High Staff Turnover Problems in Tourism and Hospitality Sectors

In the global economy, the hospitality industry is a 3.5 trillion dollar service sector but in the current scenario the biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry according to the International Society of Hospitality Consultants is the unrest among the labor force and there is no doubt of the fact that the employers are feeling the impact of it. To understand the challenges faced by employees, it is very important to get into the zest of the problems faced by the laborers and the reasons for their unrest.

The diverse nature of the hospitality industry, unpredictable seasons, and market positions are few among the various problems creating vast divisions in the market. Though the hospitality industry has seen vast improvements and growth the position of the employers as compared to the others has not improved. It is one among the very few industries involving both productivities as well as services encompassing vast areas like hotels, farmhouses, guest houses, parks, restaurants, pubs, cafes, airlines, and many more including a variety of services and recurring features to facilitate the comfort of tourists.

Among these, many of the units operate for complete 24 hours, 7 days a week, and complete 365 days in a year without giving space to “breathing and rest”. Along with this, there are high fixed costs, fixed rate of supply, but often- fluctuating season, and unpredictable demand. Services are also related to the care of tourists and maintaining congenial relations with them. There is a number of skills involved from lower-level staff to managerial level but still, we can see much much-unskilled staff operating in various sectors.

Most of the staff is expected to work for longer hours and generally in unsociable conditions. The majority of the labor force constitutes females, part-time and casual workers, students, and migrant laborers. The membership among the trade unions is low, and there is a high level of mobility with a maximum number of staff either joining or leaving the industry. Above all the majority of the staff is low paid. (Nickson 2007: 76-77)

The biggest and the single most reason influencing the labor position in the market is the fluctuations in short-term demand for the product having a direct impact on the strength of the staff and complete organizational structure. Notwithstanding high cost is also involved in labor-management and employers are doing their best to reduce the labor cost. In the conventional sectors, often women, children, marginal or casual workers are appointed.

They can be hired at lower cost but the work and quality they have to put in are equivalent to the full-time employee but in jobs requiring lower skill. The report of the Low Pay Commission also pointed to the “high percentage of badly paid workers in the hospitality industry than any other industry.” (Boella 2000: 2) The reason behind the pay disparity is the low turnout in most of the sectors and maximum earning is spent on the various operational and material costs and profit.

The labor industry is also less attractive as regards the nature and magnitude of the work involved. In many areas, they have to work in the evenings, on bank holidays and weekends. The other problems include split-shift working, staff’s dependency on tips, ignorance of the method of calculating pay scale and distributing service charges, and the reluctance on the part of the management to include staff in the matters that affect their working.

Even in this situation of high unemployment and a drop in labor from the hospitality industry, many employers declared the fact that they were not able to attract and retain competent staff. (Boella 2000: 2).

Another cause of worry among employees is emotional dissonance and as said by Morrs and Feldman, is mainly responsible for job dissatisfaction and emotional exhaustion. They added that “The act of expressing the sanctioned emotions as part of the work role appears to be dysfunctional for the individual only to the extent that expressed sanctioned emotion violates felt emotions.” (Kusluvan 2003: 235).

Emotional dissonance is an uneasiness felt by the employees when they feel their emotions are in contradiction to the emotions as required by the organizations. The hospitality industry requires the employees to always show positive behavior and efficiently display a polite attitude while handling difficult customers. They have to create a friendly and cheerful atmosphere and have to work in changing emotional environment.

While working for long and in odd hours, they have to show a balanced display of emotional and friendly approach, however, this attitude sometimes comes at a cost when they feel it is inconsistent with the real felt emotions. The employees are taught to show the outward display of behavior but what the managers totally ignore is the management of feeling. Even though the employee is feeling sad or angry, he or she has to show a smiling and cheerful disposition creating not only emotional dissatisfaction but also causes disturbance in the relationship between employee and employers.

In turn, organizations only try to cure symptoms while ignoring the actual disease. While emotional dissonance creates psychological disturbances and has far-reaching implications it is emotional labor that reduces its effect. It is a very big challenge for employers who have to strive to reduce emotional dissonance while increasing all the aspects of emotional labor and maintaining organizational sanctioned emotions. It is the most persuasive tool to increase the level of services and the most important part in the personality of the staff that is directly dealing with their customers as their approach and attitude bring the customers into their domain and increase their reputation.

