If you’re an HR professional in retail or hospitality management, learning how to cope with seasonal demand is probably one of the many ninja skills you’ve had to figure out on the job.
After all, every shop floor and front of house is different, and not everyone is freely given the budget to hire as many employees as they would like when the busy periods hit.
On top of that, HR management in Australia’s hospitality landscape is pretty challenging at the moment. Recent 457 visa changes and penalty rate cuts have contributed to unhappy workers, making hiring in hospitality particularly difficult.
But it’s still necessary to keep the customers happy. And when busy periods – like the school holidays, Easter long weekend or Christmas season – arrive, it’s even harder to ensure your customers get a good experience, even as you welcome the extra patronage.
Making sure you’re well equipped for the busy times
For many retail and hospitality business, so much rides on these peak or high-traffic periods as it’s often when the most money gets made. So if you’re not resourcing your establishment well enough, it might mean putting on a few more hats yourself, or working extra hours to fill in the gaps.
While you can’t plan for every contingency, here are a few common HR problems that tend to pop up before the busy periods roll around, and how you can deal with them effectively.
1. Not having enough employees
You know that your retail or hospitality business doesn’t just need to provide good food and high-quality service. You also need a firm grasp on balancing technology without compromising the all-important human touch.
Deloitte’s analysis of the restaurant of the future found that “winning restaurants will be the ones who invest wisely in digital, operations, marketing, and technology, and can harness the power of their employees to serve as brand ambassadors at the moments that matter”.
If your restaurant is known for its well-curated wine list, for example, perhaps having another sommelier on the floor would allow for better service. If your staff used tablets to take orders instead of writing them down, maybe they could spend more time recommending special items on your menu.
The point is, a positive, human interaction with your customers is key to giving them great guest experiences – and that means planning in advance to have enough staff on the floor so your guests are well looked after.
On days that you can foresee extra crowds, it’s also a good idea to have backup employees on call to come in if needed, or overstaffing by one or two just in case.
2. Too many employees calling in sick
Hospitality is an industry known for its high stress levels and turnover rates.
Research has estimated that every one in seven hotel and restaurant workers experience burnout. This is because they constantly face demanding customers, difficult situations and long periods in which they need to provide good-natured, high-quality service.
When it’s peak season, the added stress could mean that more people call in sick, and you wind up not having enough hands on deck.
A good proactive step to prevent this from happening is to check in with your employees regularly, and making sure you’re informed as early as possible if someone isn’t able to make it to work. The earlier you know, the sooner you can make arrangements to replace someone on shift.
Ensure you have enough staff so anyone that falls ill is able to take the time off they need to get back on their feet. It’s a good idea to plan this early on so you’re not panicking when the busy periods start.
When sale items are flying off the shelves and orders are coming through the kitchen every 10 seconds, it’s easy for employees to get slack with logging their time on the job.
Part of learning how to cope with seasonal demand also includes accurately tracking attendance and calculating the correct salaries for the extra help you’re getting.
And if your company has multiple branches in different locations, this could chalk up more admin time than you bargained for.
Thankfully, many modern hospitality-focussed HR software lets employees clock in and out of their shifts on their mobile device, allowing each activity to be geotagged and tracked for easy reference.
A digital time-tracking process can save you hours of admin time during the busy periods. That means more time that you can spend on the more important things, like motivating your staff and making sure they start and end each shift on-time.
4. Falling employee morale
It’s no secret that customers are less forgiving today when they’ve had a bad experience.
The 2017 Sensis Social Media Report found that the most frequently reviewed products or services were hospitality businesses, including hotels and motels (just under 50%), restaurants, bars and cafes (40%).
It goes without saying that overworked and stressed out employees will inevitably carry forth some of their fatigue and dissatisfaction in their customer service. And a couple of mishandled situations can quickly escalate into nasty online reviews and unpleasant social media rants.
While you can’t guarantee every customer will give you glowing reviews, you can help your employees give your guests the best service they can by making sure they get:
- ample rest between shifts
- enough flexibility for personal commitments (especially around the holidays)
- adequate training and support in their jobs
- feedback to improve along the way.
Energised, happy employees make for better customer experiences
Making sure you’re well staffed during peak periods is just one aspect of HR best practice in hospitality management.
It’s also about recognising and rewarding the extra efforts your people put in for you, whether they’re full-time staff or work casually. More engaged employees will lead to a better experience for your customers and a healthier business all round.
Request a demo and see for yourself how using HR software can help you master how to cope with seasonal demand in your business, so you’re able to provide memorable experiences for your customers and sustain a season-proof business all year round.
Employment Hero is an all-in-one HR and payroll system, built to facilitate employee engagement for small to medium sized businesses. Your employees will have access to our marketplace of specially curated employee benefits from Australia’s leading insurance companies. Request a demo today.