Magazine article Journal of Services Research

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

Magazine article Journal of Services Research

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

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.

LITERATURE REVIEW

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). The focus of most academic definitions is on the mutual expectations arising from the relationship between an individual employee and his/her employing organisation. Shore and Tetrick (1994) locate the contract as one level of a total of 3 'promissory' contracts that operate: at the first level is the formal and explicit contract of employment, at the second level are implied contracts based on observable patterns of behaviour (custom and practice), at the third level is the psychological contract based on perceptions of reciprocal obligations and expectations. Whilst all three forms of contract help the parties to make sense of the complexities and ambiguities of the workplace, it is the psychological contract, which has greatest implications for the quality of the relationship and which is likely to have greatest strategic importance. It is widely argued (Shore and Tetrick, 1994; Rousseau, 1995) that a strong contract (characterised by high levels of employee commitment and "buying" in to the organisational value system) functions to a) reduce workplace uncertainty, b) direct and control labour without the need to use direct supervision or other intensive surveillance techniques and c) to generate a feeling of self-efficacy and control in the employee. …

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