RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
IN HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

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Chen, L. & Wallace, M. (2011). Multiskilling of Frontline Managers in the Five Star Hotel Industry in Taiwan, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 19(1), 25-37.

Multiskilling of Frontline Managers in the Five Star Hotel Industry in Taiwan

LiCheng Chen & Michelle Wallace

Abstract

Multiskilling in the context of a number of countries has been identified as significantly improving service quality, retention, job satisfaction, remuneration and promotion. The Taiwanese hotel industry suffers a labour skills deficiency and multiskilling the existing workforce is one way to address this, however, there is little research that explores this issue in the Taiwanese context. This exploratory research, a survey of a sample of five star hotels, finds that multiskilling training for frontline managers has been adopted by the majority of these hotels and three beneficial factors are positively correlated with multiskilling, with service quality as the most important. The other significant factors are retention and job satisfaction. Remuneration and promotion are found to have a non significant relationship with multiskilling. The findings suggest that multiskilling within a positive employment relationship, where remuneration and promotion are taken into account, especially in relation to the largely female workforce, could help hotels reduce high turnover rates of staff thus, establishing a stable and multiskilled workforce in the hotel industry in Taiwan. These observations have implications and consequences for human resource management (HRM) policies and practices in the Taiwanese context specifically, and more generally in the hotel industry.

Introduction

Human resource (HR) development plays an important role in developing the skills of workers in organisations in order to improve productivity and international competitiveness. A well trained, multiskilled workforce has been identified as contributing to the economic success of an organisation through cost reduction and/ or increased productivity (Holland & Deery 2002, Stone 2005). The introduction of multiskilling training programmes can thus be a strategic HR development tool to increase the effectiveness of the workforce. A workforce multiskilled through job enlargement, job enrichment, job rotation and cross training (Cordery, Sevastos, Mueller, & Parker 1993, Brusco & Johns 1998) can enable organisations, including hotels, to cope with the seasonal or peak time labour requirements and increased competition for high levels of service (De Cieri & Kramar 2005).

According to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau (2009), the hotel industry in Taiwan is still in a growth stage with plans for hotel expansion. For example, applications for the construction of seven new tourist hotels with a total investment of NT$5.8 billion (AUD$200 million) were approved in 2009 (Tourism Bureau 2009). This indicates that a wide range of jobs will be available, especially entry level jobs (e.g., housekeeping and waitressing) and frontline manager roles (e.g., supervisors and assistant managers). This ultimately creates many job opportunities, especially for those who possess requisite skills related to the hotel industry. However, it is expected that once a new hotel opens many positions for frontline and middle level managers will be filled by semiskilled, inexperienced people because of the tight labour market (Yang 2007).

The expansion of hotels in Taiwan and demand for labour are expected to lead to significant labour market risks, which have the potential to affect productivity. For example, in 2004 the Taiwanese hotel industry required about 686,000 workers and the industry is expected to require about 817,000 workers by 2011 (Wu & Chen 2002). However, the hospitality vocational schools only supply about 28,000 trained workers each year (Wu & Chen 2002). These factors indicate a serious shortfall in qualified staff for the hotel industry in Taiwan. More importantly, the hotel industry in Taiwan has reached the highest voluntary turnover rate of all Taiwanese industries rate of 95.1 per cent (DGBAS 2009). This impacts on the performance and profitability of hotels, as a high level of service delivery cannot be sustained by inexperienced staff in accordance with a service profit chain model (Heskett, Jones, Loveman, Sasser, & Schlesinger 1994, Warech & Tracey 2004). It is, therefore, suggested that strategic HR management of multiskilling is one solution, which could be promoted to mobilise employees in the internal labour market (Harrell-Cook 2002, Okumus 2008).

The exploratory research reported here investigates the prevalence of multiskilling in the upper segment of the hotel industry in Taiwan, explores perceptions of the relationship of multiskilling of front line mangers in hotels with a number of beneficial organisational and individual factors, namely service quality, retention, job satisfaction, remuneration, and promotion. The significance of these factors is discussed from the perspective of HRM practices, especially in relation to the demographics of the survey sample.