Employers generally ignore this aspect of the labor problem creating dissatisfaction among laborers. They need to induce among the workers the aspect of emotional intelligence. It is a quality of recognizing and controlling not just one’s own but also of others. It is highly recommended that employers should have psychological counseling for their employees giving them the skills and the way to control their emotions.

Employees with a higher level of emotional intelligence can efficiently handle any kind of emotional disturbances, which is not only good for himself but also good for the company. Krumi and Geddes have come to know about the fact that “empathic ability was strongly predicative of emotion regulation and emotion presentation. In other words, employees who are able to feel what customers needs experience less emotional dissonance and exert greater emotive effort”. (Kusluvan 2003: 234)

The emotional labour too has number of negative effects and can bring employees onto the verge of distortion of their image and health. Many of them adapted to alcohol and drug abuse, and absenteeism. Performing emotional labour causes alienations and estrangement from ones’ feelings creating psychological disturbances. All in all in the hospitality industry, employers have to make sure their staff performing customer services is showing organizational sanctioned emotions.

Yet this is but a one part of the human resource management and their relation between their employees. They also need to analyze every aspect of the problem from a financial standpoint. The turnover of the staff in large numbers is also the most crucial financial drain. The time spent in posting the jobs, interviewing of candidates, training new hires, etc., when combined with lost productivity cost more to the employers. Managers had to devote more of their precious time in dealing with the problem of staff, instead of running business and taking care of customers. The best employee should be given incentives on the basis of his or her performance.

Right approach for the right candidate is the best tip to retain the labour employer relationship and image of the company in labour relations. Here it is also important to give recognition to the staff for their performance and motivation in the form of rewards and bonuses.

And both of them would increase by creating the most conducive and friendly atmosphere by encouraging the team spirit, getting constant feedback, providing latest technological tools that would not only increase image of the company but produce a fine example for holding values which are the basis of hospitality industry. Thomas Cook’s slogans are Great people make our world go round” and “You’ll Go Far, as part of their recruitment drive”. (Laliberté 2006: Online) Companies must make sure that its employees feel pride in working for them and in their work. Satisfied employees’ produces excellent services and are the product ambassadors creating the most conducive and healthy environment.

It is also seen hospitality industry are attracting younger generation as they are lured by easy entry, travel chances, variety and entertainment. Social events and fun in working atmosphere bring human resource management closer to their staff. When the younger staff decrease, players in the hospitality industry have to appoint older workers whose sensitivity, approach towards their duty, attitudes are different than the rest. They are more culture oriented and their seniority makes them more sensible and mature. In this make up, Human Resource Management has to be much more sensitive towards their emotions and nature.

Besides, for the most effective recruitment and selection strategy, human resource managers are also paying more attention to the factors related to the labour supply. These include optimistic attitude towards turnover, pay and benefit policies, and training and development opportunities.

Culture and tradition is the basis on which hospitality industry revolves and the staff is trained to reflect the culture in their work area to create equanimity and level of cordiality in their services toward their customers as well as among themselves and in the relation with staff.

One of the finest example to show human resource management skill is Marriott International, with around 3000 operated or franchised properties in more than 65 countries holds the top most position in the lodging industry and is the one of leading hoteliers. As per record, Marriott International employed 151000 people and generated revenue of 12,990.0 million dollars in 2007. (Bethesda, 2008: Online)

The founder of the hotel J.W. Marriott, Sr. once stated, “Take good care of your associates, and your associates will take good care of your guests, and your guests will keep coming back again and again.” (Ohio Psychological Association 2008: 2) This philosophy of Marriot International is followed till date. In other words, employees should be treated in the manner you want your customers to be treated.

This is only possible by following specific strategies in areas of recruitment, training and retention which eventually pays off in terms of consistent profitability, world-class customer service and above all low staff turnover. Mike Jannini, Executive Vice President of Marriott International, reminisces the same view held by the founder, “Take great care of your employees and they will take great care of your customers.” (Carey 2008: Online)

Marriott values their staff and their caring process starts at the recruitment and hiring stage itself. They look for attitudes while hiring the staff rather than their technical skills. The hotel follows vetting process, screening the incoming staff on the basis of a sense of responsibility and their natural inclination to help others. Their aim is on recruiting those people who are ready to work hard with company’s spirit to serve culture.

