RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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Nankervis, A. R., (1995). Management Strategies in the Production of Service: A Study of Hotel Practice in Southeast Asia, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 3(1), 71-83.

Management Strategies in the Production of Service: A Study of Hotel Practice in Southeast Asia

Alan R Nankervis

Abstract

This paper explores the service quality, productivity and human resource management practices of a selection of Southeast Asia hotels, in an attempt to elicit common themes for successful international hotel management. It compares the practices used in different cultural and employment settings with contemporary Australian management styles.

Introduction

The following research study derives from a concern with the levels of service quality, productivity and profitability in the Australian hotel industry. Recent international studies (eg. Horwath and Horwath, 1988, 1992) clearly demonstrate that Australian hotels, in general, have been substantially less productive, and less profitable than their European, British and Asian competitors. These features assume crucial importance given the centrality of the service industries, including hospitality, to Australia’s economic success.

The growth of regional competition and the regular appearance of their hotels on annual Best Hotels in the World lists, suggested that it would be useful to examine the management and work practices of a selection of these hotels as the first stage of a more comprehensive international research study and thus to propose creative solutions to the dilemmas faced by Australian hoteliers.

Several important assumptions underlie the study, including:

a) That service quality can be identified, measured and evaluated;
b) That improvements in service quality contribute to the development of productivity levels;
c) That increasing productivity will, if properly managed, lead to improvements in hotel profitability; and
d) That effective human resource management (HRM) practices are crucial to the achievement of service quality standards, productivity improvements, and thus profitability in hotels.

Methods, Scope & Limitations

Due to the complexity of the concepts studied (service quality, productivity and HRM practices), a standardised personal interview schedule was utilised, covering the perceptions of general managers, personnel/human resource managers, and the heads of housekeeping and front office departments. Food and beverage departments were excluded from this study, as in earlier studies (Prais, Jarvis and Wagner, 1989), due to the differential quality of their products and services. Interview questions focused on the three central issues of service quality, productivity and HRM practices, and incorporated the criteria used in the United States SERVQUAL instrument. Despite extensive invitations to participate inthe study, only five hotels ultimately proved keen to take part. For the purposes of this paper, four of these have been included here, as the fifth is outside Southeast Asia (viz. New Zealand). The research sample is therefore small, and consequently unrepresentative of all hotels in the region. It does however illustrate some of the dilemmas faced by regional hotels, and their Australian counterparts, in coping with different labour markets and employment conditions whilst providing parallel levels of service quality, productivity and profitability. The four hotels discussed in this paper include two resorts (“The Seaview Resort”, Bali; “The Penang Resort) and two city hotels (“The Jakarta International” and the “Singapore Grand”)*

Study Findings & Discussion

Comparisons between hotels are difficult, because of the inadequacy of international grading systems - “... the hotel classifications, provided by national tourist boards and automobile clubs.., have the crucial disadvantage.., that they are not internationally comparable; they are usually based on the existence of specialised facilities ... rather than on a judgement of the quality of the establishment as a whole, taking into account the helpfulness of the staff and the state of repair of the premises”. (Prais, Jarvis and Wagner, 1989).

Additionally, as a recent International Hotels Association report observes:

“The issue of the more efficient use of existing labour encompasses the whole subject of productivity. This has been largely ignored by the hotel industiy, although the ability of measuring productivity by a number of methods has existed... for over twenty years”. (Horwath and Horwath, 1992).

These two issues - the establishment of internationally comparable standards of service quality, and their relationship to productivity - form the framework for this research project. The practice of hotels in the study will now be examined in relation to these issues, and with reference to relevant literature from the United States, Britain and Europe. The structure of this section of the paper will comprise:

a) National Environments and labour market issues;
b) Service quality standards and measures;
c) Productivity improvement strategies; and
d) The roles of human resource management practices.

National Environments and Labour Market Issues

At first glance Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia appear to provide similar environments for hoteliers. All have relative political stability, impressive economic growth and similar natural attractions. All have recently undertaken extensive tourism promotions, including governmental incentives. Indonesia has attempted self-funding in this area, with the imposition of a 2% tourism promotion surcharge on all hotel guest bills.

