Compared to workers in other industries, travel and hospitality employees are among the least likely to feel valued by their employers amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
In fact, just 42% of travel and hospitality employees who are still working full-time say they feel valued by their company, according to a new study from Qualtrics titled Work Different: How COVID-19 Gives Us the Opportunity to Reimagine the Employee Experience.
They are also the least likely, compared to employees in other industries, to say their employers responded well to the pandemic, and 29% of travel and hospitality employees say their employee experience has gotten worse since the pandemic.
Additionally, the study, which surveyed more than 6,000 salaried employees in Asia Pacific, Europe and North America in July and August, reveals that 36% percent of travel and hospitality employees say it’s been harder to feel connected to customers compared to before the pandemic, and 42% say it’s been harder to deal with customers.
Mike Maughan, head of global insights at Qualtrics, says that while these statistics can seem “fairly alarming,” particularly compared to other industries, "we have to remember that this is specifically a moment in time, rather than a massive shift in the industry or how employees will feel or their willingness to work in the industry.”
Understanding employee concerns also creates an opportunity for employers to “invest in changes that will differentiate them for years and years to come,” Maughan says.
“They’re able to use this as a catalyzing moment rather than a catastrophic moment.”
Building a "new better"
Maughan says travel and hospitality companies should be focused on achieving a “new better” rather than settling for a “new normal.”
“The idea of a 'new normal' in so many ways is a defeatist attitude. What it's saying is, 'Gosh, things used to be good. Now we better accept the new status quo, which is not quite as good,'" he says. "I fundamentally reject that."
Working toward a “new better” could include helping protect employees from risky guest behavior. An airline that decides to ban a passenger for life for refusing to wear a mask, for example, sends a strong signal to employees that the carrier cares about their safety.
According to Qualtrics’ study, what travel and hospitality workers want from a “new better” includes cleaner facilities (80%), redesigned public spaces (69%), no-touch interactions (61%), remote work (52%) and a renewed focus on the employee experience (47%).
Black in Hospitality founder Tolu Aladejebi says she believes travel and hospitality companies have done a “great job” in addressing the safety concerns that employees may have but have fallen short on addressing the mental state of workers.
“A lot has been going on during this pandemic and it is important that travel and hospitality companies/management are ready to support staff,” she says.
“They need to acknowledge and educate themselves on how the Black Lives Matter movement coupled with COVID-19 has affected employees, particularly Black employees and their mental health, and be prepared with adequate resources to support them. Ensure anti-racism policies and training initiatives are in place, amplify BIPOC voices and continue having open discussions about anti-racism.”
Maughan says one simple way employers can check in on their workers is to ask: “Are you OK?”
The idea of a 'new normal' in so many ways is a defeatist attitude.
Mike Maughan - Qualtrics
"Most organizations are dropping the ball on the most important piece,” he says.
"Once you've established [employees are OK], then you can move on to the second step, which is, 'Do you have what you need to do your job well?' Then the third step, which is, 'How can we help you feel and be more productive?'" But many companies go straight to step two or three, he says.
“When people say they don't feel valued by their company, it's usually because the company is focused way too much on steps two and three without ever going to the very first and most important step, which is to just say, 'Hey, how are you doing?'"
Aladejebi says the employee experience will look very different moving forward because employees will now be holding their organizations accountable, “whether it’s about COVID-19 safety procedures or about the Black Lives Matter movement and the treatment of BIPOC employees.”
Maughan adds that it’s equally important for employees to show compassion to their employers, as well. "Everybody is in this for the first time, everybody's learning this together and we need to be patient and help our organizations in the same way we want them to be patient and help us,” he says.
"We're all going to make mistakes, but everyone has to have a listening system and a system of action that allows them to fix those mistakes when they happen."