Previous Literature and Hypotheses

Multiskilling in Hotels

Davids (2004) has defined multiskilling as the acquisition of skills, knowledge, competency and experiences, which develops and enables the individual to perform tasks outside the immediate job requirements. Multiskilling provides the organisation with a flexible and adaptable employee, and creates a skills pool of human resources. Multiskilling also has been recognised as an important tool to cope with environmental changes, economic success, improved productivity and profit margins, and lower levels of turnover (Marchante, Ortega, & Pagan 2006). Functional flexibility thus, plays a key role in responding to the continuing changes with full time employees, while numerical flexibility provides the ability of meet the influx of needs at peak times by allowing seasonal employment with part time or casual employees (Lai & Baum 2005). More importantly, a simultaneous combination of the two forms of labour flexibility is believed to provide greater competitiveness of labour utilisation strategies for luxury hotels (Kelliher & Riley 2002).

Labour flexibility (via multiskilling) in all aspects of the employment relationship has provided organisations with the capability to match the supply and demand for labour more closely and thus achieve more efficiency in the management of labour (Kelliher & Riley 2002). Flexible work arrangements can thus, be achieved by allowing the employment of workers under variable conditions, for different purposes and periods, and with quite disparate expectations (Nankervis, Compton, & Baird 2008). In addition, such flexibility allows for savings in labour costs and reduces staff numbers by not having to fill every job vacancy (Kelliher & Riley 2002). Lucas (2004) stresses that labour flexibility (via multiskilling) is able to provide many benefits, including cost reduction, improved worker motivation, greater teamwork, and improved service quality.

The goals of multiskilling are related to job enlargement (wider range of job tasks), rotation, and enrichment (more complexity of tasks) (Campling, Poole, Wiesner, & Schermerhorn 2006). Horizontal job enlargement adds more challenges or new responsibilities to an individual’s current job from simple tasks ( De Cieri, Kramar, Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright 2008). The individual can also be horizontally rotated from one functional area or department to another over the course of time for the development of job experiences. Such rotation is a way to develop an individual’s skills to close skills gap for a job that remains vacant or is a mismatch for existing skills (De Cieri, et al. 2008). The job content of enrichment, on the other hand, vertically adds more decision making authority to an individual’s current job which involves more complexity and meaningfulness in job tasks (De Cieri, et al. 2008).

There are also less positive aspects to multiskilling. Clark (1989) has concluded that the main barriers of introducing multiskilling are the high costs of training, possible loss of newly up skilled employees to other employers, and short term disruptions to production during training. It is true that the hospitality industry displays one of the lowest levels of training activity in developed economies (Jameson 2000), so multiskilled workers are in high demand (Dewhurst, Dewhurst, & Liveesey 2007). Although the evaluation of the benefits and costs of skills training is a complex issue, multiskilling in other countries contexts has been identified as significantly increasing quality of service, high retention, job satisfaction, remuneration, and promotion (Huang & Cullen 2001, Kelliher & Riley 2002, Lucas 2004, Knox & Walsh 2005, Matias-Reche & Fuentes-Fuentes 2006).

A Positive Employment Relationship Within Multiskilling

Just as multiskilling can enhance an employee’s knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), the attitude of an employee determines the output of service performance in relation to assigned tasks (Tesone 2008, Wilton 2008). A positive employment relationship can influence a higher level of service delivery because an employee’s behaviour is dependent on their fair treatment in the employment relationship in regard to remuneration and career prospects ( Lucas 2004, Koutromanis 2008). The hotel industry now comprises young workers with higher education attainments who have growth needs for ongoing training and development and need the freedom to participate in decision making (Campling, et al. 2006). Therefore, labour flexibility (via multiskilling) along with a positive employment relationship has the potential to help five star hotels in Taiwan manage the shortage of qualified workers in a difficult labour market. Indeed, this can lower voluntary staff turnover, and increase service quality by influencing employee attitudes, behaviour and work effort in the hotel industry (Tesone 2008, Tracy, Way, & Tews 2008).

Adoption of Multiskilling

By adopting multiskilling, organisations can benefit from increased service quality and retention, while individuals can benefit from job satisfaction, remuneration, and promotion. However, there is little or no research evidence regarding whether multiskilling in the Taiwanese hotel industry exists and, if so, what might be its perceived benefits. The first hypothesis addressed the existence of multiskilling.

Hypothesis 1: Multiskilling of frontline managers occurs in the hotel industry in Taiwan.

