Mapping the Contract: An Exploration of the Comparative Expectations of Graduate Employees and Human Resource Managers within the Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism Industries in the United Kingdom

Article excerpt

This research begins the process of mapping out Human Resource strategies appropriate to the needs of graduate employees. The perceptions and attitudes of recent graduates working in the Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure(HTL) sector and managers with responsibility for graduate development were explored. This study looks at the elements that make up the initial psychological contract of graduate employees on first encounter with the sector and the types of organisational Human Resource (HR) practices that are seen as meeting the needs of employees. It was found that, underlying the surface impression of the contract as essentially relational, there were important differences between graduate employees and management/organisational contract expectations. Graduate recruits had contractual expectations that can, generally, be described as transactional but employers have expectations that are both relational and transactional. A number of areas of misunderstanding are identified as are Human Resource practices which are seen as breaching the contract.

The idea of a "Psychological Contract" has, since the phrase was first used by Mumford (1972), attracted considerable interest by writers and researchers on Human Resource Management. This interest has now extended to Human Resource practitioners: the British Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has commissioned annual surveys on this topic (Guest et al, 1996; Guest and Conway, 1997).

The Psychological Contract is a series of mutual expectations and needs arising from an organisation-individual relationship. The contract is nearly always implicit and usually covers a range of expectations of rights, duties, obligations and privileges, which have an important influence on employee behaviour. Evidence is emerging (Morishima, 1996) that the contract varies with time, culture and organisation; that it can be a powerful influence on employee satisfaction, productivity and organisational commitment (Shore and Tetrick, 1994). At present much of the research, both academic and applied, is focused on understanding the impact of organisational changes (such as downsizing, contracting out and delayering) on the contract and of how contracts can be shifted from the transactional (contracts based on economic exchange of short duration) to relational (enduring contracts based on trust). Limited research has been focussed on the relationship between management learning (through, for example, induction, development and educational programmes) or professional development (through, for example-internships, work placements and accreditation processes) and the development of the contract. Yet, management writers (Senge 1993), argue that the establishment of a learning culture with high levels of employee commitment is necessary to sustain the learning organisations of the future. Over the next decade, the new focus of academic and practitioner interest is likely to be on the nature of contracts in entrepreneurial organisations employing portfolio or contingent workforces. Sparrow (1998:30) argues, "Documenting and mapping change in the psychological contract and suggesting matching Human Resource Development policies will more likely become a hallmark of many personnel-management studies at the millennium".

This paper uses the concept of the psychological contract as a mechanism for exploring the mutual expectations of employees and employers in the HTL (Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure) sector.


What is the "Psychological Contract?"

This construct has been variously described as a form of exchange 'relationship' between employees and their work organisations (Mowday, Porter and Steers, 1982), a broad 'explanatory framework' for understanding a range of employer-employee relationships (Schein, 1980), a 'metaphor' used to describe an individuals relationship with an organisation (Rousseau, 1995) or as an "umbrella concept that captures changes in the nature of work" (Sparrow and Cooper, 1998:121). …


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