Appreciation, growth opportunities and job security motivate hospitality industry workers

Photo of a woman making pizza

By Shannon Mustard

With 10 per cent of the Canadian population employed by the hospitality and tourism industry, it's important to maintain employee motivation - especially during the down season. The biggest challenge in the hospitality industry is attracting and retaining good quality workers. Researchers believe if employers can understand what motivates and drives their employees, they may be able to attract and retain their employees for a longer period of time.

Prof. William Murray, School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management, has focused much of his research on employee motivation within the hospitality industry. He was curious early in his career to know how supervisors and managers could tap into their employee's motivation. In his research, hospitality employees were asked to rank a series of job rewards in order of importance to them. Of these factors, money, job security, receiving appreciation, and having growth opportunities were listed as the factors that employees cared about most.

Knowing more about what drives employees can be very useful for employers. Supervisors can make sure that they remain attentive of their employee’s feelings towards certain factors (wage, growth opportunities) and they can attempt to create working conditions that will appeal towards their workers. Managers and supervisors can present their employees with growth opportunities through clear communication about future positions and promotional possibilities.

Employee motivation may also come from the simplest form of appreciation – acknowledging someone’s hard work. Supervisors can acknowledge their employees work achievements in ways that best suit their personality (introvert versus extrovert). Overall, employees feel motivated to work hard when they know that someone appreciates the work they’re putting forward.

One method that Murray used to better understand employee motivation is the Hygiene Motivator Theory. The theory explains that there are group of factors that can improve satisfaction in an employee if they are present - such as achievement and recognition, while there is a separate set of factors that influence dissatisfaction if they are absent, like salary, status and security.

“If you aren’t getting paid enough then you’ll complain but if you are getting paid enough, you don’t go running around thinking I’m going to work 10 times harder,” he says.

In his most recent study, Murray surveyed over 400 hotel employees at all levels of the hotel industry, from frontline staff to managers. Murray has conducted the study three times and found that the top motivation factors have remained somewhat consistent throughout all three studies. He will be presenting his finding at the upcoming Council of Hospitality Management Educators Conference this spring at Bournemouth University.

Researching in the field of human resource and talent management, Murray has also collaborated on projects with Profs. Julia Christensen Hughes, Dean of the College of Business and Economics and Statia Elliot, Director of the School of Hospitality, Food and Management.

This research study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.