The Link Between Employee Engagement and Guest Satisfaction in Hospitality

Everyone has visited a restaurant or stayed at a hotel where you can tell the employee who is serving you or has helped you is clearly unhappy with their job. They could be just having a bad day, or they could be a perfect example of an employee who is not engaged. 

For business owners and operators, an important guiding principle to know is that “your guest experience will never exceed your employee experience.” In short, this means that your guests are only going to be as happy as your workers are. If your team is not engaged, that dissatisfaction with their job is eventually going to be evident to customers.

Studies prove that happy employees are more engaged. They work faster, work harder and their attitude is more positive. Workers that are unhappy don’t feel invested in their job, and they won’t go that extra mile for a guest; in fact, they may not even do the minimum, leaving your customers in the lurch and affecting your bottom line. This is a great read about what it really feels like to be on the frontline in the hospitality industry.

Unhappy employees are more likely to be late to work, not show up at all, and make mistakes. In the hospitality field, guests have expectations for clean hotel rooms, food served promptly without missing utensils or condiments, and to be quickly served at counters. The experiences that guests and customers have are directly related to the engagement of each individual employee as well as the team together. The good news is that a solid strategy that keeps your workers engaged can have a direct, positive impact on guest satisfaction. 

Customer Experience and Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a way to gauge how invested an employee is in their role and their contribution to the success of the company. When an employee is engaged, they’ll show up every day, arrive on time and do their best work without being prodded. This results in a more positive customer experience, because guests have their needs met without wasted time, and managers can focus on bigger problems, or be available to engage with guests directly, instead of trying to motivate someone to do their job.

In the hospitality industry, guests or customers are there for the experience, instead of a product. They’ve potentially spent a lot of money to have an enjoyable vacation, and one employee who is not engaged can be detrimental. Employees that work in a field with high demand and seasonally trending tasks need to be fully dedicated, because the customer experience and employee engagement go together.

Employees who are engaged are more likely to have the initiative to work independently, requiring less management oversight. They understand what it is they are supposed to be doing, and they do it with a higher level of accuracy. These workers are happier on the job overall, and they feel heard, seen and valued, which translates to faster and more reliable task completion. It also means guests are more likely to see smiling employees greeting them in the halls or serving their food, and less likely to hear workers taking part in negative conversations that they’re not meant to hear.

The Benefits of Employee Engagement in the Hospitality Industry

There are many benefits to investing time to create a team of employees who like their job. Employee engagement strategies are worth the effort and can have long-standing effects on your company’s success once put into play.

Those benefits can include higher employee retention rates, less employee turnover, higher productivity levels and happier guest experiences. This means guests are more likely to return for another visit, and they’ll become brand evangelists, sharing their experiences with others. It’s much easier to teach your employees your expectations and provide incentives to meet them than it is to fix a negative reputation due to unfavourable reviews.

Brand loyalty is a goal in the hospitality industry, as competition can be high in certain locales. Rising above the rest ensures business longevity, and it takes daily commitment from everyone involved. A happy employee, going above and beyond for a guest, can result in a huge boost in business, especially in a social media-centric world.

Improving Employee Engagement Alongside Guest Satisfaction

Increasing guest satisfaction is a two-for-one achievement. The goal of any business owner should be profit, but not at the expense of your employees. Employees want to feel devoted to their job, but it’s expected that they must focus on having their own needs met first. Once that happens, their feelings spread to the guests without any extra effort. In short, guest satisfaction starts at the ground up.

Here are a few ways you can engage your employees that will have the greatest impact on your customer experience. 

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation and benefits are why most employees come to work in the first place. Making sure they are competitive and attractive will encourage employees to not only stay on the job but to tell others about their positive employment experience. This helps increase brand reputation while also building your future potential talent pool when you need to hire more people.

Hire people at a fair rate and adjust along the way to increase pay as time goes on. Adding supplemental paid time off (PTO) to reward employees for staying at your company is an additional way to incentivize and reward dedication. Guests like to know a company is doing right by its team.


Some companies have had great success with adding programs as part of a hiring package, such as company gym access/membership, free life insurance, or a wellness program. In today’s stressful world, providing employees with a hotline to call if they’re experiencing a mental health crisis can be incredibly helpful, but also pays you back with a workforce who feels cared for outside of their job tasks.

Flexible Scheduling or Remote Work

Hourly employees are very common in the hospitality industry, which means scheduling can be challenging. The Harri scheduling tool is one option to alleviate some of the pressure involved in making sure everyone gets the hours they need, when they need them.

Some of your employees may be college students, people working a second job or those who just wish to keep one foot in the workforce but don’t want to work full-time. Remembering who needs what can be a lot, but if you don’t somehow track this and develop scheduling patterns that meet everyone’s availability, you will see people coming to work already unhappy because they don’t really want to be there at that time. Every employee knows their job needs to be prioritized, but there is a balance you can achieve when it comes to optimizing scheduling for your team.