Beneficial Factors of Multiskilling

Baum (2006) has stressed that multiskilling provides employees with capabilities to cope with ongoing restructuring and evolutionary change in relation to service quality in the hospitality industry as it enables employees to reshape the range of services they offer. Yang (2007) has also stressed that employees must be flexible enough to provide a variety of services in response to customer inquiries and to meet customer expectations as today’s consumption style is mainly dominated by consumer experiences in the service sector (Pine & Gilmore 1999). In a world of increasingly discerning customers, service providers have been required to deliver consistently higher levels of service to their loyal customers. Although quality of service is hard to measure and predict, ongoing skills training is believed to hone skills and enable employees to deliver such consistently higher levels of service (Eaglen, Lashley, & Thomas 2000). Therefore, service quality was the second hypothesis proposed for this study as follows:

Hypothesis 2: The presence of multiskilled frontline managers in the hotel industry in Taiwan is associated with a high level of service delivery.

As the purpose of multiskilling aims to respond to workplace change with improved labour flexibility, multiskilled workers exhibit lower turnover levels than those with single skills. That is, labour saving technical change is advantageous to multiskilled workers because they are able to move from one job to another as technical change occurs or market demand shifts (Carmichael & MacLeod 1993). Griggs and Hyland (2002) have also stressed that multiskilled workers are able to adapt and respond to ongoing changes faced by an organisation because their employability is sustained. These outcomes result from the benefits of multiskilling, which provides workers with the identification of generic skills and adjustment of pay scales to recognise multiskilling (Holland & De Cieri 2006). Given that training for multiskilling encourages employees to stay longer in hotels, the following hypothesis was proposed.

Hypothesis 3: The presence of multiskilled front line managers in the hotel industry in Taiwan is associated with staff retention.

From an employee’s point of view, job satisfaction can be one of the greater benefits of a multiskilling approach (Clark 1989). Multiskilling is thus, an important factor to satisfy qualified workers because it gives them challenges with regard to job content and levels of responsibility. Many well educated employees come to work not only for monetary rewards, but also because they have the desire to work in jobs that are interesting and offer variety and learning opportunities (Wong, Siu, & Tsang 1999). This observation means that the job content of rotation, enlargement, or enrichment is built upon the factors of motivation in which they combine multiskills (multitasks) and meaningful assignments (Stone 2005). These multiskilling efforts represent a reaction to job specialisation, which involves simple and repetitive tasks that do not require broad knowledge or skills (Kim & Park 2003). Job satisfaction is, therefore, a beneficial factor proposed in this study, as predicted in hypothesis four.

Hypothesis 4: The presence of multiskilled front line managers in the hotel industry in Taiwan is associated with job satisfaction.

Clark (1989) has stressed that multiskilling can offer opportunities for increased rates of pay. De Cieri and Kramar (2005) have also stressed that in the establishment of skill related career paths, training must link to pay scales. This contention shows that although multiskilling is able to cut costs through job elimination, multiskilled workers must receive higher wages than their single skilled counterparts (Cordery 1987, Kelliher, Riley & Jones 2000) because they are able to deliver broad based efficiencies to an organisation rather than their single skilled counterparts. In addition, job satisfaction, discussed above, relies mainly on pay levels and benefits (Fong & Shaffer 2003). It is believed that low pay is a major reason for employees changing the employment, even though lack of career structure and benefits may appear to be of even more importance (ILO 2001). The importance of an ascending pay scale therefore becomes the fifth hypothesis in this study as follows:

Hypothesis 5: The presence of multiskilled frontline managers in the hotel industry in Taiwan is associated with increased rates of pay.

Clark (1989) has stressed that multiskilling can establish skill related career paths, which provide an incentive for employees to continue to participate in skills development. Up skilling and multiskilling aims to develop a broader level of knowledge of familiar principles and processes, and, therefore greater opportunities for promotion ‘open up’ for employees as a result of this training (Clark 1989). Lam, Zhang, and Baum (2001) have also stressed that from a strategic point of view hotels should focus on training and development for employees to improve their promotional prospects. On the job training with technical skills as well as off the job training in supervision and management for supervisory employees is important to enhance competency and ‘promotability’ (Lam, et al. 2001). As upward career progression may be a result of multiskilling, promotion becomes an important factor for this study.