Promotional campaigns have, however, been relatively recent in both Indonesia (“Visit Indonesia Year”, 1992) and Malaysia (“Visit Malaysia Year”, 1991), unlike Singapore which has actively courted tourists and business travellers for decades. In addition, Singapore and Australia have had the necessary levels of tourist infrastructures (transport, communications, business and accommodation facilities) for many years. Whilst these are developing in Indonesia, and Malaysia, Singapore and Australia should have a strong competitive advantage in this respect, together with their traditional guest markets from Europe, the United Kingdom and United States.

The image of hotel occupations appears generally unfavourable in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, for similar reasons. Within Indonesia and Malaysia, however, there are regional differences, due to levels of unemployment, cultural factors and the nature of the hotels themselves. Thus resort hotels can attract staff because of their informality, and city hotels in Indonesia and Malaysia offer significant employment opportunities.

On the other hand, Singapore hotels are experiencing major shortages of employees due to high employment and strong negative perceptions of “service” industries. Australian hotels, conversely, are probably becoming more attractive to potential employees due to unemployment levels and the availability of training for hotel careers, both publicly and privately.

Work force characteristics of the hotels studied suggest some differences between countries associated with employment levels, economic conditions and image factors. High unemployment (or under-employment) levels in Australia and Indonesia have facilitated recruitment and retention in the former, and allowed overstaffing in the latter. Overstaffing in the Seaview Resort and the Jakarta International may ensure higher standards of service quality - “... the quantity of labour input.., is to a certain degree an indicator of quality of product”. (Prais, Jarvis and Wagner, 1989) - or it may merely reflect a lack of efficiency in labour usage. On the other hand, reduced staffing levels in other hotels supplemented by multiskilling and constant retraining, may result in reduced service quality or greater cost-effectiveness.

The challenge for hotels in Singapore and Australia, due to continuing higher labour costs, is to ensure comparable service quality standards despite less favourable guest: employee ratios. Maraysian hotels in the long-term may also follow this trend. Cost-reductions and productivity improvements in Australian hotels may result from more flexible working conditions, including the removal of evening and weekend penalty rates, negotiated in enterprise agreements in Australia.

Whilst Australian hotels routinely use a mixture of full-time, part-time and casual employees, the Seaview Resort, the Jakarta International, the Penang Resort and the Singapore Grand employ no part-time employees on a permanent basis.

Recent newspaper articles in Singapore (The Straits Times, 1992) suggest, however, that part-time employment may soon be common in hotels there, especially for married women and retirees. The Seaview Resort currently employs no casuals and the Penang Resort endeavours to reduce the numbers of casual employees to improve profitability. Some Australian hotels have actually increased their proportions of casuals, to allow flexibility in occupancy fluctuations and to reduce labour costs. Casuals will no doubt always be necessary, but moves towards regular casuals may serve the dual purposes of maintaining service quality and cost-reduction.

The different ages and genders of employees at the hotels studied are both interesting and important. For largely historic reasons, the employees of the Seaview Resort, the Jakarta International, the Singapore Grand and the Penang Resort are generally older than some of their counterparts in other hotels. At the Seaview Resort, average ages range between 35-45 years, with minimal turnover. Similarly employees at the Jakarta International, Singapore Grand and the Penang Resort are usually over 30.

Age and long service have been perceived by some of these hotels to result in either complacency and reduced service quality, or positively, more personalised and more mature guest service. Only the Jakarta International is taking active steps to reduce the ages of frontline staff, with the introduction of early retirement at 45 years, and the attraction of younger, female employees especially in the front office. Hotels in Australia like their European and United States counterparts, are constrained by equal employment opportunity legislation, but may benefit from consideration of a mixture of youthful and more experienced employees.

Gender balances also require examination. Whilst it is common in Australian hotels for gender segmentation in particular occupations (female employees in housekeeping, both males and females in the front office), this is not nearly as stark in the hotels studied, for both image and functional reasons.

Thus the Seaview Resort employs approximately 60% male employees, primarily in the front office and housekeeping departments. Female employees are located in the kitchens, and food and beverage department. Conversely, the Jakarta International’s employees are 85.6% female.(95% housekeeping) with some in senior management positions. The Penang Resort concentrates its female employees in housekeeping and front office, but acknowledges that this provides some difficulties, especially in the heavy work of moving furniture, bed linen and luggage. The Singapore Grand has approximately equal proportions of male and female staff, but there are “glass ceilings” for female careers.