Flexible scheduling can mean a lot of things, but it may mean rotating weekends, giving someone a four-day work week, or allowing them to work remotely if their tasks allow it. Some employees may wish to work weekends, while others cannot, and using a software that allows them to input that takes that off your plate. Don’t let time and attendance issues get out of control by taking preemptive action.

Showing employees that you value them as people, not just workers, pays off for everyone involved. Scheduling satisfaction is also a top factor in employee retention and Harri can help you with their intelligent scheduling software. It will help you manage shift coverage, monitor overtime, allow your employee access so they can handle shift swaps or change requests independently, and ensure compliance.


Everyone likes to feel valued, and simple praise can go a long way. Shoutouts in team meetings, an employee recognition board that everyone can see, and acknowledging birthdays are easy ways to personalize an employee’s experience without taking anything from your company’s budget.

Rewarding your staff for going above and beyond, such as when a guest provides positive feedback for a worker’s role in their experience is another easy way. Rewards can also be tangible, such as a free day off, a gift card, a bonus or other low-cost item to encourage employees to go that extra mile. Promote from within, which encourages people to work towards goals, and if you know of people who are interested in moving up, help them develop a career path at your company.

If you’re looking to upgrade your team communications, Harri also offers a dedicated mobile app managers can use to centralize messaging, announcements and updates. 

Education or Personal Growth

If you ask around, you’ll undoubtedly find that you have a wealth of potential future leaders on your team, but they lack a specific skill or the education needed to make the leap to management. Offering tuition assistance, or a schedule that allows them to attend classes, tells your employees you understand their desires to further their career. Personal growth isn’t just a buzzword. Every manager should have it as an employee goal as they would for themselves.
Acknowledging that your employees want to be able to better their income earning and have a solid career path will increase their engagement. Don’t forget training! Employees who aren’t adequately trained for their role won’t meet goals and will feel unprepared.

Company Culture

We’ve all had that one job where we feel bullied by a colleague, or singled out for needing a different schedule, or where management separates themselves, creating division. A toxic workplace that overworks its employees or encourages reporting one another is good for no one.

Other problematic company cultures develop where there is preferential treatment, favoritism, or retaliation for speaking up. It’s not easy to oversee all these possibilities, but by monitoring employee data and creating an open-door policy, you can help mitigate problems and resolve them for not just those involved now but future employees. This will include making sure your company has a set of core values and a mission statement that is visible to everyone. Upholding those values prevents your business from turning into a toxic environment where people do not want to come to work.

Inclusion and Diversity

A space where everyone feels welcome, safe, and included is vital to every single business today. This means hiring practices need to be diverse, increasing your reach of prospective candidates, and when you hire people outside of your norm, make sure they feel as valued and important as everyone else. If you have fun employee events, it’s natural that some may be only for specific roles but be sure that everyone has access to them at some point or resentment will build.

How to Measure Employee Engagement

So this all sounds good, but how does a company effectively measure employee engagement? Data collection is key here. It will help you spot red flags, such as a high turnover rate, before they are irreparable. You’ll be able to track each employee individually, so you can pinpoint when a problem started with a specific worker; this allows you to approach a problem before someone quits or creates an issue with a guest. Plus, you’ll be able to communicate and see if there’s a resolution on your end. Saving an employee is always cheaper than hiring a new one, and you’ll frequently end up with an employee who is even more dedicated.

Asking for feedback is another way to seek answers. Asking for feedback is another way to seek answers. Anonymous input can help you see gaps or problems that are brewing. This helps you to make proactive change, and it also tells your employees that you care about what they say, think and feel. Harri’s communications and feedback features, which allow for the gathering of employee sentiment and can keep managers informed of what’s happening on the frontlines, is a gamechanger on this front.

It’s also best practice to develop KPIS and compare data week over week. You will be able to recognize top performers as well as staff that are overly scheduled or not meeting goals. You can also compare historical data including guest status, complaints, or employee problems to see if any patterns have developed.

Additionally, if you don’t already, consider holding exit interviews. Encourage honesty and candor. This requires a thick skin, because you may not like everything you hear, but you can learn from it. Employees who already have other jobs can feel more able to tell you things they couldn’t when still under your employ, and you may gain valuable knowledge about circumstances that may help you prevent others from leaving.

Listen to guest feedback and try to solicit it whenever possible. Some guests will share illuminating details that can factor into them returning or writing a negative online review that thousands will see. Take any necessary action.

Rethinking Employee Engagement and the Guest Experience with Harri

Harri is an all-in-one platform, offering solutions for hospitality businesses in ways that will have you wishing you had started using it sooner. Track staff scheduling and sales performance. Share announcements and utilize custom messaging options to allow for employees to access the system 24/7 from anywhere. Retain documentation, share information with appropriate teams and act in a much easier and timely fashion. Meet your employees where they are, and they will thank you for it. 

Employee engagement strategies may take some time to develop, but create a team dedicated to implementation. Oversee it, use the data you’re collecting and consider AI or online tools to constantly improve customer experience and employee engagement. Contact us for a free demo so you can get started today!


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