Hypothesis 6: The presence of multiskilled front line managers in the hotel industry in Taiwan is associated with increased promotion.

Methodology

Participants

The participants for the survey were front line managers in the Taiwan hotel industry. This group of workers ranged from those with job titles of ‘Supervisors’ and ‘Assistant Managers’ who worked in the departments of the front office, restaurant, and housekeeping sections. The sampling scale focused on Taiwan’s five star hotels in its two major cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung, because it was considered that these hotels would be more likely to invest more in training as a quality measure.

Procedure

Mail Questionnaire Survey

A mail questionnaire was used for this research, as it is the most common method to survey members of an organisation and gains a higher response rate than online surveys (Zikmund 2003). In addition, as little is known about multiskilling in the Taiwanese hotel industry, a broad exploratory survey was deemed appropriate to gain information (Frazer & Lawley 2000). Thus, identifying whether or not multiskilling occurred in the hotel industry in Taiwan was the first research question in the exploratory survey. The survey was then designed to address the hypotheses that examined the relationship between the training for multiskilling and the delineated beneficial factors.

Pilot Survey

The first step was the pilot survey and the second step is the main survey. A pilot survey was an important step to pretest the draft of the questionnaire before conducting the main survey (Zikmund 2003). The pilot survey was conducted in the months of September to October 2008 and the responses for the pilot survey were satisfactory. The quality of the pilot survey was assured by the process of questionnaire review by academic experts and previous hotel colleagues before conducting the survey. The purpose of calling on colleagues in the hotel industry was to ensure the survey met the level of understanding of respondents, as well as to avoid jargon and to maintain simplicity (Ticehurt & Veal 2000). As the respondents were Taiwanese, English language was translated into Mandarin by the researcher and was reviewed and back translated by a language expert. Some English words needed to be expressed more precisely in Mandarin so the survey was refined linguistically.

Main Survey

The main survey was conducted during the months of November through the late December 2008. There are thirty five, five star hotels in Taiwan (Tourism Bureau 2009) and twelve (34 per cent) agreed to participate in this research. Three hundred and fifty surveys were distributed and one hundred and twenty returned. This sampling ratio of about 34 per cent met to the small population requirement of about 30 per cent (Neuman 2004). The participants were approached and invited to participate in the main survey through the human resource managers of the participating hotels. The managers were asked to distribute the questionnaire survey to their front line managers within the departments of front office, restaurant, and housekeeping, and to collect the returned survey in a sealed envelope. The managers were asked to not look at the responses of the survey, as they were confidential, but simply to gather sealed envelopes and return them to the researcher. The researcher covered the costs of postage to encourage compliance.

Measurement

A five point response scale was used to measure the opinion of respondents: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree. In the factor analysis, Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used to subtract factors that have similar high loadings. The internal reliability of the scale with a criterion of 0.70 demonstrates the internal consistence of the items (Hair, Anderson, Tatham, and Black 1998).

The Adoption of Multiskilling for Front Line Managers

The adoption of multiskilling for front line managers was measured by the answer to two questions asked in the survey and deemed appropriate for an exploratory survey (Frazer & Lawley 2000). Two questions were: ‘Have you had skills training activities that enable you to work in different functional areas (departments)?’ and ‘Have you had skills training activities that enable you to work with diverse tasks inside your functional area (department)?’.

Multiskilling Variable

This measure consisted of five items and loaded on a single factor. Those items included ‘Since I have become multiskilled organisational productivity has increased’; ‘At my hotel, we eliminate practices that stand in the way of achieving results’; ‘My hotel has high performance standard’; ‘This hotel implements change quickly enough’; and ‘Hotel has made significant improvements in the way we do our jobs within the past six months’ (Metrick 2005) The coefficient alpha was 0.77.

Service Quality Variable

This measure consisted of five items and loaded on a single factor. Those items included ‘I perform the service right the first time’; ‘When a customer has a problem, I always show a sincere interest in solving it’; ‘I have knowledge to answer customer’s questions’; ‘I am effective in producing high quality work’; and ‘I always give customer personal attention’ (Hill & Alexander 2006). The coefficient alpha was 0.76.

