This paper presents discussion and critical evaluation on the roles of line manager or human resource management practices provides the important push to hospitality industry in delivering a high level of service quality. First part of the paper introduces what is HRM and line managers function in the industry. Followed which the importance of each, line manager and HRM practices in delivering quality services and customer satisfaction, this section would analyze the roles and functions in recruitment and selection, training and development, employee engagement and motivation and finally performance management in the context of hospitality industry. Concluding the paper is a summary of line manager and HRM practices to which both are vital in ensuring a successful and high level of quality customer oriented services.
Human Resource Management (HRM) is a complex subject where it involves many processes, models and many academicians has attempted to explain. HRM is a dynamic and ever changing trade with specific needs and demand from different industry. It is market driven and demand of the business which they operate in determines the way its staff is treated.
HRM have strategically position itself as the core of a successful company. Given the fact that efficient and productive employee will improve the company’s bottom line and increase company’s value; human resource management has in fact changed from simple function such as hiring and filing to developing, training, rewarding employees from a more strategic perspective (Analuoi, 2002). Most HRM functions are now tied to company performance and financial situation.
Hospitality and tourism demands very highly of its staff attitude towards service and to be very customer oriented. HRM practices are geared towards developing and training its workforce towards achieving customer satisfaction (Baum, 1995). The focus will be on best practice approach where adopting the ‘best universal way’ will see employee engagement, higher levels of service quality which will lead to higher profitability and organization performance.
Among the range of HR practices as suggested by Redman and Matthews (1998) which are important and strategically positioned for high quality service are; recruitment, retention, teamwork, training and development, appraisal, rewarding quality, job security and employee relations.
Hospitality industry makes up of businesses which provide its facilities and services in accommodation, food and beverages and other related products and services which serve the needs and demands of tourist and travelers. Hospitality and related industry are divided into 14 sub-categories; mainly hotels, restaurants, gambling, events, travel services, tourist services and other related products and services (Vencatachellum & Mathuvirin, 2010). Growth in the industry is most prevalent in developing countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Maldives.
Hospitality and tourism are closely related and one thing that binds both together is the work processes and employees undergoes similar responsibilities; to provide highest level of service quality in achieving customer satisfaction. Its workforce therefore is the focus to the distribution and delivery of hospitality products and services.
This industry is labor intensive; all products and services provided in the industry requires highly trained and disciplined workforce. World Travel and Tourism Council reported in 2006, tourism and tourism related industries account for nearly nine percent of employment created globally (Baum, 1995).
The main sectors in the hospitality industry would be the hotels and food and beverages sector where any person who stays away from home would be important. Delivering highest service quality is essential to ensure the customer stays as comfortable and satisfied. Thus tourist experience is the key to successful hospitality organizations.
Line manager’s role spans from planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling the operations of the organization. In hospitality industry; line managers would need to plan for the smooth operation of the business, lack of proper planning can turn the business into chaos. For example; line manager in a restaurant would need plan for staff’s roster, any expected increase in business and labor costs.
Staffing the operation has the line manager to play the role of selection, recruitment, training and development and other staffing needs. In hospitality industry; line manager needs to make sure the best is selected and groomed to provide highest level of service to meet customer expectations. Line manager would need to oversee sensible recruitment, manage selection and interviews; as decentralization of HR practices has given line manager more pivotal role in selection and recruitment (Purcell & Hutchinson, 2007). Line manager are able to identify skills and individual behavior that suits the organizations best; advanced recruitment process such as assessment centers will assists line manager to observe specific set of skills needed and filter out the best available. Assessment center methods were used by Hilton and Marriot.
Line manager’s direct contact with the front lines and backroom staff is important for retaining the best employee. It is a waste is after hours of training and development, experiences and learning taken place in the organization is later taken away by another hotel; as in the case of Shangri-la Hotel’s expansion in East China. Shangri-La faces stiff competition especially in recruitment and retaining excellent staff as its employees is being poached by rival hotels (Zhang & Wu, 2004). Therefore line manager’s relationship with the staff will help to understand each individuals attitude, behavior, learning curve, motivation and teamwork which create better working environment and in retaining staff.
