The Christian Humanization of Work: Job Satisfaction in the Hospitality Industry

Article excerpt


In the year 2000, the tourism sector will be the largest industry in the world. Today it is estimated to provide about 255 million jobs and amounts to 10 percent of world employment. It has now grown into a modern, mature industry where workers are forming their professional identity. These "hospitality professionals" are primarily concerned with customer satisfaction. But that's not always easy to achieve and many problems can -- and do -- arise.

The restructuring of work today has important consequences. Unlike their agricultural or industrial counterparts, workers in the service sector find the fruits of their labor are frequently intangible. In some cases, their emotions are involved. One can easily broaden management guru Peter Drucker's concept of "the knowledge worker" to include "the emotion worker," who must deal with people on a more interpersonal level. In our modem, service-oriented society, there is a need for literature devoted to the special needs of this kind of worker, especially in the area of "spirituality of work"

By its very nature, hospitality work has a spiritual dimension. Of all industries, it is the most intensely interactive, with people serving people and providing comfort, sustenance, conviviality, transport, amusement, enlightenment, employment and much more. Given the complexity of human behavior, concerns about the work's spiritual dimension can be neither ignored nor hidden. For this reason, perhaps the most challenging of all hospitality industry problems today is not so much job satisfaction as a proper spirituality of work.

In short, the challenge is to help hospitality professionals find genuine meaningfulness in their work so they experience the peace and joy that God has prepared for them. As Pope John Paul II reminds us in his Encyclical entitled Laborem Exercens, "Work is a good thing for man -- a good thing for his humanity -- because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed in a sense becomes 'more a human being."' This is certainly true in the hospitality industry.

The Importance of Service in Modern Society

The growth of services is nothing new. As early as 1900, both America and Britain had more jobs in services than in industry. By 1950, services employed half of all American workers. And in 1993, America had the biggest service sector, accounting for 72 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Services are also the fastest growing part of international trade, accounting for 20 percent of total world trade and 30 percent of American exports.

Tourism is one of these services. By the year 2000, it is likely to be the world's most important economic activity. According to a report of the World Travel and Tourism Council, there were 255 million jobs in tourism in 1996. This amounts to 10.2 percent of all world employment.

The Special Nature of Work in the Service Sector. Work in the service sector is quite different from that in agriculture or manufacturing. A service has been described as a "deed, act, or performance" [1:24]. Two functional issues are: at whom (or what) is the act directed, and is this act tangible or intangible in nature?

These two questions result in Lovelock's four-way classification scheme involving: (1) tangible actions to people's bodies, such as hair cutting and surgery; (2) tangible actions to goods and other physical possessions, such as air freight, lawn mowing and janitorial services; (3) tangible actions directed at people's minds, such as broadcasting and education; and (4) intangible actions directed at people's intangible assets, such as insurance, investment banking and consulting (13).

This categorization scheme is useful in answering questions like the following, having to do with analyzing and marketing services. Does the customer need to be physically present: throughout service delivery? …