Retention Variable

This measure consisted of five items and loaded on a single factor. Those items included ‘I see myself working for this hotel three years from now’; ‘I am proud to be part of this hotel’; ‘I am committed to staying with this hotel’; ‘I believe I will stay in the hotel because multiskilling training has provided me with interesting tasks’; and ‘My hotel is able to retain quality employees’ (Connolly & Connolly 2005). The coefficient alpha was 0.86.

Job Satisfaction Variable

This measure consisted of five items and loaded on a single factor. Those items included ‘My job makes good use of my skills and ability’; ‘I am given opportunities to improve my skills and knowledge in this hotel’; ‘I am doing something I consider satisfying in my job’; ‘The link between what I do and the hotel’s objectives makes my job worthwhile’; and ‘I really feel I accomplish something each day’ (Connolly & Connolly 2005). The coefficient alpha was 0.80.

Remuneration Variable

This measure consisted of five items and loaded on a single factor. Those items included ‘This hotel pays me fairly for the multiskilled work I do’; ‘This hotel provides appropriate salaries considering duties and responsibilities’; “My total pay is fairly compared to others’ in this hotel”; ‘I am compensated fairly in relation to similar work in another hotel’; and ‘I understand how my pay is determined’ (Connolly & Connolly 2005). The coefficient alpha was 0.86.

Promotion Variable

This measure consisted of five items and loaded on a single factor. Those items included ‘I am satisfied with my opportunities for promotion’; ‘I believe multiskilling training I have received increases my chance to my promotion’; ‘I believe my career aspirations can be achieved at this hotel’; ‘As the result of my multiskilling, this hotel recognises my contribution with promotion’; and ‘I am aware of the career opportunities throughout the hotel’ (Connolly & Connolly 2005). The coefficient alpha was 0.90.

Results

Table 1 shows the majority of respondents were female (71.7 per cent) and 83 per cent of them were aged between 20 and 39 years of age. The data also indicates that 70.8 per cent of the respondents were supervisors and 29.2 per cent of the respondents were assistant managers. The majority of the respondents came from the restaurant department (53.3 per cent), followed by the front office department (24.2 per cent) and the housekeeping department (22.5 per cent). In relation to education, 30 per cent has their highest qualification as their high school diploma, however 61 per cent had a college or university degree and 7.5 per cent a masters degree. Over 50 per cent of the respondents had experienced skills training activities for multiskilling both within their functional area and across other functional areas the first hypothesis (H1) is supported. This exploratory study has thus identified that the five star hotel industry in Taiwan appears to have adopted multi skilling for their front line managers, such as supervisors and assistant managers.

Table 1
Demographics of survey respondents % (N = 120)
Variable Category
Gender Male 28.3
Female 71.7
Age 20 to 29 years 33.3
30 to 39 years 50.0
Over 40 years 16.7
Position Supervisors 70.8
Assistant managers 29.2
Department Front office 24.2
Restaurant 53.3
Housekeeping 22.5
Academic qualification High school 30.8
2 and 5 years college 29.2
Bachelor 32.5
Master 7.5

Adoption of Multiskilling

The results in Table 2 indicate that 74 respondents (61.67 per cent) of the total 120 respondents had experienced skills training activities for multiskilling within their functional area and across other functional areas. Table 2 provides a summary of the adoption of multiskilling for front line managers.

Table 2
Adoption of multiskilling
Deemed trained
respondents
Deemed non trained
respondents
Total valid
respondents
Skills training for within
functional area (department)
105 15 120
Skills training for within and across
other functional areas (departments)
74 46 120

Correlation Analysis

The results of correlation matrix among the variables in Table 3 indicate that all proposed variables had a positive relationship and were significantly correlated, at the p < 0.01 level. The results indicate that multiskilling was related to service quality (r = 0.53), retention (r = 0.58), job satisfaction (r = 0.62), remuneration (r = 0.30), and promotion (r = 0.47).

Table 3
Correlation matrix (N = 120)
Mean S.D. 1 2 3 4 5 6
1. Service quality 4.00 0.50 0.76
2. Retention 3.60 0.74 0.43** 0.86
3. Job satisfaction 3.91 0.49 0.55** 0.72** 0.80
4. Remuneration 3.36 0.70 0.15 0.59** 0.47** 0.86
5. Promotion 3.51 0.75 0.32** 0.72** 0.66** 0.61** 0.90
6. Multiskilling 3.93 0.54 0.53** 0.58** 0.62** 0.39** 0.46** 0.77

Notes: a. The bold values on the diagonal are the reliabilities.
b. *p < 0.05 level and ** p < 0.01 level (2-tailed).