Line managers’ role is vital in an operation, he is the person who oversees a group of employees to ensure that work are done to requirements and also to constantly maintain high morale of the subordinates. In the hospitality industry; line manager needs to constantly supervise and maintain a high level of enthusiasm between his or her staff, the reason is motivated staff will perform better and able to provide the level of services required by the organization (Purcell & Hutchinson, 2007). For example; delegating tasks to employees and ensuring that they are done accordingly therefore the chances of blaming will be unlikely. Maintaining employee motivation
Training and development has always been linked to improved performance and productivity. In the hotel sector, line manager’s role as a mentor and to identify areas and individuals that need training and development is important to ensure services provided are the same standard as envisioned by the organization (Purcell & Hutchinson, 2007). Line manager will be up to date on the latest skills and customer demands to identify training requirement that will improve performance, productivity and most important of all is to improve the organizations bottom line or profitability.
Line managers who constantly receive and provide feedback between management and employees will be able to gauge the level of attentiveness and employee sentiment. Understanding employee and customer sentiment is vital to determine the course of action and HR practices in the group. Especially important in the hospitality industry; line managers’ attentiveness and response is needed in service oriented industry to gauge customer satisfaction and level of service rendered by the employees (Purcell & Hutchinson, 2007).
Managing a group of people and ensuring all work processes are done according is not easy. Line manger would need to do thorough performance check that management goals are achievable. For example, if in a hotel, situation such as frequent absenteeism and regular shortages of materials persists, it means that line manager would need to investigate and resolve the situation, is it due to lack or planning or other causes.
HRM practices will set the tone for how the organization as a whole is managed especially in the hospitality industry where it is labor intensive industry. Delivering and achieving customer satisfaction can be achieved through various HRM practices that have been proven in other organizations. HRM practices such as recruitment and selection, training and development, performance management and appraisal and compensation has been identified as key to successful service and customer oriented organizations. HR strategies such as hiring best people, training them to deliver best service and retaining them are important towards delivering excellent quality in hospitality industry.
HRM practice of hiring the best people will ensure the organization will perform and their staffs are able to directly work according to the requirement without much training hours needed to groom them. Identifying roles and job design will assist HR to complete the job planning and design for recruitment and identifying personnel specification to compete for the best employees (Lockyer & Scholarios, 2005). In the hotel in specific and hospitality industry as a whole, hiring excellent staff would ensure high standard of service and conforms to its organizations pledge of friendly, warm and excellent customer service. Job design practices could also be used to enhance service quality. Enriched jobs empower employees and give them a greater sense of responsibility for their performance and they need less supervision on ensuring quality is delivered. (Hackman and Oldham 1980)
Training and developing employees will ensure continuous availability of employees equipped with necessary skills and knowledge to perform. Research has shown training and development is the support system to develop service oriented employees and streamline quality of services provided (Marchington & Wilkinson, 2005). Hospitality industry invest more in training as quality service is gained through processes involved in delivery compared to manufacturing where quality is check at the end product which is impossible for intangible products.
Internal training programs; formal or informal may be designed for training purposes, embedding organizational culture within the employees, empowering them with required skills such as problem solving, listening skill, communication skill, interpersonal and customer relationship skills are important to front line staff for resolving and delivering quality customer service. Shangri-La developed its own training center to recruit students and provide them with company standard hospitality training.
Performance management is vital to identify performing staff and reward them adequately. Many models have been developed and it has helped organizations to achieve corporate goals. Balance Scorecard developed by Norton and Kaplan (2006) was used by Marriot, Millennium, Copthorne and Hilton in their performance management practice. The model takes into consideration financial, customer feedback, internal feedback, innovation and learning curve; measuring each key area of employee performance.
Engaging employee will be the main focus in a hospitality industry especially for hotels. It is important for organizations to understand how to engage employees as studies have shown that engaged employees tend to produce better results and have the right psychological attitude to help the organization to achieve its objectives. In hospitality industry, delivering high level of service quality depends very much on the employee themselves and therefore engaging them is vital to provide customers quality service.
