Human Resource Management in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry

Introduction

Traditionally, personnel management took the functions of HRM. When functions and responsibilities multiplied to the fore due to various organizational and environmental factors, changes have to be incorporated in the organization.

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This paper will look into HRM functions and responsibilities in the hospitality and tourism industry. More specifically, this paper will answer the question: Is it legitimate for hospitality and tourism organizations to select employees based on aspects such as age, style, and image?

Baum (2006) states that hospitality and tourism are interdependent sectors the leisure sector can also be added. This industry is labor-intensive and has to be examined and deeply studied in the light of the present global economic crisis, and other recent environmental factors that have affected man globally and his activities, for example, 9/11, global terrorism, and other factors.

Background

Recruitment and selection of employees for the tourism industry are described as a critical human resource function and “one that has been described as a “millennium time bomb’” (Christensen Hughes, 2002, p. 15). Why and what is this ‘millennium time bomb, and how does this affect selection of employees?

Hoteliers take more time in recruiting and selecting qualified staff. This process is triggered by many factors, and ample consideration should be given to human resource issues.

Young people are particularly interested in the sector. Mostly, they are attracted to the kind of job in this industry.

Timo and Davidson (1999, p. 22, cited in Christensen 2002) argue, “Typically, young people (under 24) dominate the hotel workforce, choosing this type of work for reasons of ease of entry, travel opportunities, variety, and friendliness”.

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It is this type of personnel the industry needs. But organizations who need this type of workforce direct their resources by conducting social events, a fun working atmosphere, and approachable management. Such events fascinate the young. Moreover, culture and tradition also play a role in seeking jobs in this sector.

Operators hire the young with style

In the UK, 37 percent are under 24 years and 58 percent under 34 years are employed in the Hotel and Tourism industry (People 1st, 2006, cited in Nickson 2007, p. 6). Nickson further states that the majority of the tourism and hospitality workforce consists of students, seasonal and migrant workers, but a significant portion is composed of students. They are “prepared to work for low wages” Canny, 2002, cited in Nickson 2007). This could be the reason why employers prepare this particular group of workers, because they work part-time, low-wage workers, and they don’t last long in their job. Part-time workers fit the seasonal jobs.

Another important piece of data is this: “…Nearly three-quarters of all students who are working are employed in the retail and hospitality industries and the vast majority of students who are working do so in front-line jobs such as sales assistants, waiters/waitresses, and check out operators” (Curtis and Lucas, 2001; Canny, 2002, cited in Nickson 207, pp. 6-7).

According to a recent study by D’Annunzio-Green, Maxwell, and Watson (2000, cited in Christensen Hughes, 2002, p. 15), employee recruitment and selection is one of the top human resource issues within international hospitality and tourism organizations today.

Christensen Hughes (2002:15) enumerates the six contextual issues that can dramatically impact the availability of labor to the industry, and these are:

  1. The image and nature of work in the industry;
  2. Management philosophy and practice – turnover, pay and benefits, and training and development;
  3. Issues of seasonality;
  4. Local labor market – population size, unemployment rates, demographics;
  5. Local cultures – attitudes towards tourism;
  6. Government policies and priorities

These issues greatly affect the recruitment and selection, more so the quality of personnel services in the sector. The issue of seasonality, a common characteristic of the tourism sector is of great importance. Baum and Hagen (1999, p. 310, cited in Christensen Hughes, 2002, p. 16) wrote, “The lack of sustained employment, which is characteristic of seasonal operations, undermines the ability of operators to deliver quality, which the marketplace, increasingly, expects.”

David Wood (cited in Christensen Hughes, 2002), Chief Executive of the Hotel & Catering International Management Association, which represents 23,800 professional managers in 106 countries, says that the “mismatch between labor supply and demand in hospitality is a ‘millennium time bomb’” and that the real problem is staffing. Hoteliers have to consider:

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  1. Customer expectations for quality are increasing, presenting the industry with a double-edged sword.
  2. Qualified labor is becoming harder to find and keep.
  3. Customers are demanding increasingly higher levels of service excellence.

These factors continue to influence the recruitment and selection of qualified applicants.

Hotel and Tourism is one of the most labor-intensive sectors, providing for 230 million jobs in travel- and tourism-related activities, or 8.7 percent of jobs worldwide (WTTC, 2006, cited in Nickson, 2007, p. 2). Updated statistics are not available at the time of writing this paper, and the mismatch cannot pinpoint which is which, the demand or supply. The issue of supply and demand is very important.

Christiansen Hughes states that ‘when labor demand is high and supply is not, a much more aggressive or creative recruitment approach is required [and] the potential labor supply is affected by the number of qualified employees seeking work in the industry, as well as the retention rate of existing employees’ (19). Recruitment and selection continue to hurdle this mismatch.