A Standard Multiple Linear Regression (SMLR) was performed between multiskilling as the dependent variable and service quality, retention, job satisfaction, remuneration, and promotion as independent variables for the front line managers. The results in Table 4 indicate that 43.5 per cent of variance in multiskilling could be explained by a set of the five combined independent variables for the front line managers, as the ANOVA test result was significant with F = 20.685, at the p < 0.001 level.

Table 4
Regression analysis
Independent variables Unstandardised
coefficients
Standardised
coefficients
t Sig. p <
B SE B
F test 20.685***
R square adjusted .453 .39628
N = 120
Constant .769 .355 2.168 .032
Service quality .295 .089 .274** 3.296 .001
Retention .159 .083 .220 1.899 .060
Job satisfaction .311 .123 .283* 2.527 .013
Remuneration .082 .069 .107 1.185 .238
Promotion -.023 .077 -.032 -.295 .768

Notes: a. Dependent variable is multiskilling, and Sig. = significant level.
b. Retention variable is regarded as at marginal and significant level.
c. * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.

The results in Table 4 also report that two independent variables: service quality (accounts for 27.4 per cent of the total variance), and job satisfaction (accounts for 28.3 per cent of the total variance), were significant at the p < 0.05 level. In addition, retention (accounts for 22 per cent of the total variance) was marginally significant at the p = 0.06 level. This result indicates that these three independent variables had a positive and significant relationship with multiskilling. However, remuneration and promotion were at the p > 0.05 level, which appears to have a non significant relationship with multiskilling.

All beneficial variables have the higher value of mean scores, which indicates that training for multiskilling has a strong influence on the front line manager’s contribution and perception. By comparing to the mean scores, the results show that service quality is the great benefit of multiskilling, followed by job satisfaction, retention, promotion, and remuneration. This result shows that multiskilling relates strongly to quality enhancement for human resource development practice in the Taiwanese hotel industry.

The results of the regression analysis demonstrate that training for multiskilling offers a significant improvement to help hotels cope with the difficult labour market, particularly the high turnover rate of staff. In this study, five beneficial variables, namely service quality, retention, job satisfaction, remuneration, and promotion, were proposed together to examine their relationships with training for multiskilling for the front line managers. This set of the five variables has a significant relationship with the training for multiskilling and accounts for 45.3 per cent of the total variance.

The second hypothesis (H2) stated that the presence of multiskilled front line managers is associated with a perception of a high level of service delivery in the hotel industry in Taiwan. The result shows that service quality has a positive and significant relationship with the training for multiskilling and accounts for 27.4 per cent of the total variance. This finding confirms the findings of prior studies that multiskilling can facilitate a greater understanding of different departments’ processes, priorities, and problems as a result of improving service quality (Kelliher, et al. 2000). It may thus, be deduced that multiskilled employees are able to respond promptly to the individual needs of the increasingly demanding customer under unpredictable service situations (Klidas, Van Den Berg, & Wilderom 2007).

The third hypothesis (H3) relates to a perception of staff retention. The result shows that retention is marginally significant for multiskilling and accounts for 22 per cent of the total variance. The finding also confirms prior studies that job enrichment and rotation programmes can increase retention of employees, and thereby reduce turnover (Knox & Nickson 2007). It can be deduced that multiskilling provides opportunities for employees to learn new skills and gain wider experience, which can motivate them to stay as well as preempt any decisions to leave for development reasons (Kelliher & Riley 2003).

The fourth hypothesis (H4) relates to job satisfaction of front line managers. The results show that job satisfaction has a positive and significant relationship with the training for multiskilling and accounts for 28.3 per cent of the total variance. The finding is also supported by prior studies that job enrichment and job rotation can satisfy employees by increasing their abilities through skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback (Spillane 2001, Garg & Rastogi 2006). It can be inferred that the increase in job satisfaction is because of a variety of work tasks are involved, which improves the quality of an employee’s working life by reducing monotony and repetition (Kelliher & Riley 2003).

