Magazine article Journal of Services Research

Employee Motivation and Empowerment in Hospitality, Rhetoric or Reality - Some Observations from India

Magazine article Journal of Services Research

Employee Motivation and Empowerment in Hospitality, Rhetoric or Reality - Some Observations from India

Article excerpt

"An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility."

Jan Carlzon, CEO, Scandinavian Airlines

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. 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 (Dawn et al., 1994). Therein comes the concept of the 'service profit chain' enunciated by Heskett et al, (1994), where in the chain consisting of profits earned through customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction precedes customer satisfaction and hence profits. One needs winners at the front lines and not just warm bodies, thus a key problem for managers is how to ensure appropriate behaviors on part of front-line workers at the point of the service encounter (Bowen and Schneider, 1988; Carlzon, 1987). But most service companies perpetuate a cycle of failure by tolerating high turnover and expecting employee dissatisfaction (Schlesinger and Heskett, 1991). It is easy to expect employees to be uniformly reliable, responsible, empathetic, assured and ready to serve (Parasuraman et al., 1991) during and between service encounters. There are situations wherein a shift stretches to ten or twelve hours quite frequently. It becomes difficult for the employees to cope up with such situations on a continuous basis. In the same vein, it is also relevant to note that a number of studies have established, empowerment or employee involvement as a TQM related dimension as well (Berry, 1991; Dean and Evans, 1994; Hofstede, 1984; Lawler et al., 1995; Ross, 1993).

Due to the potential impact that employees have on the business, it is imperative that management understands the specific dimensions that help shape employees' attitudes toward their jobs. It is generally agreed that the hotel workforce has a high level of temporary workers, substantial female employment, low levels of training, low wages, high labor turnover and gender segregation (Charlesworth, 1994; Deery and Iverson, 1996; Riley, 1991). Over the past several years, considerable attention has been given to role conflict, role clarity, job tension and job satisfaction as four very important determinants of the performance of individuals and their impact on the operational effectiveness of the organization (Kelly et al., 1981; Lusch and Serpkenci, 1990).

Increasing job satisfaction among service personnel has the potential of generating higher customer satisfaction with the service, repeat purchases by current customers and positive word-of-mouth communications to potential customers. Research has indicated that job satisfaction of service personnel can be increased by hiring individuals who tend to be highly empathetic, by training current employees how to be empathetic, by providing employees with clear job descriptions, by empowering employees within the customer/employee dyad to make decisions that will result in higher customer satisfaction with the service, and in establishing a clear unity of command for each employee (Rogers et al, 1994). Spinelli et al. (2000) found that in the case of hospitality sector workers, pay and benefits are strong considerations in employee satisfaction, and most employees feel that they are underpaid for the job they do, irrespective of the compensation they get. Pay and benefits were however found to be just one factor among many. Research has indicated that the absence of these economic factors will lead to discontent, but more importantly, their presence will not add to long-term employee satisfaction (Bruce et al., 1992). It therefore seems to come back to job enrichment factors, such as recognition of employee contribution, participatory decision-making, open communication channels, along with the factors identified above that account for employee satisfaction. …

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