-A Case in Point-Part 1

by Egi Gaisie

Today’s article begins a 3-part series to bring to the fore how some hotel employees are bracing the challenges we have been deliberating over with HRs for the past two weeks.

Currently with some hotels slowly opening up to business, both Employees and Employers, are making efforts to find their footing on their respective ‘solid rocks’ while the country unfortunately seems to be resigning to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, with the mantra, ‘live with the virus’.

Hotel Employers, whether of large or small properties, are faced with a dreadful problem on whether to let go of some of their permanent staff, continue to cut their hours, or declare them redundant.

At what point should Employers continue to hold on to their staff since ‘most hotels, if not all, are not interested in laying off workers’; borrowing the words from the President of the Ghana Hoteliers Association, in our last dialogue with HRs (Part 4).

Our Guest is a degree holder in Hospitality Administration and has been working in the hospitality industry for 15 years. In this particular hotel, a 70-bedroom hotel, she was the Housekeeping Manager.

HOST: Welcome and thank you for agreeing to come on this platform. There are different categories of Employees working in a hotel environment.  These include casuals, contract Employees, part-time Workers, and permanent Staff.  Which of the categories would you place yourself in?

GUEST: I was a permanent Staff.

HOST: Generally, what is your opinion of the impact of the pandemic on the hotel industry?

GUEST: It’s a nationwide crisis and the hotel industry is not left out. The hotel must adapt new ways to rebuild trust, regain the confidence of the guest. With the decline in travel activities, the financial strength of the industry would also be affected.

HOST: What new ways would you suggest for hotels to adapt when they resume?

GUEST: Virtual express check in and check out systems which allow less of guest interactions; mini bars in guestrooms should not be encouraged; the hotel should adopt the checking of temperature, use of sanitizer and washing of hands going forward and “Go Green” should be encouraged in the guestrooms.

HOST: For my Readers to appreciate some of challenges hotels are facing, give us an idea of what the average occupancy of the hotel before and during the early days of the pandemic.

GUEST: Before the pandemic our occupancy ranged from 50 – 100%, however during the early days of the pandemic it dropped to 30%    

HOST: That was a steep decline, although this is better than some hotels I know. However, knowing the significance of room occupancy in hotel operations did you find it necessary to consider reducing the staff strength in the department?

GUEST: Yes, we were 34 but had to let go of 27 workers.

HOST: How did you determine the number of staff to maintain? And what guideline did you use in determining who should go and who should remain on the job?

GUEST: I used production time against the room occupancy forecast to determine the number of personnel I needed. Staff appraisals aided the process of who to stay.

HOST: Knowing housekeeping to be a cost centered department what other steps did you take to ensure that other costs were under control?

GUEST: Most of my team members were casuals, so they were asked to go home. Permanent staff were asked to take their leaves and to go on unpaid leaves. A section of the guestrooms was shut down.

HOST: Compare the scope of activities of workers in the department during normal times to the early pandemic times.

GUEST: There was more time to slack around during the early days as compared to the normal days.

HOST: So, I gather there was not much work to be done. How would you describe your employer’s action in reducing staff?

GUEST: I think the Employer’s action in staff reduction was too sudden and very harsh although there was a need for it.

HOST: How else could your Employer have handled terminations and layoffs more amicably?

GUEST: Through a dialogue with the Employees; where the situation is explained to them.

HOST: Your Employer may have assumed Employees understood what was going on so didn’t see the need for a dialogue or do you think the Employer may have anticipated resistance from the Employees?

GUEST: Yes, resistance from Employees would have been very much. The Employer may have been avoiding that. It was easier, I think, to ask the casuals to stay off work. But with the permanent staff, they would have asked for the conditions in their contracts to be meet.

HOST: What have you learned as the best way to act during panic situations in a work environment?

GUEST: To stay calm and focused.

HOST: You indicated earlier that you were a permanent Staff. As permanent management personnel what were your expectations of your Employer, when the business had the sudden downturn?

GUEST: I was expecting my Employer to have a dialogue with me as we are in this together.

HOST: What were your career objectives? With this current challenge what do you intend to do?

GUEST: My career objectives were to develop myself to become a Manager and consultant in the hospitality industry.  With this current challenge I intend to establish my own bakery.

HOST: This is a bold step.  What are your strengths?

GUEST: My greatest strength is my ability to easily adapt to change, and I am a very hardworking person.

HOST: Would you go back to your job if you are recalled?

GUEST: Yes, I would go back while I work on my bakery as a side job.

HOST: Once again thank you so much for availing yourself on this platform and I wish you all the best.

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