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Employee Empowerment in the European Cultural Context: Findings from the Hotel Industry by Antonios K. Klidas IRIC, The Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation Tilburg University
Research Background ¨ Financed by the European Commission in the context of the Training and Mobility of Researchers Programme (TMR) – Marie Curie Fellowships ¨ Hosted by the Department of Leisure Studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands ¨ Started in November 1997 ended in April 2001
Research Aim To provide an understanding of the concept of empowerment within the five-star hotel industry and examine the implications of applying the concept in the international, crosscultural context within Europe.
Main Concepts ¨ Empowerment of (customer-contact) employees in Hospitality defined as: “The notion of devolving decision-making authority and responsibility to frontline employees for control and enhancement of service quality and customer satisfaction. ” ¨ National Culture defined as: “The collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” (Hofstede, 1991)
The cultural relativity of empowerment ¨ Propositions about organisation: - Flat structure Low centralisation Low formalisation BUT: Is this likely in large power distance and strong uncertainty avoiding cultures?
The cultural relativity of empowerment ¨ Propositions about leadership: - Employees demand participation Employees wilfully accept responsibility Employees independent in thinking and acting Leaders share power, delegate ¨ BUT: Is this likely in large power distance and strong uncertainty avoiding cultures?
The cultural relativity of empowerment ¨ Propositions about motivation: - Self-actualisation as top motivator Satisfaction from increased autonomy, responsibility and self-direction ¨ BUT: Is this likely in strong uncertainty avoiding cultures?
The cultural relativity of empowerment ¨ Propositions about employee behaviour: - Creativity and innovative behaviour Risk taking (decision-making, initiative) (Creative) rule-breaking ¨ BUT: Is this likely in strong uncertainty avoiding cultures?
Research Design ¨ Research in 16 upscale hotels of a single (US) hotel-company in 7 EU countries ¨ Qualitative part: - Interviews with HR, FO and F&B Managers - Some (participant) observation ¨ Quantitative part: Survey among customer-contact employees in FO and F&B outlets (personal administration)
Sample Country (No. of hotels) Employee survey (n) Interviews England (5) 81 15 Sweden (1) 20 3 Netherlands (2) 38 5 Italy (4) 192 13 Greece (1) 13 2 Portugal (1) 30 2 Belgium (2) 53 5+1 Total: 427 46
Findings ¨ ¨ Southern Europe Low delegation Lower levels of “empowered behaviour” Low intensity of training, mostly on the job. Less open communication (taking place informally) ¨ Less willingness to share information ¨ ¨ ¨ Northern Europe High delegation Higher levels of “empowered behaviour” More extensive, intensive and formal training More open communication (many formal processes for upward communication) Systematically sharing information
Findings (continued…) ¨ ¨ Southern Europe Imposed equal compensation according to seniority and rank Mainly local, sporadic recruitment Very low labour turnover – very experienced workforce Rigid regulatory framework Northern Europe ¨ Merit pay allowed, but restricted to incentives ¨ International, intensive recruitment ¨ High labour turnover – less experienced workforce ¨ More flexible regulatory framework
Conclusions ¨ The notion of empowerment more readily embraced in N. Europe compared to S. Europe ¨ Different cultural context, which seems to influence employee empowerment ¨ Considerably different environmental context (e. g. regulatory framework, labour market, business environment), generally favouring empowerment in the north
Implications for management ¨ Need for local understanding not only of visible, but also invisible factors ¨ Need for empowerment initiatives to consider and adapt to national context ¨ Empowerment not incompatible with non-Anglo. Saxon cultures ¨ Empowerment process: - In the north can rely on formal processes - In the south cannot rely as much on formal processes, management style is crucial
A final word of caution… Empowerment, just as many existing theories (e. g. organisation, management, HRM) are strongly Anglo-Saxon in origin and perspective
Antonis K. Klidas Employee Empowerment in the European Hotel Industry: Meaning, Process and Cultural Relativity Amsterdam: Thela Thesis
Σας ευχαριστώ πολύ. . . (Thank you very much…)