The fifth hypothesis (H5) relates to remuneration and the sixth hypothesis (H6) relates to promotion. Both hypotheses are unsupported in this study, as both results are non significant at the p > 0.05 level. These are contrary to some studies in western countries like Australia, where multiskilling is highly associated with higher levels of remuneration and advanced career opportunities (Baum & Odgers 2001, Knox & Walsh 2005, De Cieri, et al. 2008).

Discussion

There were two objectives for this study. The first objective was to identify whether multiskilling occurs in the hotel industry in Taiwan. The second objective was to investigate the relationship between the existence of multiskilling and beneficial factors for the front line managers. The demographic data indicates that female employees in their 20s and 30s are predominant at the middle level, front line positions of the Taiwanese hotel industry. More importantly, they are well educated, which is the result of higher education policy in Taiwan. From the results it can be extrapolated that these women have high expectations of career advancement and increased remuneration as well as offering high quality service and enjoying job stability and satisfaction.

The existence of multiskilled front line managers is significantly associated with the three beneficial variables of increased service quality, retention, and job satisfaction. The findings show that increased attention to multiskilling may help the managers of Taiwanese hotels to deal with the problem of high turnover rate of staff. More importantly, multiskilling training can increase service quality, which is a key factor to enable hotels in competing within the hotel industry. However, remuneration and promotion were not significant in this study. This indicates that multiskilled front line managers do not appear to enjoy higher levels of remuneration and expected career progression in this level of the Taiwanese hotel industry. An inference of this study is that the managers of the hotels could pay more attention to the remuneration and promotion needs of multiskilled employees, lest they leave to seek better employment opportunities and financial rewards. This may be especially pertinent to the majority who are female, relatively youthful with many years of employment ahead of them and well educated.

There are boundary conditions to this study. The sampling frame in the selection of five star hotels may not represent the hotel industry as a whole. For example, three to four star hotels might not perceive multiskilling as a feasible investment for their employees as they might not have suitable plans or budgets for training activities. Quantitative research with three and four star hotels across the country and interviews with employees, front line mangers as well as with HRM officers in a range of hotels would add to the findings analysed here. In addition, more detailed research probing job design for multiskilled staff would add to the picture developed through this exploratory study.

As multiskilling enables hotels to cope with an uncertain service environment as well as to enhancing the employability of employees, a further study could identify which party has mostly driven the training for multiskilling. Multiskills formation incurs costs so a further study could investigate the responsibility of parties for multiskills training planning, implementation, and return on investment. It would also be instructive to further research the skills development and career aspirations of the majority of women working at front line management levels in the Taiwanese hotel industry.

Conclusion

This study draws two practical conclusions that are helpful for hotel managers in Taiwan. The first is that multiskilling relates more strongly to quality enhancement for the human resource practice in the Taiwanese hotel context. The second conclusion is that a positive employment relationship is one way to retain employees and influences their attitudes, leading to increased service quality, performance and profits. Consequently, a high turnover rate of staff in the Taiwanese hotel industry can be reduced, as employees are both developed to be multiskilled and satisfied with work content and career prospects in the workplace.

The findings have many important implications for the hotel managers in Taiwan. As little scholarly evidence appears in the area of multiskilling in the Taiwanese hotel industry, this exploratory study has demonstrated that multiskilling has been applied in some five star Taiwanese hotels for a better competitive advantage. Multiskilling is a cost effective, labour utilisation strategy used to increase a high level of service quality, as service quality factor was positive. The findings also imply that hotel managers could more effectively retain multiskilled employees by implementing a positive employment relationship based around fair remuneration and career prospects for multiskilled employees with a perspective on workplace diversity. Further consideration of pay scales and career prospects that recognise multiskilling and its contribution to the organisational performance could further help hotel managers in Taiwan to establish a stable and qualified multiskilled workforce.

Authors

LiCheng Chen completed her Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) at Southern Cross University, Australia. She teaches hospitality at the University of Tajen, Taiwan. This paper draws on her Doctoral research findings, which are of great relevance to the Taiwanese context.

Email: l.chen.25@scu.edu.au

Michelle Wallace, PhD, is Associate Professor of HR in the Southern Cross University Business School. Her current research involves attraction and retention, skilled migration, women in middle management and international/transnational teaching and learning. She supervises theses in Australian and Asian contexts.

Email: michelle.wallace@scu.edu.au

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