Industrial Relations environments also differ from country to country, and regionally. Traditionally, Australia has been characterised by centralised wage- negotiations, rigid and generous employment conditions, and significant levels of industrial disputation. Recent changes however, including award restructuring and enterprise negotiations, have provided an environment for increased flexibility in employment conditions, the removal of restrictive and costly penalty rates, and performance-based pay. In Australia, employees in the hotel industry have traditionally been amongst the lowest-paid and least unionised, providing hotel management with significant opportunities for subsequent negotiations.

Unions in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are, by nature, considerably less industrially active and more controlled by their respective governments (see e.g. Aminuddin, 1990; Anantaraman, 1990). In Malaysia and Singapore unions are essentially “house” (enterprise) unions, negotiating annual or longer-term agreements with hotel management. Such agreements, at least in Singapore, are however quite comprehensive, with comparatively generous provisions (leave, family benefits, allowances), and a paternalistic emphasis. The range of non-cash benefits available to Singaporean hotel employees, designed to attract reluctant applicants, could provide a cost-effective alternative for some Australian hotels.

Service Excellence

Various writers have attempted to develop analytical models for the definition of “service”, and consequent standards, measures or behavioural criteria of service providers. As examples, Lehtinen and Lehtinen (1982) divided service quality into three distinct but integrated parts:

a) actual (physical) visible components;
b) interactive service components - functions, activities; and
c) corporate qualities, or image features.

More recently, Gronroos (1990) simplifies this as technical, functional, and image components. The American researchers, Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry (1990) have gone further to develop their SERVQUAL framework based upon client perceptions of service dimensions. SERVQUAL divides service quality into two broad realms of the tangible (physical facilities, technology) and the non tangible (human aspects of service). The latter encompasses such service - provider qualities as their reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy with guests.

Others have divided service into procedural and convivial aspects, the latter including employee attitudes, body language, paralinguistic aspects and problem- solving qualities. In terms of the relative importance of physical and human service delivery components, most researchers agree that “... the quality of the interactive service can, to at least some extent, offset minor deficiencies in the physical component of the service.., of the components that generate the ‘service mix’, the most, important is expressive performance or the conviviality of the service”. (Saleh and Ryan, 1991)

A recent British study suggests that service excellence programmes begin with attention to three basic principles:

a) emphases on service quality imply a clear guest orientation, involving market definition, regular guest feedback and upgrading strategies;
b) guest orientations require a high level of dedication and motivation by all hotel staff, clearly-focused on results; and
c) service quality programmes involve the modification of management structures and styles, with a preference for a balance between control and autonomy. (Mastenbroek in Saleh and Ryan, 1991).

These basic principles will provide a broad framework for subsequent examination of the service quality practices of the studied hotels.

Guest Orientation

All hotels in the study can identify their major guest markets, although some are in the process of either changing emphasis or the mix of services and purposes (the Penang Resort). The Singapore Grand has a well-established, mixed business and tourist, market, whilst the Seaview Resort is primarily a tourist hotel. Only the Jakarta International has consciously decided to target the specialist (and repeat) business executive market. Most hotels have a predominance of European! Australasian guests, often in the above 30 age-group.

The Jakarta International and the Penang Resort have determined clear mission statements detailing their objectives, focused on their guest markets, and integrated with their service quality initiatives. These hotels have developed quite sophisticated guest feedback systems, involving the collation and active use of guest preference data, frequent management contacts with repeat guests, cocktail parties, guest focus-groups and discussions with frontline employees. These activities reflect serious approaches to Service First philosophies. The other hotels utilise in-room questionnaires and direct guest feedback.

Both the Jakarta International and the Penang Resort have attempted to operationalise service standards by redefining job objectives, and implementing comprehensive performance management and employee communication programmes to assure service excellence. And both have recognised the physical, environmental and human aspects of service delivery. As examples, the Jakarta International is upgrading its executive suites and lobby to better reflect business guest expectations, together with the delineation of departmental service objecfives and standards. On the other hand, the Penang Resort management overtly refer to the “hardware” (physical) and “software” (human) aspects of service quality, and are both developing a functional business wing, and conducting a series of communication programmes, including “Moments of Truth”, “Service First” and “Customer Care Teams”.

Whilst neither the Seaview Resort nor the Singapore Grand have gone to such lengths, the stability of their guest markets or their relative profitability levels neither demand nor allow this. Certainly the Seaview Resort is undertaking extensive retraining and employee communication programmes, and the Singapore Grand with considerably less resources, is focusing on an active internal and external marketing strategy.

