Issues Related to Human Resource Management in the Hospitality Sector


Human Resource Management is a critical and crucial component or function in any organization and more so, for organizations in the hospitality sector which thrive on the customer service and other people related services as part of its USP or Unique Selling Proposition.

Indeed, it can be said that HRM is the key function in the hospitality sector considering that firms such as Hotels, Tour and Travel Operators, Restaurants, and Holiday Resorts all depend on their employees as sources of distinctive competitive advantage. Thus, HRM in the Hospitality Sector has to be practiced well in order to ensure the commercial viability of the firms in the sector.

Issues Related to HRM in the Hospitality Sector

Some of the issues that HR Managers in the Hospitality Sector deal with are related to intercultural management, people empowerment, and people enabling all of which are very important to ensure that the employees of firms in the hospitality sector actualize their duties and provide stellar and superlative customer service.

While in earlier decades, the HRM in the Hospitality Sector focused on personnel management, it is now the case that SHRM or Strategic Human Resource Management or the treatment of employees as strategic sources of competitive advantage is the norm in the sector.

Turning to the specific cultural challenges related to intercultural management and cross cultural communication that HR Managers have to contend with in the hospitality sector, it is a fact that hotels, airlines, restaurants, tour and travel operators, and the like depend on foreign tourists and travellers from around the world for their existence as profit making entities.

Thus, there is a need for their employees to bridge the cultural gaps and cross the chasm between different cultures. Some people mistake cross-cultural management and intercultural communication as being concerned solely with foreign language proficiency or the ability to converse with the international guests in their own language.

However, while being multilingual can indeed help employees in the hospitality sector, it goes beyond this and what is needed is an ethnocentric approach to intercultural management wherein the staff in the firms in the hospitality sector have to place themselves in the position of their guests and talk to them and communicate to them from the perspective of the guests’ culture. This means that there is a need for HR Managers to emphasize the importance of bridging the cultural gap by reaching out to the guests’ that goes beyond multilingual capabilities.

Some Challenges that HR Managers Face and Possible Approaches

In addition, HR Managers in the hospitality sector often face challenges related to motivation of their employees. Most jobs in the sector are highly stressful needing constant vigilance and attention from the employees and hence, there is a high burnout rate in the sector. To avoid high attrition due to stress and demoralized employees due to fatigue, HR Managers in the sector must come up with innovative and inventive policies to ensure that employees remain motivated.

Since the job is also a 24/7 one where there is constant rotation of shifts in order to ensure round the clock service, HR Managers have to rotate duties of the employees in as humane manner as possible so that the same employees do not end up doing the night shift all the time in addition to being stressed out because they have been in the shift where the maximum workload takes place.

Some Policy Suggestions for HR Managers in the Hospitality Sector

Thus, there is a need to keep the spirits of the employees high and towards this end; HR Managers can ensure that they align the rewards with the performance in a manner that brings out the best in their employees. For instance, paying performance linked bonus and variable pay linked to performance can help the employees better their performance as is the pay and benefits such as transport to drop the employees home (especially women and those working in the night shift), weekly offs so that employees get a chance to relax and unwind in addition to job rotation and role rotation so that employees learn new skills and become adept at managing the entire hospitality value chain.

Indeed, some of these policies are already being tried out in many international hotels and tour and travel operators where such policies are being implemented based on extensive research into the high-performance attributes of employees in the hospitality sector. Moreover, such policies also ensure that employees do not jump ship frequently or in other words, high attrition which is the hallmark of the sector can be avoided.

Conclusion: It is Important to Walk the Talk and Practice What One Preaches

In addition, the current trends in the hospitality sector indicate the need for global thinking and local execution for the HR Managers wherein they do not dilute the global brand image of their firms and yet, do not neglect the local ways of doing things. Indeed, this is a very important requirement for employees in the hospitality sector as the industry is highly globalized and at the same time, depends on highly specialized localized forms of execution.

Lastly, it is one thing to preach and theorize and it is another thing to actually practice what one preaches and walk the talk. Thus, HR Managers in the hospitality sector would well remember the fact that unless their actions match their words and unless the policies are actually implemented, the employees are more likely to see through the disconnect between talk and reality. To conclude, HR Managers in the hospitality sector face umpteen challenges, and it is the way in which they deal with such challenges that determine the end results.

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Human Resource Management