Timo and Davidson (1999, p. 25, cited in Christensen Hughes, 2002, p. 16) argue that “tourism operations need to ‘expend greater energy on choosing the ‘right’ person and adopt more widespread compensation and benefits packages to retain the right staff.” How to get the right person is of big importance in recruitment.

Recruitment in the Tourism and Hotel Industry

Take into consideration first recruitment definition and factors to be given ample time in dealing with recruitment and selection.

Christensen Hughes (2002, p. 17) defines recruitment as “the process of attracting a pool of qualified job candidates from which the organization may select appropriate individuals to meet its job requirements.”

Recruitment alone takes time in picking from among a multitude of applicants the right or qualified persons for the job. Recruitment is different from the selection. Recruitment involves first announcing through classified ads candidates for a particular vacancy.

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Hoteliers hire young employees:

‘Some hoteliers have changed their attitude in the hiring of staff: instead of hiring experienced supervisory staff, which is rather difficult, they have tended to hire junior staff with the right attitude, personality and, above all, the potential for development, and to provide them with the necessary opportunity for training ‘ (Heung, 1993, p. 169, cited in Christensen 2002, p. 17)

Selection is the process of narrowing down the pool of potential job candidates and choosing the one person (or people) that best meets the requirements of the job. (Christensen, 2002, p. 17)

The long process has to target qualified applicants because of the time and resources being used. Some selection process involves interviews using behavior-based questions. An example of this type of questioning is to allow the candidates (applicants) to “describe previous behaviors”.

“Behaviour-based questions are becoming increasingly popular as they provide information that goes beyond the opinions of the candidate, and therefore tend to be less biased” (Janz et al., 1986, cited in Christensen 2002, p. 18).

This sounds objective on the part of the interviewer, and the candidate may also sound objective for the company. Why? The candidate can give an opinion based on experience.

Another factor affecting the industry is its so-called negative image, considering that many stay for only a short time and then continue to other careers (Baum and Maxwell, 1993, cited in Christensen, 2002, p. 19).

This negative image is related to some factors, such as:

  • its roots (e.g. links with domestic service and colonial legacy);
  • the perception that tourism jobs are unskilled (e.g. the hospitality industry is the largest employer of unskilled labor in many countries);
  • poor wages;
  • long erratic, and/or unsociable working works;
  • general lack of respect from the public; and many other factors. (Baum et al., 1997, Chol et al., 2000, cited in Christensen, 2002, p. 19).

On the other hand, management practice of high turn-over, pay, and benefits policies, and training and development opportunities deserve particular attention. Timo and Davidson (1999, p. 23, cited in Christensen, 2002, p. 20) argue that addressing turnover “includes better recruitment and selection practices, higher wages, more training, career advancement, multi-skilling, and worker participation.”

Not getting or selecting the right and qualified personnel can lead to absenteeism and turnover. Turnover refers to new staffing or turning over jobs to new personnel out of recruitment and selection.

According to a recent study by the National Restaurant Association turnover “costs approximately $5000 for hourly employees and $50,000 or more for management” (Worcester, 1999, cited in Christensen 2002, p. 20).

This staggering data means that operators spend a lot of money in selecting qualified personnel and turning over jobs of personnel who’ve left for other careers.

Conclusion

The negative image continues to haunt the industry so much so that operators have to hire real qualified, skilled, and with style staff and employees in the industry. This so-called image, influenced by ‘colonial’ factors, some may be ‘cultural’ aspects, have to be dealt with in selecting qualified applicants.

Turnover rates are also staggering. Since personnel, including managers, do not last long in the sector, operators continue to find new, qualified personnel and managers to fill in their jobs. With this, they tend to focus on young applicants, part-time students who do not last long in the job.

A significant portion of the workforce is composed of the young, students, and part-time employees, which fit the seasonal job. This particular group of employees accepts low wages and they don’t last long in their jobs. The young have a particular style or “fashion” that suits their job as service workers in the tourism sector.

They are “prepared to work for low wages and be flexible in their working patterns (Canny, 2002), creating what Curtis and Lucas (2001, cited in Nickson 2007, p. 6) as a ‘coincidence of needs’ between employers and students”.

References

Baum, T., 2006. Human Resource Management for Tourism, Hospitality, and Leisure: An International Perspective. London: Thomson Learning.

Christensen Hughes, J. M., 2002. Recruitment and Selection Issues and Strategies within International Resort Communities. In D’Annunzio-Green, D., Maxwell, G. A., & Watson. S., Human Resource Management: International Perspectives in Hospitality and Tourism. UK: Thomson Learning, 2005.

D’Annunzio-Green, D., Maxwell, G. A., & Watson. S. (2005). Human Resource Management: International perspectives in Hospitality and Tourism. UK: Thomson Learning.

Nickson, D., 2007. Human Resource Management for the Hospitality and Tourism Industries. Butterworth-Heinemann.

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