Motivation and Results Focus

As already observed, the Jakarta International and the Penang Resort are both well-advanced with employee motivation programmes, the Seaview Resort is beginning such activities, and the other hotel studied has not yet commenced them.

Different approaches have been taken by all hotels with respect to setting standards for service quality and measuring the results. Cultural advantages have been perceived in Bali, Jakarta and Penang with employee qualities of friendliness, politeness and courtesy which appear to overcome some service dificiencies. Overstaffing in these areas also helps to compensate for some difficulties with service consistency, reliability and responsiveness. The Singapore Grand has had to rely more on multi-skilling and job enlargement, coupled with training, to ensure similar service quality standards. The Seaview Resort, and the Singapore Grand have largely adopted a procedural, check-list strategy, supplemented by spot-checking and close supervision, to maintain desired standards, restricting employee creativity and at times resulting in duplication of effort.

Whilst the Jakarta International has largely relied on procedural approaches and constant monitoring by supervisors in housekeeping and front office departments, it has also begun to move towards employee “ownership” of their jobs and work areas. However, the Periang Resort has progressed considerably further towards real employee “empowerment”, focusing on the encouragement of employee self-esteem, customer care teams, and some latitude in the performance of their duties. Generic job descriptions (eg. “guest relations officer”, or “guest service agents”) at the front desk, some degree of job rotation between housekeeping and front office, and a limited amount of discretion concerning guest bill rebates and solutions to guest complaints, contribute to a feeling of empowerment. Personalised guest service and rapid resolution of complaints are given the highest priority. It should be noted here, however, that empowerment (“turning the front line loose” - Bowen and Lawler, 1992) has both positive (speed of decisions, resolution of complaints, employee and guest satisfaction) and negative (higher labour costs, guest inequities, slower service) consequences and demands sensitive, well-trained and informed employees.

Both the Penang Resort and the Jakarta International, cognisant of their business guest expectations, are keen to expand the range of services offered (packing/ un-packing luggage, butlers, complimentary cheese/port, shoe-polishing), but this inherently increases the pressure on service-providers, and is arguably exceeding rather than satisfying guest requirements. It will inevitably increase room servicing costs and ultimately room costs. Value for money considerations, and competitive prices at other hotels may constrain this spiral of services.

Management structures and styles

Hotel management structures, along European lines, have traditionally been hierarchical and segmented, with clear divisions between departments and little upward communication. Costs, inefficiencies and inflexible guest services have often been the result.

A “Service First philosophy” demands close inter-departmental relationships (especially between housekeeping and front office) and the effective inclusion of employees in some levels of decision-making and problem-solving.

Those hotels which have embraced the concept have generally aimed to reduce management levels, adopt new managerial styles and improve both horizontal and upward communication channels.

Some have removed management levels, encouraged existing managers to act as mentors, trainers and monitors, and instituted supervisor-employee meetings and hotel newsletters. As examples, the Penang Resort and the Jakarta International have attempted to adopt management styles which combine necessary control with employee involvement or empowerment, and improved existing communication channels. Quality circles and, in some instances, total quality management programmes, have been implemented to encourage employee ownership and allow for upward feedback.

The Seaview Resort, as earlier mentioned, has tried to encourage greater employee communication by conducting a series of small, work group meetings.

The hotels studied are at varying stages in their definitions of service quality, the measurement of standards and quality improvement programmes. Some have fully embraced Service First philosophies and implemented developmental programmes, others have chosen gradual rather than dramatic change processes.

Productivity Issues

The productivity of hotels in Australia and Singapore assumes crucial importance when compared with Indonesian and Malaysian competitors. As illustrated earlier, overstaffing, minimal labour costs and employment conditions, allow for more personalised guest services and significantly higher employee guest ratios. The present industrial relations climate of Australia offers opportunities for astute hoteliers to redress these imbalances, through flexible enterprise agreements and award restructuring, in the areas of penalty reductions, multi-skilling, job rotation, career management and job enlargement. The recent comparative study of British and German hotels (Prais, Jarvis and Wagner, 1989) confirms that substantial productivity improvements can be achieved by more efficient work-schedules, careful room design, technology, the substitution of self-service facilities and job enlargement. In that study British hotels were found to employ on average 0.49 employees for guest night, in colitrast to only 0.25 employees in German hotels, and yet the latter achieved productivity levels in excess of 150% of their United Kingdom competitors. In addition, despite higher labour costs in German hotels, room prices in Germany were 20% lower than in Britain.

