While change is usually a good thing, the arrival of COVID-19 forced hoteliers to reimagine the guest experience, adopt rigorous cleaning procedures, repurpose their properties, or to close their doors. Even before the shutdowns, COVID-19 disrupted hotel operations so intensely that most properties were fortunate to be running at 30% Occupancy.
So how do you uphold the standards of hospitality in a low contact environment? How do you protect your bottom line when you have few guests? How do you manage labor when you lay off half of your workforce?
Jignesh Patel shared how JNR Management gained control of their labor and improved employee morale in the face of a pandemic.
When The Going Gets Tough, Double Down On Your Core Philosophy
Jignesh Patel, Co-Founder and President of JNR Management Inc., has a history of taking on adversity and transforming it into an opportunity. Patel’s core leadership principle has given JNR Management the ability to evolve and thrive.
“Adaptability is key,” Patel said. “There’s always something new in the hotel industry, so it’s important that we happily embrace and adapt to change. Companies who are able to adapt very quickly end up surviving and becoming better for it.”
JNR Management are experts in hospitality and commercial real estate. They use their strengths to offer services across Development, Acquisitions, Financing, Operations, and Disposition. JNR Management’s portfolio currently has nine select-service hotels in New England and growing.
The unpredictability of COVID-19 forced hotels to downscale into bare-bones operations and drastically reduce their workforce. JNR Management was no exception.
“Every week we are learning something new, so it’s a lot of work. Despite low occupancy, I think operationally, managing the labor is much harder now than in normal times.”
In the face of global unease, Patel doubled down on his core philosophy and looked for ways to adapt their management model for success. Since labor is the largest controllable cost for a hotelier there had to be a way to adapt and stabilize through an improved labor strategy.
Failures of Previous Labor Management Solutions
Patel identified that his existing labor software was the largest barrier to effective workforce management. Before COVID-19, JNR Management had implemented a solution which was intended to eliminate time abuse because it took a picture during the punch in/out process. Unfortunately, the software was deficient, easily exploited, and created new barriers he hadn’t anticipated.
Challenge 1: Incomplete and Ineffective Technology
Where the time clock was designed to take photos in the punch in/out process, it lacked the infrastructure to identify faces and stop false punches.
“A lot of people were abusing the system, coming in early and clocking in. You could actually stand to the side of the camera and clock in. As a result, anybody can punch in at any time.”
Challenge 2: Ineffective Workflows
The processes were too cumbersome for the General Managers to efficiently verify punches, and it was not a required step in their workflows. A General Manager would navigate to a separate website, use a timestamp to locate the images for the correct punch, and then convert the times the pictures were taken into the proper time zone.
“The old system was so cumbersome. 99 of 100 times our General Managers would not go in and verify that these were correct clock-ins.”
Challenge 3: Incoherent Interface
Although there were relevant tools in the former labor platform, the software lacked an integrated look and feel. The inconsistencies in the platform created a barrier for the GM’s to use with much success.
“They never thought about the user experience. The developers never took the time to make it all uniform. Because they did not design the software correctly, my staff took forever to learn and were not inclined to use the functionality.”
When occupancy is down and revenue is limited, controlling costs and scheduling accurately becomes critical to a hotel’s success. Patel recognized the need to protect their profitability as an opportunity to evolve their technology from the previous labor manager.
Drawing from his experience as a software developer, he searched for a solution with 5 critical components:
- Administrate labor & eliminate time abuse
- Improve visibility with real-time reporting
- Easily forecast occupancy
- Integrate with existing software
- Automate repetitive tasks
Patel chose Inn-Flow’s Labor Management because of its excellent design, advanced technology, and extensive features.
“Anybody can make things complicated, but it takes brains to make it simple. Inn-Flow has taken a highly complex system and made it very simple to use.”
Inn-Flow’s Labor Management solution includes tools to forecast performance, schedule and track employee time, and eliminate time abuse like buddy punching and early punching.
The time clock itself is a user-friendly application that leverages the hardware and technology of an iPad to create a central kiosk for employees to punch in and complete other routine tasks. From their time clock profile, an employee can easily:
- Clock in with facial recognition technology (Smile iD)
- Request Paid Time Off
- Declare tips
- Approve timesheets
- View schedules
Tackling Time Abuse
Since implementing Inn-Flow’s Labor Management, JNR Management uses Inn-Flow’s forecasting to adapt their labor model every week.
“We have definitely seen a difference,” Patel said. “Instead of clocking in early, associates at JNR now have to wait until their scheduled time, which I would say has saved us around 10 hours a week at each hotel.”
Patel’s favorite feature of Labor Management is Smile iD designed to authenticate employees while clocking in or out.
“I think that Smile iD was what sold me. It’s like Face ID for an Apple user. It recognizes you and you can clock in. The biggest thing it prevents buddy punching.”
The process is simple. While a user is clocking in, Smile iD takes a picture and uses 27 facial landmarks to score the image for resemblance. Suspicious punches appear in Inn-Flow’s labor-management portal with the saved photo and score for a manager to verify.
Integrations + Automation = Time Savings
Inn-Flow has helped JNR Management to not only adapt, but also reduce their billable hours and become more efficient. Inn-Flow designed the management portal for General Managers to take the right actions. The portal signals users to false punches, but it also includes overtime-at-risk alerts.
“One thing I like about Inn-Flow’s Labor Management is that it shows you relevant information first,” he explained. “Put the high-value information in front of them so they can take action. The nice thing is that everything’s integrated, it’s all right there, and that itself is a time-saver.”
In addition to subscribing to Labor Management, they also subscribe to Inn-Flow’s Accounting module. Inn-Flow’s interface is consistent and removes navigational barriers as a completely integrated platform.
“Our GM’s like it. Once they get the hang of it, they say, ‘Oh, this is good. This is something I can use to make my life better. I can make things easier.’”
The integration between Accounting and Labor Management has an additional advantage—automation. JNR Management saves significant time on back office tasks because Inn-Flow shares data from both systems, takes care of repetitive entries, and automates reporting.
Visibility Delivers Results
As a cloud-based solution, Inn-Flow provides metrics in real-time so the user can make the most informed management decisions. Industry-standard reports are already built into the platform, so Patel instantly eliminated their dependency on spreadsheets. The ability to view actual performance and to forecast occupancy has become pivotal to JNR Management’s adaptability and survival.
Traveler booking habits have changed, and demand is in constant flux due to new travel restrictions. JNR Management’s new labor strategy incorporates Inn-Flow’s forecasting tools to predict and monitor occupancy.
“We’re ‘right-sizing’ operations and staffing models,” Patel said. “Each hotel has a staffing model that gets adjusted on a weekly basis so that we can have the right amount of labor and staffing to meet the requirements of the hotel and the guest.”
JNR Management is working more effectively than ever even in a pandemic. The attention to detail, accountability, and control they have regained with Inn-Flow’s Labor Management has helped them evolve for this climate of uncertainty. Patel has risen to the occasion to help his team adapt and succeed in this new normal.