Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage in the Hospitality Industry. A Comparative Study of Hotels A and B in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage in the Hospitality Industry. A Comparative Study of Hotels A and B in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt


The main thrust of this paper is to explore whether employee engagement contributes to competitive advantage in the hospitality industry. The researchers were inspired to carry out a study in the hospitality industry because of the need to understand how best to place employee engagement as a human resource initiative, as a source of competitive advantage. Of concern was the need to increase the knowledge base on the benefits of good service provision that comes as a result of having a fully engaged workforce. The research is mainly qualitative since it is in descriptive format. However, quantitative approaches are also used through graphs and tables to illustrate data. The research equally used cross case analysis, by comparing Hotel A and Hotel B. A total of 78 respondents participated in the study. The study revealed the contribution of employee engagement to competitive advantage and highlighted how employee engagement acts as a key determinant of competitive advantage. Hotel B is better placed in terms of employee engagement as compared to Hotel A and as a result it enjoys a competitive edge over Hotel A. Hotel B employees are highly satisfied, motivated, committed and fully engaged as compared to Hotel A hence offer better services giving the hotel strategic advantage over A as evidenced by the 43.7% market share against Hotel A's 17.3% market share.

Keywords: employee engagement, competitive advantage, hospitality industry, hotels A and B, Zimbabwe.


The growing currency of engagement has generated a large number of studies from academics, consultancies, and organisations that look at the impact of high levels of engagement on outcomes for most business organisations worldwide. Notably, these authors include the leading employee engagement group, the Gallup Organisation, which in 2006 examined 23,910 business units, the institute of Employment Studies in 2004 and the Tower Perrins- ISR 2006 that undertook a survey of 664-000 employees from over 50 companies around the world. From a Zimbabwean perspective, research on employee engagement was carried out by The Institute of People Management Zimbabwe IPMZ in 2010 and some of the findings were that most workers felt disempowered and that their ideas were being overlooked, some also felt that business performance was not effectively communicated, thus resulting in employee disengagement. Indeed the Zimbabwean organisations have suffered a great deal in the past decade, and with the dollarisation of the economy competition for survival has been the order of the day. Confronted with this harsh reality employee engagement has emerged as a crucial driver of business success in today's competitive market place. Thus to gain a competitive edge, organisations are turning to HR to set the agenda for employee engagement and commitment. This trend is cutting across all sectors and industries in Zimbabwe.

This study focused on the hospitality industry in Zimbabwean that has gone through a serious phase of economic hardships, ranging from poor room occupancy and covers (which have affected the expected revenue) to a serious skills flight problem, leading to poor service delivery and customer satisfaction. However, due to the dollarisation of the economy and the coming in of the inclusive government in 2009 which mitigated the problems highlighted above, competition in the hospitality industry is now intense as companies compete for local, regional and external clients. It is against this background that employee engagement has been observed to be the main source of competitive advantage. Organisations that truly engage and inspire their employees produce world class levels of innovation, productivity and enhanced performance, which result in competitive advantage. The paper focuses on leveraging employee engagement for competitive advantage in the hospitality industry with particular reference to Hotels A and B.

Kahn (1990:694) defines employee engagement as, "the harnessing of organisation members themselves to their work roles; in engagement people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during their role performances. …

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