The challenge for Australian hotels is to do more, or at least the same with less. Rising labour costs in both Singapore and Malaysia, and a chronic shortage of labour, warn of similar challenges for hotels in these countries as well. Productivity in service occupations is of course difficult to measure, and has usually been restricted in hotels to housekeeping and sales departments.

Thus, all of the hotels studied focus on standard and basic productivity ratios such as the number of rooms serviced per employee, cleaning time per room, and rooms sold: sales employee. Check-in and check-out speeds and luggage delivery times, are monitored by business hotels, but not by the resort hotels.

The rooms serviced: housekeeping employee ratio varies quite considerably, depending on staffing issues, the size and nature of rooms and/or suites, and between resort and capital city hotels. Thus the Seaview Resort presently expects 6 rooms or suites to be cleaned daily per employee, the Jakarta International requires between 8 - 12 rooms, the Singapore Grand 12, and the Penang Resort 16. Average Australian standards appear around 12-14 rooms daily. The Seaview Resort has, however, large and complex guest rooms with numerous artefacts, brass lamps, bamboo and varnished furniture. It plans to remove the brass and cultural objects in future, and thus to increase its productivity expectations. On the other hand, the Penang Resort is experiencing some resistance from its housekeeping staff due to its high productivity ratios.

Cleaning times also vary accordingly with room size, the nature of guests, and different functions. Individual sales incentives are provided in some hotels, but others regard selling as a team activity, and prefer “team allowances”. Most of the hotels measure labour costs against total room costs and prices.

Physical Environments

Of the hotels studied most had either completed, or were in the process of, upgrading their physical facilities, to better reflect guest expectations and facilitate employee productivity. Thus the Jakarta International and the Penang Resort are either developing new business wings and facilities, or replacing bathroom tiles with marble for easier cleaning. Lobbies have been redesigned to enable speedier check-in or to provide more attractive guest impressions. The Seaview Resort, and the Singapore Grand have similar development plans. Naturally the cost of such changes will preclude smaller or less profitable hotels from such drastic renovation.

Technological Change

Technological change broadly includes front office computer systems, links to other hotel departments, and in-room guest facilities. Most of the hotels studied are either concerned about the capacities, speed and linkages of their existing computer systems, or have introduced new systems. The front office computer has become the “heart” of hotel service delivery processes, with its ability to track guest sources and preferences, monitor feedback and ensure efficient room allocations, staff scheduling, cost and profit recording. It also has the capacity to assist management strategic planning, marketing and productivity improvement. Only one hotel in the study is satisfied with the capacity or speed of its present system. Frequent complaints were voiced about the inadequacy of their system to combine reservations, reception and cashier data, slowness or the inability to produce usable cost-control reports. None had the capacity to link with housekeeping systems directly.

None of the hotels yet possess in-room computers which allow guests to access their bills, hotel services, travel agents, or centrally control televisions and air conditioning. Only the Jakarta International is seriously considering the introduction of such facilities, as the other hotels feel them to be either too costly or unnecessary.

Human Resource Management (HRM) practices

However, the greatest impact on both service quality and productivity in hotels is likely to derive from efficient and effective HRM practices.

Recruitment is presently negligible in Indonesian and Malaysian hotels, but has become a crucial issue in Singapore (eg. Debrah, 1993) and Australia, in terms of both quantity and quality. Desperate situations require innovative solutions. The Singapore Grand has a comprehensive recruitment strategy, including the attraction of older employees, incentive employee referral programmes, hotel trainees from SHATEC, guest workers, and a mix of full-time, part-time, casual and “internal casual” employees. Australian hotels are in a similar situation. At least part of the solution to the staffing dilemma - ie., quantity but variable quality - may be in closer hotel management involvement in the curricula and accreditation of hotel training schools and associations.

Criteria for employee quality in all hotels needs attention as well, and this has been established in most hotels studied, through job analyses, revised job descriptions and distilled selection criteria. The Jakarta International and the Penang Resort, in particular, have designed comprehensive job analysis and selection interview systems. Most hotels suggest that skills requirements are less crucial in choosing service employees than their attitudes, behaviour or values. Cultural advantages appear to exist here in Indonesia and Malaysia.

