being more likely to stay at a job if their employer offered financial benefits. Branch offers on-demand pay so employees can access their wages earlier. This makes an employee feel they are cared for, and that their personal emergencies can be covered, instead of having to dip into personal savings or rely on predatory loans. Studies show that 85% of Gen Z workers would be worried if they lost their main source of income tomorrow, not feeling that they had adequate savings to cover a month’s cost of living.
- Foster employee engagement. Giving employees positive feedback, as well as encouraging creativity with cross-training opportunities will help workability and company trust. Appreciation truly matters, in fact, two out of five workers say they consider quitting a job if they don’t feel appreciated and valued.
2. Ramp up hiring by advertising to the right people
Students and younger workers are the ideal demographic for filling in summer job opportunities, so it should come as no surprise that more than half of potential applicants are turning to social media platforms rather than a company’s website when researching a business for potential employment.
Being able to advertise your job posting on social media will attract the ideal demographic of workers; plus, businesses have noted higher quality candidates from posting job opportunities on social media pages compared to posting on job websites.
3. Expand your hiring pool
The trick is not to focus on just employing full-time or part-time workers, but to diversify your hiring. Try reaching out to:
- Temporary Workers
- Gig Workers
Hiring temporary workers is always a quick solution to fill in employment gaps. Often, temporary or gig workers will be familiar with service industry positions, such as catering and hotels, so consulting a temporary workers’ agency is an option to fill in staffing gaps, too.
4. Cross-train employees
Cross-training opportunities are going to improve employee sustainability and rapport among the staff. The first step is to analyze the job and what skills are needed for tasks to be completed; then identify who among your staff has expressed interest in these skills or displays a natural aptitude for them.
5. Incentivize your workforce
Making the workplace a positive environment for your employees will help retain staff in the summer months. Organizing social trips and rewards will help strengthen relationships between the staff, and promote a better work culture overall. If there are prizes or bonuses for performing well at your business, these can be a great motivator for employees to work harder and better. Here are some ideas:
- Cash bonus incentives for working consecutive days/covering shifts
- Employee social events, such as company picnics
- Choice of gifts for employees who work hard
Having an employee incentive program created in your company will be a natural motivator for employees to stay and work hard, as well as drawing in potential new candidates to apply.
Start preparing today for a fully-staffed summer
The summer season can be a difficult and unpredictable period for a business. From staff churn to the demanding nature of an influx of customers, it is a challenging and stressful time. Advertising to the right candidates, providing meaningful benefits, and incentivizing your employees can all help you stay prepared and fully staffed for the busy summer months.
Branch is a great way to provide retention-boosting benefits that can keep business running smoothly. Branch provides earned wage access, cashless tips, and other free financial tools that incentivize employees and safeguard your business from staffing challenges. Get a demo today to see for yourself how Branch can help you prepare for the summer season ahead.