The impact of employment strategies and conditions in four and five-star hotels and resorts on service quality and empowerment: a case study analysis

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Cairncross, G 2009, 'The impact of employment strategies and conditions in four and five-star hotels and resorts on service quality and empowerment: a case study analysis', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.


Despite the importance of labour to the productivity and effectiveness of the hospitality industry there is a scarcity of research into employment relations and human resource strategies and their linkages to service quality and knowledge capital management in the luxury hotel and resort sector. The hospitality industry is a major employer in Australia and four, four-and-a-half and five-star resorts and hotels are a major employing sector within this industry. A crucial component of these organisations employment relations strategies is the employment instrument that they chose to use. Given the wider choice of employment instruments available in Australia since the mid-1990s it is important to understand the philosophy and arguments for and against each.

A perceived lack of labour flexibility in Australian industries resulted in substantial criticism of Australia's centralised industrial relations system in the 1980s. The existence of awards and the involvement of trade unions were seen as restricting workplace flexibility and resulting in uncompetitive businesses. This argument appeared particularly relevant for industries such as hotels and resorts. These organisations operate outside of standard hours, are subject to severe demand fluctuations, employ a high number of non-standard employees and compete in highly competitive international markets.

The criticism of the centralised industrial relations system resulted in legislative changes at the Federal and State levels in Australia throughout the 1990s. The introduction of formalised enterprise and individual bargaining was an important feature of the new legislation. Much of the debate has centred on the need to adopt formalised decentralised enterprise bargaining in order to achieve improved labour market flexibility and productivity.

This study focuses on the four, four-and-a-half and five-star hotel and resort sector in Queensland and New South Wales. The hotels and resorts studied reflected a range of different ownership and management types. Often an independent management group, a factor that is not uncommon in the hotel and resort sector of the hospitality industry, managed a hotel or resort, or a group of them, for a franchise. In the 15 cases studied which could give a break down of their staffing profile there were 1248 male employees, or 48 percent of the total, and 1357 female employees, 52 percent of the total, excluding management. These figures are similar to the broader hospitality sector figures in Australia.

A particularly important aspect of this research was to uncover whether or not managers thought the high use of casual employment that is a feature of the industry is also problematic when it comes to maintaining a high standard of perceived service quality. The research also found that a high number of part-time employees worked in the hotels and resorts studied.