Platform technology can do more than mobilize your workforce and connect your departments. It also points to a future way of managing staff responsibilities.
Have you ever noticed how the airline employee who checks you in at the Departures terminal of the airport is often the same employee who checks you in at the gate? This seems a world away from the assembly line of the industrial revolution, where one person repeated the same task over and over. That is where a platform differs from a traditional value chain approach. In the latter, value creation is linear and one way, solving a complicated problem like the manufacturing of cars. While in the platform approach, value creation is two way and serves to solve complex problems like hospitality. Airlines might underdeliver when it comes to hospitality, but they do a good job leveraging technology and processes to move their staff around as needed and deliver efficient service.
Robert Holland, regional operating manager for the Bermondsey Hotel in London, uses the broader skillsets of his team to break employees out of rigidly defined roles. “After breakfast service, the waiters come and help greet people who arrive, taking their bags through,” he said. “And when the reception isn’t too busy, the receptionists come and help out in the restaurant and vice versa.” We’ll call this the multi-skilled workforce.
Holland said the change took place last October. Some employees were initially resistant, he said. “Obviously staff that had been there a long time were reticent,” he said. “They were often returning to their stations. If you were a restaurant worker before you’d gravitate toward hanging around the coffee machine. If you were a receptionist, you’d probably feel more comfortable by the front office.”
Despite those growing pains, Holland said that the hotel was able to eliminate three full-time workers. Because the U.K. recently introduced a higher minimum wage, the hotel was able to keep its overall spending on workers on the same level it was before the wage hike, thanks to the reallocation of staff.
Robert is not alone. Since about 2010 or so, many hotels have experimented with ditching the front desk. “For guests, staying in a hotel could become that bit more like staying at a friend's house, where you're approached on entry, given a comfortable seat and a drink, and then shown your room,” a report in The Economist noted around that time.
Without technology, there is a limit to which a multi-skilled workforce can be leveraged. Unlike hotel work, airline work is reasonably predictable. Airlines run on a (fairly) set schedule, and, as such, staff can easily navigate their responsibilities. This isn’t the case with hotels. Guest arrivals, departures and in-stay activities and requests are far less predictable. As such, having a multi-skilled workforce is a great step to better service, but may not be enough. This is where platform technology can be leveraged. Hotels can embrace a platform approach to help allocate staff more flexibly as requests come in, creating efficiency gains. “The idea behind a mobile workforce is not only being trained in multiple roles, but if the bar is busy, why do you have five people standing at the front desk?” said Shashou, the cofounder of ALICE. Shashou points out that airports have already done this to an extent. “I often see the person who checked me in at the gate also letting me on the plane.”
Greater staff efficiency and increased guest satisfaction are just some of the upsides of employing a platform approach to technology at your hotel. To learn the three ways hotels can harness the power of the platform, download our full report, “The Hospitality Industry’s New Platform Paradigm.”