Understanding employee motivation will also be the focal point in HRM practices. Many models have been applied throughout the years and among the famous models are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model; Freud’s X theory; Herzberg’s Y theory and McGregor’s Z theory. All this theories and models present interesting perspective to improve employee motivation. Hotels such as Hilton, Marriot, Shangri-La and Millennium has practice employee motivation and empowerment model for speed up resolving customer problems and delivering additional value.
Delivering excellent quality service in hospitality industry and hotel in depends largely on both HRM practices and line managers’ role. Both has important functions and is vital to achieve high standard of service quality. In fact it is best if both factors are mutually supportive and internally consistent in a hospitality company, so that real excellent service quality can be achieved. Knowing that both line manager and HRM practices goes like butter and bread, without one the other is just not complete. HRM practices apply to the organization as a whole and line managers oversee individuals and gauge their performances.
HRM practices apply the groundwork for line managers to follow. It sets as a guideline and standard operating procedures for instances such as recruitment, appraisal, quality control and compensation. How well the HRM practices depend very much on how actually the line manager applies and practice the guidelines set is the key to achieving organizational goals.
For example; HRM practice in recruitment and selection of excellent staff may have a model for the line managers as a guideline, but ultimately how well the interviewing process goes depends very largely on the interpretation of the line manager. Even if the interviewee meet all the HRM guidelines but did not achieve line manager’s expectation he or she still will not be recruited. In this example, it is seen that both HRM practices and line managers observational skills is vital to selecting and recruiting the best possible staff. All new staff recruited should go through orientation programme to accustom to organization culture (Lockyer & Scholarios, 2005).
HRM practices may outline the training and development programmes all year round, the line managers are the one who will fit the employees according to their needs and skills required. Line managers will identify employees and trainings suited to them. All this goes hand in hand to equip employees with required skills and trainings for delivering high level of service quality. Propagating the company’s service orientation, line manager can function as coach or mentor to employees while the HRM practice as the model for line managers to follow.
Line manager role in getting employees to work in teams, by promoting teamwork will deliver better quality services as employees will support each other in delivering service. This will reduce work related tensions and pressure. Team work will motivate employees and encourage camaraderie and support, improving their tendency to provide high level of service quality (Vencatachellum & Mathuvirin, 2010). The promotion of teamwork requires line managers’ experience in gelling individuals and HRM practice will function to provide the environment such as restructuring of employees work around customers, where the work is organized around team working on meeting customized needs.
Employee motivation and employee engagement also depends on both line managers and HRM practices. Line managers’ role in appraisal and HRM practice rewarding performance is vital to check and motivate employee performance. Both function of line manager and HRM practice that compensation and rewards will motivate employees will be the needed boost for hotels to deliver excellent level of service quality.
In fact there are also other factors affecting the service quality in hospitality industry, and should not be neglected as well, such as management of customer expectation on service quality. Hospitality industry and hotels will need to project themselves to manage to customer expectations. Failing which there will be a gap and HRM practices and line manager will not be able to fill the gap. This requires more of corporate communication and marketing efforts to ensure the right target market is captured and level of quality service is communicated to customers (Zhang & Wu, 2004).
HRM practices identified as vital to deliver excellent service quality are recruitment and selection process, training and development, employee engagement and motivation and performance management. Implementation of the practices largely depends on the line manager to bring out the best of each individual staff under his charge.
As discussed above; we see the importance of both HRM practices and line managers’ role to encourage and create a service oriented environment. Achieving high level or service quality requires employees to be experienced and motivated to perform the task given; line managers role will be important to maintain the delivery of quality services while HRM practices provides the framework to boardroom philosophy and organization culture. Marketing and communication with its customer is also another factor to bridge the gap between customer expectations and quality service delivery.
Concluding the paper; in hospitality industry and hotel in specific; integrated HRM practices and execution by line managers are vital to deliver promises made to customers. HRM practices build the guidelines towards a culture of service oriented and line manager work together with employees to ensure high level of service excellence are delivered to meet and exceed customer expectations.
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