After selection, human resource management practices which assist the achievement of overall hotel objectives, ensure effective employee performance and encourage commitment and motivation, as in all industries, are the most productive. Thus all of the hotels studied conduct regular training for all levels of employees, both on the job and externally. The Seaview Resort is endeavouring to effect culture-change and enhance employee motivation by cross-exposure training between hotel departments, regular communication meetings and supervisory monitoring programmes. Management development and succession plans are also proposed. In similar vein, and closely associated with its new corporate vision, the Jakarta International’s personnel manager sees his role as a communicator, negotiator, and monitor, giving support to supervisors in their training and development functions.

As already discussed, the Penang Resort has a comprehensive and sophisticated training and communication programme, predicated on its “Service First” and “Moments of ‘fluth” emphases. Both this hotel and the Jakarta International are exploring the effectiveness of employee “empowerment” approaches, and both have limited job enlargement and selective job rotation schemes. Neither the Seaview Resort nor the Singapore Grand have embarked on multi-skilling, job rotation or employee empowerment schemes.

Performance management systems are used at the Jakarta International and the Penang Resort, but only occasionally elsewhere. Pay for performance is not common, at lower-level, in any of the studied hotels, although senior management are often contracted.

The “Quality Maid” scheme used by some hotels increases the tasks and responsibilities of housekeeping staff, and the generic “Guest Relations Officer! Guest Service Agent” title at the Penang Resort front office, are worthy of emulation at other hotels.

Industrial relations and wage differences between hotels in the region make comparisons difficult, but the opportunities for negotiation and enterprise agreements in Australia allow innovative hotels to include some of the above practices in return for reduced remuneration levels and increased productivity.

Summary and Conclusions

This project aimed to review the approaches of a selection of five-star hotels in our nearest region, to service excellence, productivity and human resource management practice. It was to serve as a framework for a subsequent broad study of comparable Australian hotels, and ultimately to establish benchmarks for best practice.

The relatively small sample of hotels studied, and their diverse national environments and labour market features preclude comprehensive conclusions, but the study does raise several pertinent issues for all hotel managers.

All hotels in the future will need to recognise that their guest markets are constantly changing in response to international economic conditions, regional competition and governmental tourism strategies. Competition will increasingly be internal, between five, four and three star hotels, as well as regional. It is therefore crucial that each hotel continuously defines its unique features, present and future guest markets, and develops appropriate strategic marketing plans to maintain competitive advantage.

Additionally, governmental tourism strategies and industry support will be essential, in both promotional campaigns and infrastructure development. Australia and Singapore presently have advantages over Malaysia and Indonesia in both these areas, but this is likely to change rapidly in future. The Singapore Productivity 2000 movement and the Indonesian self-funding tourism promotion charge may provide useful precedents here. Malaysia and Indonesia have considerable advantages in the availability, attitudes and costs of hotel labour. Australia will require creative industrial relations strategies to realise the opportunities offered by award restructuring and enterprise agreements to redress this significant imbalance. They will undoubtedly need assistance from government and industry associations in this process.

However, as illustrated by several of the case-studies, hotel managers themselves will also need to grasp the nettle of change, involving reviews of the physical environment of their hotels, management structures and styles, definitions of service quality and productivity, their monitoring and measurement.

The physical environment is both the arena for guest service and the workplace of hotel service-providers. Thus its design should reflect both ambience and utility. This can be achieved by the involvement of hotel managers, front office and housekeeping staff at design phase as well as during subsequent renovations. Physical structures can also reflect national environments, as in Bali and Penang, or emphasise guest purposes, as in Jakarta and Singapore. Room design similarly can satisfy guest expectations as well as improve employee productivity.

Management structures appear to be changing from traditional hierarchies to leaner, service-focused, levels, improving communication with front-line employees and providing more personalised and more efficient guest service. Some hotels have removed middle-management levels, others have adopted inverted pyramid, “Service First”, structures.

Management styles inform or reflect structural changes, with the preferred mixtures of centralised and decentralised control, including, in some cases, substantial employee empowerment. Guest and employee feedback is both encouraged and actively sought in the best hotels and subsequently used to remedy problems or adapt to changing guest expectations.

The achievement of service excellence and productivity standards is ensured by integrated and comprehensive human resource management practices, including effective recruitment techniques; training and development programmes; appraisals, incentive and reward schemes; job enlargement and niulti-skilling systems.

The most successful hotels in this study appear to be those which have clear visions, dynamic marketing strategies, comprehensive guest service and employee satisfaction systems, regardless of national environment.

* These names are fictitious to protect the confidentiality of the hotels studied

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