Michigan Inn & Lodge increases efficiency, staff communication

PETOSKEY, MI—In order to maintain an efficient operational team, communication between hotel management and employees must be frictionless. As such, hotel companies ranging from large chains to small independents are always on the lookout for technology that can help things run more smoothly. For the Michigan Inn & Lodge here, Planday was that solution.

Planday is a SaaS-based product that has six core elements: scheduling, communication, payroll, employee management, time tracking and reporting. It empowers shift workers by giving them more control over the hours they work, while enabling managers to gain a comprehensive view of the business.

Christian Brøndum, CEO of Planday, noted that there are two common challenges that hotels face when it comes to staffing. “The first is staff retention,” he said. “Front-of-house staff members are generally quite young and inexperienced. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it gives you the opportunity to nurture new talent. But there’s a risk of new employees seeing their role as a stopgap rather than a potential career. This kind of disengaged employee can undermine the standard of the experience you give customers.

“Secondly is the challenge of finding the right people in the first place,” he continued. “The recruitment process can be expensive and time consuming, especially when you’re looking for qualified candidates. It’s often much better waiting for the right employee to come along than settling for second best. Whether you’re running a small hostel or a chain of hotels, it’s important to address them early on before they become a challenge at scale.”

One way to mitigate issues with staff retention is to create a closer connection with employees. Culture is important, but technology can help, too. “The new wave of hospitality software saves managers a huge amount of time by bringing together communication, employee management and payroll. It also creates a closer connection with employees by giving them more visibility of their schedule and greater control of their shifts,” said Brøndum. “This leads to a more engaged workforce ready to deliver an exceptional customer experience.”

For the Michigan Inn & Lodge, a seasonal property that employs 10-20 staff members during off-peak periods and 40-50 during peak season, the need for a guest messaging system was the chief reason for implementing Planday. GM Joel Trammell said, “We wanted a messaging system for our employees. We don’t like to have staff meetings, and Planday has a messaging system tool that we can delegate responsibilities, speak amongst one another, staff and management. That’s what we were looking for. It’s more of the personal connection between management and staff that’s not there if you didn’t have a system like this.” This means management can communicate with shift workers, regardless of whether or not they are on-property, and doesn’t have to rely on employees receiving information secondhand.

Planday makes scheduling easier for operators.

Trammell also noted that Planday has increased efficiency. “Our employees have the time clock on their individual phones,” he said, noting there are computers throughout the property for employees without smartphones for this purpose as well. “They don’t have to go to a punch clock in one area of the property, punch in and go to work. I have a large property with two buildings and my employees used to have to come in to one building and punch in and out. Think about that: 40-50 employees every day, that 30 seconds or one minute multiplied by all employees, 365 days a year—that’s a couple thousand dollars a year I’m saving just by them being able to have it on their personal phone,” he said, noting that employees must be on-site to use this function.

Brøndum emphasized how important technology can be to increase efficiency. “It sounds simple but it’s unbelievable how many hospitality businesses still use pen and paper in a number of important areas. This leads to duplicated effort, inconsistent records and makes manipulating and managing data more difficult,” he said. “Just by moving to a digital system that consolidates data and streamlines processes, managers can save significant amounts of time and energy.”

Planday, built from the ground up to transform staff scheduling, has smart scheduling functionality. This means employees can request vacation and notify their manager of their availability preferences in real time. “Planday automatically takes that into account when a manager builds a rota, so they don’t have to check who is available to work,” Brøndum said.

Trammell agreed that this is a huge bonus. “They’re able to put in the system when they want time off. They don’t have to write a request form—it’s just right in there when I go to do my scheduling. It’s already there, timestamped, so there’s no dispute,” he said.

Brøndum elaborated on other benefits of Planday. “There’s the reason we’ve been called the Slack for shift workers,” he said. “Planday provides a central location for communication across your team, regardless of whether everyone is working at the same time. Managers can easily send messages to individual employees, a group of employees (like bartenders) or, for the really important updates, every employee at once.”

Finally, owners often struggle to build a high-level overview of business operations. Planday brings together key data points in one place. “From resourcing levels to impact of payroll—it’s all a few clicks away,” Brøndum said. “You can say goodbye to Excel hell and see everything you need in one place.”

Trammell said that one of his favorite features is the tech support. “There’s nothing worse than trying to contact somebody,” he said, noting that too many companies have long waits. “What’s nice is they save your previous conversations. So, for instance, I was working on an employee’s vacation and didn’t input it and apply properly, so I went on the live feed and in two minutes we were speaking via text,” he explained. “Planday answered the problem with the vacation situation with a step by step procedure, so any time I need to remind myself, all conversations I have are sitting right there… That’s fantastic.”

Brøndum noted that it’s all about empowering employees through transparency, giving them control over their role. “Many shift-based businesses only post physical schedules and don’t notify employees of their working hours far in advance,” he said. “A cloud-based system allows managers to share the schedule with employees via the web or an app, so employees no longer have to physically go to work or phone up to check their schedule.”

While every hotel is different, Brøndum noted that some Planday users have cut down the amount of admin work they do by 75%, while others have reported a 20% increase in employee satisfaction. He added that the platform is designed for businesses with 30-500 employees “so we work with everyone from your neighborhood hotel to some of the world’s up and coming chains.” HB

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