Advanced Scheduling Technology is Critical in Today's Dynamic Service Industry

By Mark Heymann Chairman & CEO, Unifocus | May 22, 2016

A confluence of trends is impacting how the hotel industry handles the complex task of staffing shifts. Increased competition is leading to greater fluctuations in guest demand. Millennials – now the majority generation in the workforce – are putting a high premium on flexibility and work-life balance in their career choices. And most critically, legislators across the country are answering rising calls from workers' rights organizations, pushing back against the practice of on-call scheduling with new laws that include penalties for organizations that fail to provide their employees with more predictable schedules. In this increasingly dynamic environment, advanced scheduling technology will be crucial to help hotel managers comply with new predictive scheduling requirements while protecting their bottom line in the short and long term.

The Decline of On-Call Scheduling

In the wake of legislation at the federal level, as well as in several states and cities, a number of large retailers have ended the practice of on-call scheduling. In 2014, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced versions of a bill to enforce more predictable schedules for service workers, arguing that the on-call model created a hardship for those who would keep themselves available for a shift only to be sent home when business was slow, or told at the last minute not to show up at all. Or, conversely, they might struggle to arrange childcare when called in for a shift they had not anticipated working.

Later that same year, San Francisco passed the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, which requires employers to, among other things, give retail workers at least 14 days' notice of their biweekly schedules and provide "predictability pay" for shifts that are changed or cancelled at the last minute. And in April 2015, the New York State attorney general launched an inquiry into the scheduling practices at major retailers operating in the state and their possible non-compliance with New York's "reporting pay" laws.

Similar concerns have led to several proposed class-action lawsuits in California.
The National Women's Law Center reports that, in addition to New York and California, predictive scheduling legislation is now pending in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon. With the movement gaining traction beyond the retail industry, it's time for other service providers, including hoteliers, to take a look at their own scheduling practices.

"Just in Time" for the Service Industry

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.