Critics opine that giving importance to attitudes over skills requires more training and it is true also but company argues that employees hired through vetted process respond well to training and adapt more quickly better than those who are chosen on the basis of skill. The main reason behind is the demographic variation of the workforce. The job of personnel on the frontline is to meet the needs of high-income global traveller. He or she may be from urban or working class and so the gap has to be bridged with education and training.

The biggest challenge for any company is the retaining of the trained staff. The annual evaluations or irregular check-ups are not enough. Marriott monitors employee satisfaction very closely and demands a minimal scoring of employee satisfaction from every department from every hotel. If low employee satisfaction is reported then the managers are held responsible for it. As a result their achievement in keeping their turnover rate of 18 percent in 2007 happened to be one of the lowest in the hotel industry. (Carey 2008: Online) Marriott caters very fruitfully to the employee dissatisfaction -one of the major problems of the hospitality industry and tracking of satisfaction levels open communication channels between employees and employers and decreases problems and helps to retain the trained staff.

“Employee is the king”, is the main embodying principle of the Marriott chain of hotels all over the world and is striving to imbibe this principle among the staff focusing on the achievement of loyalty with work force. In 2002, Dayton Marriott established an onsite adult learning program to promote continuing education for the hotel’s hourly workers at no personal cost that brought about increase in the morale and job satisfaction. It improved employee retention and reduced 75% of voluntary turnover. The staff of housekeeping and laundry too got benefited from the above said program. (Ballard 2008: 11)

The hotel also implemented several programs to make the work environment psychologically healthy for which Ohio Psychological Association honoured the management with Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award. The hotel was evaluated in terms of “employee growth and development, employee involvement, employee recognition, health and safety and work-life balance.” (Ohio Psychological Association 2008: 2) Employees are involved in the decision making process, given autonomy to treat customer needs and are free to raise issues and make suggestions to improve service and are also rewarded for meaningful ones.

An extensive net based training and support system is provided to develop a career plan and receive feedback regarding their plan. Employees are also provided tuition reimbursement and on-site education. General manager of Dayton Marriott Hotel, John Buntemeyer opines “we have to provide the support and resources to our associates that go beyond the traditional workplace issues that employers faced yesterday. When you join the Dayton Marriott team, you quickly learn that you are part of a family. We work hard and we take care of each other.” (Ohio Psychological Association 2008: 2)

Such strategies focusing on importance of the employees, looking after their requirements and developing their skills have resulted in the 20 percent annual growth of the Marriott Hotel worldwide. (Carey 2008: Online) It is only hotel in the world where there is no union as it has with time continuously improved their plans and strategies to improve communication between the workers and management and address the issues of dissatisfaction.

21st century, is considered to be a service economy and any shortage in the service industry is bound to impact the whole industry like hospitality, leisure, recreation, childcare, healthcare, long term care and other personal services. All the players in the hospitality industry should recognize the role of people, as they are the qualities and characteristics of human endeavoring power of hospitality, which create an aura of relaxed feelings, satisfaction, happiness and enjoyment to the tourists.

Reference List


Ballard, D. W. 2008. Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards and Best Practices Honors 2008. Web.

Bethesda, M.D. 2008. Marriott International Inc. Web.

Boella, M.J. 2000. Human Resource Management in the Hospitality Industry. Seventh Edition. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

Carey, W.P. 2008. Employees First: Strategies for Service. Web.

Kusluvan, S. 2003. Managing Employee Attitudes and Behaviors in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry. New York: Nova Publishers.

Laliberté, M. 2006. Recruiting Tourism Workers: The Time Is Now, Tourism Intelligence Network of the ESG-UQAM Chair in Tourism (University of Quebec at Montréal) . Web.

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

Ohio Psychological Association. 2008. Five Ohio Organizations Win Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards. Web.

People 1st. Scottish Employers’ View – Critical Factors. Web.


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