Just before the pandemic, hospitality had one of the highest turnover rates of any industry, and was battling against a major labor shortage. Unemployment rates in the U.S. were at historical lows, which made attracting and retaining hotel staff a major struggle for hoteliers.
Meanwhile, U.S. policies were pursuing tighter restrictions on immigration and work visas. These policies edged out thousands of workers from outside of the United States, thereby stemming the already weakened flow of available workers.
A telltale sign of trouble? One hotel management company was opening up a new Homewood Suites near Salt Lake City, Utah. The company posted job openings for housekeepers — and didn’t get a single applicant.
Stories like these served as a constant reminder for hotel managers that it was very much a job seeker’s market. The same scenario will play out as hotels begin to rebuild their workforces and compete for talent. Hotels must get creative if they want to build high-performing hospitality teams.
Here’s how some forward-thinking hotels are tackling the issue of motivation and retention among their current and future hotel staff, improving guest satisfaction, and getting great PR while they’re at it.
Introducing “Lobby Dogs”
That’s right. Put a bunch of puppies right there in the hotel lobby.
Allow me to explain.
For several years, the oceanfront hotel, Inn by the Sea, has partnered with the organization, Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in an innovative attempt at finding forever homes for local shelter dogs.
They’re called “lobby dogs.” The way the program works is shelter dogs hang out in a playpen in the hotel lobby ready to greet incoming guest with a surprise dose of cuteness overload. Guests can even spend quality time with the lobby dogs either by taking them on a walk around the hotel grounds, or simply cuddling up with their new furry friend.
The best part? If a guest really bonds with a lobby dog, they can actually adopt it.
The goal of the program is ultimately to find homes for the lobby dogs by exposing them to a constant stream of people they would have never met otherwise. Instead of staying confined in the shelter all day, the lobby dogs get to socialize, play, and meet all kinds of people while they’re waiting to be adopted.
So far the lobby dog program has been wildly successful. Since the initiative began, 148 shelter dogs have found forever homes!
According to Rauni Kew, Inn by the Sea public relations manager,
“We care for the dog and give it a temporary home here until somebody falls in love and adopts the dog. I can’t tell you how many guests have said to us, ‘There’s no way we would’ve gone to a shelter; we had decided we wouldn’t have another dog.’ But they’ve fallen in love with the dog behind the desk.
It’s a win/win.
Why the Lobby Dogs Program Has Been a Huge Success
From a business perspective, “just add dogs” might seem like too simplistic of a solution to solve the complex business challenges the hospitality industry is facing. But is it?
Let’s see what the data has to say about the business impact of dogs in the workplace. . .
Dogs Reduce Stress and Increase Productivity/Job Satisfaction
Studies have shown that dogs provide employees with something called “social support” which has been proven to lower stress.
In a survey of 240 hospital workers, increased levels of social support were associated with lower levels of depression and increased job performance.
Having dogs present in the workplace has been shown to increase overall levels of employee job satisfaction, reduce absenteeism, and improve employee retention rates!
Improve Internal Communication
Naturally, this benefit is something that’s close to our hearts here at Beekeeper. We’ve covered how poor communication can cost companies money, and revealed all the ways that an employee app can help improve collaboration and teamwork.
A digital workplace is a great place to start improving operational communication on your hospitality team, but it shouldn’t be the “end all be all” of your company’s communication strategy.
Having dogs around encourages team building. They give employees something tangible to talk about and bond over besides work. Dogs help drive deeper conversations around shared interests, personal aspirations, and help people find common ground. They give employees that little push they need to break the ice and really connect with each other.
Time to Re-evaluate Your Hotel Operations?
In a perfect world, every hotel lobby would be brimming with adorable dogs. But in the real world, adding live animals to the workplace doesn’t work for everyone or every business.
What the “Lobby Dogs” program really teaches us is that with a little creativity, planning, and support for a good cause, hotels have the power to work miracles both for their customers and their employees.
With the current labor challenges facing the hospitality industry, it’s time for hotels to think outside the box and find inventive ways to engage their employees and retain their most valuable hotel staff.
When good intentions, passion, and business resources come together, magic can truly happen.
Fun fact: Did you know that Beekeeper is a dog-friendly office? Here’s Yuki giving us some product feedback.