Staffing Management

How short-staffed resorts can optimize scheduling

By Akshay Sachdeva

Mar. 3, 2022

We live in the time of “The Great American Labor Shortage.” The leisure and hospitality industry faced a high unemployment rate of 39.3% in 2020, which, combined with the high number of job openings, reveals just how understaffed the sector is.

The World Travel & Tourism Council estimated a labor shortfall of 690,000 workers in the tourism and travel industries in 2021. Vail Resorts is one of many resort companies facing this problem. A shortage of chairlift operators, lift engineers, and snowcat drivers has delayed the resort’s ability to open doors to its skiing visitors.

Why has COVID led to a shortage of talent?

According to the Colorado Sun, lots of resorts in the country are in the same predicament as Vail Resorts. This widespread lack of active workers in the industry can be attributed to several reasons — all tied to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • COVID fears: Staff doesn’t want to return to work because they’re scared of catching the virus.
  • Poor management: Resort management let go of many people last year, and one of the possible reasons they may not be hiring anyone back is to help recover from the profit lost during shutdowns.
  • Parental caregiving during the pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic led a number of schools across the country to shut down. Parents without access to childcare are forced to remain home and are unable to rejoin the workforce.

In order to prevent the loss of customers whose needs are unmet, resort managers must optimize their scheduling while short-staffed.

To optimize scheduling while being short-staffed, you need to:

1. Use labor forecasting

Estimate sales demand by using labor forecasting software to look at historical sales data and then schedule shifts accordingly. You’ll be able to schedule your scarce labor smartly to meet sales demand. For instance, you might be able to schedule more experienced employees when the sales demand is high.

Sales demand is likely to fluctuate post-pandemic, and managers need to ensure that worker scheduling can adapt easily to meet sudden demand shifts.

You can also forecast labor demand by individual departments and monitor whether, say, more employees need to be scheduled in mountain operations versus lodging at a ski resort. For instance, a lot of people may be coming to ski for the day but not booking rooms for the weekend, meaning the level of scheduled labor needed will vary between the two departments.

2. Make schedules agile and adaptable

Prepare schedules in advance, two weeks at a minimum, to give employees the ability to communicate their need for coverage in the event of unforeseen scheduling conflicts.

Use employee scheduling software to centralize scheduling and increase your staff’s commitment to shift adherence. By using mobile technology like shift swaps and replacements, you minimize any last-minute scheduling changes, increasing both administrative adaptability and staff agility.

You must also manage leave requests in a timely manner to avoid being short-staffed. You don’t want too many employees taking leave at the same time. Discuss leave requests with each staff member to avoid any scheduling surprises down the road. Staff members should be encouraged to put in leave requests by giving at least a few days’ notice, so you can plan schedules in a timely manner.

3. Increase employee engagement

Focus on improving your overall staff experience. If your employees feel engaged, they are more likely to show up and do their best work and provide the best service.

With a centralized communication tool, it’s possible to quickly notify staff of timely updates or important company announcements. Getting your message out there efficiently on a unified system properly engages staff, makes them feel valued, and solves issues in disconnected communication with management.

Another way to increase employee engagement is to open up more avenues for staff to provide shift feedback. Employees may feel inclined to report on how various aspects of their shifts, from coworker cooperation to issues in staffing levels. Having the ability to give management feedback like this empowers employees, making them feel more valued. This leads to engaged and productive resort staff, even in the face of a shortage in labor.

You should also offer incentives to engage employees and boost their morale. Workers are happier when they’re well compensated. A lot of restaurant and hotel owners are offering higher wages to attract and retain employees. For instance, an ice cream parlor raised wages to $15 an hour and filled all of their 15 open positions immediately. As per Hotel Tech Report, higher pay rates can decrease absenteeism and control employee turnover, which is good news for short-staffed hotels and resorts.

Replicate these successes and improve employee motivation by offering a higher pay rate during busier shifts and during peak season.

4. Automate breaks

Employees need breaks so they don’t feel stressed or overworked, factors that often lead to staff attrition.

Between multiple departments with varying needs, resort management already spends too much time preparing employee schedules manually — up to 12 hours a week. Short staffing levels only add to this time, causing even more headaches for management. In the midst of all these hurdles, scheduling and enforcing breaks might slip between the cracks.

Solve this by implementing employee scheduling software that automatically applies legally compliant breaks to every employee’s schedule. These breaks should be easily monitorable by both employees and managers alike, ensuring short-staffed teams stay well-rested and productive. Leadership should receive notifications when employees miss breaks, and they should be able to track a live timeclock feed to know when and where workers are taking their breaks.

5. Cross-train employees

Train employees to handle a broad range of tasks so they’re more well-rounded and well-equipped to deal with short-staffing challenges. The best way to do this is to encourage your staff members to mentor and train each other.

Start by making a list of everyone on your team and include their job descriptions. Think about the expertise each role requires and then pair positions that share similar skill sets. For instance, you can pair up wait staff with those working in the front office team, both client-facing roles. The wait staff team members would learn how to perform check-ins, check-outs, and make reservations, and the front office team members would learn how to serve customers at the restaurant.

If all of your staff are cross-trained and multi-functional, they’ll be able to fill in for each other. It will become possible for you to rotate your staff across different departments to meet varying customer needs.


Proper WFM practices mitigate short-staffing pains

Workforce management can be quite complex for individual departments to handle, especially while short-staffed. By uniting staff on one platform and deploying the tips above, it’s possible to have executive oversight on staffing needs. If you’d like to overcome the challenges of the short-staffing problem at your resort, get in touch with us today!

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