The Selection and Training of Workers in the Tourism and Hospitality Industries for the Performance of Emotional Labour

Article excerpt

Many workers in the tourism and hospitality industries can be classified as "front-line" service workers, as their jobs involve direct customer contact. The nature of speaking and acting in such work involves displaying emotions, which demonstrate a willingness to be of service. The management of such emotional display has become known as "emotional labour", which has been defined as the effort, planning and control needed to express organisationally desired emotion during interpersonal transactions. It has been suggested that the social interaction of a service exchange, in which the performance of emotional labour plays an integral part, is one factor used by customers as an indication of service quality. Indeed, three of the five dimensions of the SERVQUAL scale have potentially high emotional content. It has also been widely accepted that the delivery of quality service commences with the selection of suitable employees and the provision of appropriate training. In view of the impact of the performance of emotional labour on perceptions of service quality, it is important to examine the role of selection and training in the performance of such labour. The academic and practitioner literature contains a number of recommendations about the manner in which employee selection should be carried out, and the need for the training of employees is also widely acknowledged. This paper presents the preliminary findings of research carried out into the selection and training practices of organisations in the tourism and hospitality industries as they apply to workers called upon to perform emotional labour.

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Many workers in the tourism and hospitality industries are classified as "frontline" service workers, whose jobs involve direct customer contact. Speaking and acting in such work involves displaying emotions which demonstrate a willingness to be of service. The management of such emotional display has become known as "emotional labour" (see e.g., Steinberg & Figart, 1999). The skill with which this type of labour is performed impacts on perceptions of service quality. The social interaction of a service exchange, in which the performance of emotional labour plays an integral part, is one factor used by customers as an indication of service quality. Hence, the personality of service providers may contribute also to perceptions of service quality.

The delivery of quality service commences with the selection of suitable employees and the provision of appropriate training. The academic and practitioner tourism and hospitality literature contains a number of recommendations about the manner in which employee selection should be carried out. The need for the training of employees is also widely acknowledged. However, little explicit attention is paid to the selection and training of employees to perform emotional labour.

This paper presents some preliminary findings of research carried out into the selection and training practices of organisations in the tourism and hospitality industries as they apply to workers called upon to perform emotional labour.

Literature Review

A number of strands of literature are drawn together in this review to highlight issues associated with the performance of emotional labour and its impact, and the impact of personality of the service workers on perceptions of service quality. The human resource management implications for the selection and training of service workers are also discussed.

Emotional Labour

Many workers in the tourism and hospitality industries can be classified as frontline service workers. Their jobs, which involve direct customer contact, are at the very heart of many tourism and hospitality enterprises (Wharton 1993). Albrecht and Zemke (1985, pp. 114-115) succinctly describe the nature of frontline service work as follows:

   The service person must deliberately involve his
   or her feelings in the situation. …