Human Resource Development and 'Casualisation' in Hotels and Resorts in Eastern Australia: Getting the Best to the Customer?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper provides an analysis of human resource development and knowledge capital management relations practices used by hotels and resorts in 2007. The study examined the employment instruments used, methods of employee recruitment, selection, staff turnover trends, remuneration policies, attitudes to knowledge capital and the application of service quality measurement. The findings indicate that larger foreign-owned organisations have adopted more innovative approaches than smaller Australian-owned hotels and resorts, while skill shortages and generational attitude changes have driven more inventive retention strategies in both groups. It was also found that in spite of the adoption of more enlightened human resource strategies, staff turnover, particularly casual staff turnover, remains problematic and could negatively impact upon customer satisfaction.

Keywords: Australian hotels, human resource development, employment relations, service quality

TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY IN AUSTRALIA

The hospitality sector, in conjunction with the tourism industry, has been perceived as a rising industry capable of providing an on-going 'panacea for economies in crisis' (Craik 1991). However the demand for hospitality products is highly elastic, making the sector's domestic and international viability highly dependant upon the creation of a sustainable competitive advantage that in part needs to be derived through its labour force given the sectors labour intensiveness. Therefore increasing labour productivity and flexibility and reducing labour costs are a major consideration for all hospitality businesses (International Labour Organisation (ILO) 2001).

However despite the importance of labour to the productivity of the industry there is a paucity of empirical research into employment relations and their link to service quality and knowledge capital management in the sector (Bouncken 2002). This paper aims to overcome this by examining the human resource development and service quality measurement strategies of fifteen four-, four-and-a-half and five-star hotels and resorts located in eastern Australia between Sydney, NSW in the south and the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland in the north. It does this by analysing the types of employment agreements, training and the service quality measurement used.

The hotels and resorts used in this study were selected on two main criteria. First, they represented a spread of international and domestic establishments, holiday and business oriented organisations and a combination of metropolitan and regional locations. Second, they represented a variety of ownership and management structures and consist of differing sized workplaces. The selection of these criteria is justified on the basis human resource management strategies are believed to be significantly influenced by them (Lafferty 1998; Timo & Davidson 2005).

The hospitality industry

There is no universally accepted definition of the hospitality industry and this makes it difficult to examine the economic impact of the industry and employment relations within it. In Australia, the Bureau of Statistics definition of the hospitality industry includes registered clubs, accommodation enterprises, hotels, casinos, cafes and restaurants (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1994).

The hospitality industry largely operates on a twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week basis. Demand in the industry is volatile, with daily and seasonal fluctuations a common feature. To overcome the volatility in demand, the industry employs a high percentage of casual and parttime employees, many of whom undertake core duties. The industry has the highest rates of casual employment of any industry in Australia with 59 percent of its employees being regarded as casual (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006). Casual employment can contribute up to as much as 70 percent of the workforce in some hospitality establishments (Timo & Davidson 2005) and casual employee turnover is higher than average for other hospitality employment categories. …