Motivation Systems for Hospitality Organizations: A Case Study of Motel
Generally speaking, the hospitality industry competes on a global basis by providing food and beverages services as well as accommodations for tourists and travelers. For instance, according to Lucas, "The term hospitality industry serves as an overarching label for businesses whose primary purpose is to offer food, beverage and accommodation for sale on a commercial basis" (2003:3). By contrast, hospitality services are associated activities that take place within the hospitality industry which are provided within different segments of the marketplace. Such hospitality activities are primarily involved with providing food and beverage services for a wide range of institutional operations including educational facilities such as colleges and universities, passenger airline carriers, healthcare and long-term care facilities as well as penitentiaries and jails (Lucas 2003). For the purposes of this study, the focus will be on the hospitality industry and hotels in general and on Motel 6 in particular.
Rationale of the Study. Because the hospitality industry is an integral part of the travel and tourism industry, an economic environment that adversely affects the latter will also have an adverse impact on the former. The ongoing global economic downturn has created the need for companies competing in the hospitality industry to develop a competitive advantage to remain viable, and motivated employees represent one such competitive advantage. For example, Umashanker and Kulkarni emphasize that, "It is a universally known and well-documented fact that when we talk of customer satisfaction it takes effective and motivated service (encounter) personnel at the delivery end to make the difference" (2002:31).
In fact, a highly motivated workforce is an absolute essential for organizations competing in the hospitality industry for without this factor firmly in place, nothing else that the organization does will make any difference in the long run. In this regard, Umashanker and Kulkarni add that, "All the product design, operation planning and other associated efforts will come to a nothing if the delivery end personnel fail. Earning profits through delivering customer satisfaction is one of the philosophical underpinnings of service businesses" (2002:31). Therefore, identifying opportunities for organizations competing in the hospitality industry to achieve a competitive advantage through a more motivated workforce represents a timely and important enterprise, and these factors are described further below.
Aims and Objectives. The aim of this study was to identify motivation system that could be used by companies competing in the hospitality industry to achieve a competitive advantage. In support of this overarching aim, the study was guided by three objectives as follows:
To deliver a comprehensive review of the literature concerning employee motivation in general and employee motivation in the hospitality industry in particular;
To provide a case study of a hospitality organization to identify what best practices are available for employee motivation that could be used by similarly situated companies competing in the hospitality industry; and,
Based on a synthesis of the literature review and case study findings, to provide a series of recommendations for motivating employees in hospitality organizations.
Definitions and Concepts.
An Employer's Perspective. Hospitality organizations are currently faced with some fierce competition, and some companies might have few resources available to devote to elaborate employee motivation schemes (Brody, Lane & Steed 2004). According to Brody and his associates, "Full-service hotels are in fierce competition with suite and economy hotels for business travelers" (2004:324). From the employer's perspective, employees represent one of the best resources available for developing and sustaining a competitive advantage in such a highly competitive environment. For instance, Chen, Niu, Wang, Yang and Tsaur emphasize that, "An important avenue for customer value creation is the interaction between customer contact employees and customers" (2009:40). One of the leading economy hotel chains that has taken this advice to heart is Motel 6, which forms the basis for the case study developed and discussed further below.
An Employee's Perspective. The workforce of the 21st century has a number of different expectations from those that existed just a few decades ago. During the mid-20th century, for example, people could reasonably expect to join a company at the entry level, work hard and be rewarded with a series of promotions and raises until retirement. In other words, there was an unspoken but widely recognized social contract that meant if people were loyal and dedicated to a company, the company would return the favor by providing lifetime assurances of employment and retirement benefits when they had successfully completed the required amount of time on the job. By sharp contrast, Spillane emphasizes that today, "People are less and less sure about what 'work' really means. Their expectations of work, especially getting it and enjoying it, are now matters of both deep anxiety and mundane reality" (2001:16). Besides a shift in the aforementioned social contract, Spillane suggests that there are some other important reasons for this change in how people view their jobs. According to Spillane, "There are high unemployment rates in industrialized societies. For many people in modern society, work is no longer something that happens in a fixed place during a fixed unit of time, producing a fixed output and reward" (2001:17).
This means that many people will probably have more than one job during their professional careers, and likely many more than that, but there is a high price to be paid for such job mobility for both employees and employers. For employees, changing jobs means starting all over again in establishing credibility and trust with a new employer, and this usually takes a lot of time. In addition, even if people are highly proficient in their professions, every organization is different and "learning the ropes" at new places of employment can also require a great deal of time and can be a stressful process. For employers, the high costs of recruiting and training new employees are well established, making job mobility a challenging aspect of developing motivational tools in any workplace. The high costs of high turnover rates among employees include, but are certainly not restricted to, the costs of recruitment, new employee training and orientation, as well as a period of job orientation in which new employees are typically not as efficient as more experienced employees (Mccaughey & Bruning 2005).
In this regard, Spillane reports that there are two key aspects of job satisfaction that generally apply to any workplace setting:
1. Experienced Meaningfulness. The individual must perceive his or her work as worthwhile or important by some system of values he or she accepts; and,
2. Knowledge of Results. The worker must be able to determine, on some regular basis, whether or not the outcomes of his or her work are satisfactory (2001:17).
In order to develop motivational initiatives that can have a significant effect on this two key aspects of job satisfaction, employees must have their jobs expanded along the following five dimensions:
1. Skill Variety. The degree to which a job requires the worker to perform activities that challenge his or her skills and abilities.
2. Task Identity. The degree to which the job requires completing a whole and identifiable piece of work -- doing a job from beginning to end with a visible outcome.
3. Task Significance. The degree to which a job has a substantial and perceivable impact on the lives of other people, whether in the immediate organization or the world at large.
4. Autonomy. The degree to which the job gives the worker freedom, independence and discretion in scheduling work and determining how he or she will carry it out.
5. Feedback. The degree to which a worker, in carrying out the work activities required by the job, gets information about the effectiveness of his or her efforts (Spillane 2001:17).
This level of job expansion, though, can be a challenging enterprise even under the best of circumstances, but the process is especially difficult during periods of high job mobility and economic downturn when people may not stay at a job long enough (or be allowed to stay at a job long enough) for their jobs to do anything but evaporate from underneath them during periods of economic downturn.
Social Behaviour. Because customer satisfaction is of primary importance in the hospitality industry, the manner in which hospital industry employees behave on the job can have a make-or-break effect on a company. In this regard, Liu and Chen emphasize that, "Within service organizations, frontline employees and supervisors are regarded as the show windows of the company's customer orientation. They are the direct participants in the implementation of this marketing concept, because the 'personal component of services is often the primary determinant of customer overall satisfaction" (2006:478).
Review of Existing Industry Research Articles.
Industry Context. In any industry, there are some general approaches that can be used for employee motivation including the following.