A Study of the Association Between Occupational Communities and ‘Propensity to Quit’ amongst Hotel Workers

 

Darren Lee-Ross

College of Business, Law and Governance, James Cook University, Smithfield Cairns, Australia

 

 

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this paper was to develop an instrument to measure Occupational Communities and the relationship between them and workers’ potential to quit their jobs (PTQ).  One-hundred and fifty-nine surveys were collected from staff working in three large five-star hotels in North Queensland, Australia.  Using exploratory factor analysis and multiple regression the instrument and model-fit was acceptable.  Most Occupational Community dimensions and their association with PTQ were significant and in the predicted direction.  Hotel managers need to acknowledge the presence of OCs and their dimensions.  The study of Occupational Communities as a culture in practice is an area requiring more research; this project helps to address that position.  A new instrument will assist future efforts in gaining a fuller understanding of this phenomenon.

Key Words: Occupational Communities, Hotels, Labour Turnover

 

INTRODUCTION

High levels of labour turnover are a perennial feature of the hotel industry (see Blomme, Tromp and van Rheede, 2010; and Davidson, Timo and Wang, 2010).  Some reasons advanced for this situation include the response of employers due to seasonal variation in demand (Atkinson, 1984), characteristics of employees (Wood, 1992; Ball, 1998 and Lee-Ross, 1996) and poor working conditions dominated by casual and short-term part-time employment opportunities (Timo and Davidson, 1999; and Baum, 2008).  Furthermore, others report a despotic non-supportive management style typified by and autocratic ‘hire and fire’ approach to human resource management (McGunnigle and Jameson, 2000; and Timo and Davidson, 2005).  Interestingly, several studies suggest the relationship between labour turnover and job satisfaction is counter-intuitive.  That is, the association between the two variables is positive (Chitiris, 1986; and Riley, Lockwood, Powel-Perry and Baker, 1998; and Sandiford and Seymour, 2007).  ‘Culture in practice’ may provide a useful perspective from which to view this conundrum.

Culture in practice often runs counter to the ‘espoused culture’ proffered by managers and enshrined in company policies and procedures; particularly where the espoused culture is ‘weak’ or fails to be communicated effectively by managers.  A situation where employers are reportedly autocratic and non-supportive appears to be ripe for such a counter culture to develop and thrive.  An understanding of this organizational phenomenon is provided by the Occupational Community thesis.  This is whereby workers/culture are defined by their jobs (Salaman, 1971, 1974; Van Maanen and Barley, 1984; and Sandiford and Seymour, 2007) rather than national culture and ethnicity and management style (Hofstede, 2001; and Robbins and Judge, 2007).  According to Gomez-Mejia (1984), much research focusing on organizational culture ignores the importance of work or occupational experiences. An individual’s occupation has an important bearing upon organizational culture-in-practice. This is particularly so where job-holders perceive themselves to be different or apart from mainstream society or where their job is considered specialized or unique in some way (Lee-Ross, 2018).  The occupation perspective on organizational culture is rooted in the earlier work of (Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad and Herma, 1951; and advanced by Rosenberg, 1957; and Goldthorpe, Lockwood, Bechhofer and Platt, 1968).  Here, individuals are alleged to have a number of orientations to work.  The one pertinent to the present study is that of ‘social orientation’ where work is primarily considered a source of social relationships. 

The present study seeks to identify the association between Occupational Communities (OCs) and employees’ potential to quit their jobs (PTQ).  More specifically, the relationship of each proposed dimension of an OC with PTQ is assessed.  To achieve this a new instrument is posited and the theory upon which it is based is tested.  Occupational communities are defined and explained in terms of their dimensions and their appropriateness to the hotel industry outlined; hypotheses are then presented.  The paper continues by discussing the results followed by conclusions and recommendations.  This is an original contribution to the area and will help a further understanding of the OC thesis. 

 

OCCUPATIONAL COMMUNITIES AND HOTEL WORKING CONDITIONS

Van Maanen and Barley (1984, p. 287) define OCs as:

‘A group of people who consider themselves to be engaged in the same sort of work, whose identity is drawn from their work; who share with one another a set of values, norms, and perspectives that apply but extend beyond work related matters, and whose social relationships meld work and leisure’.

In short, OCs have two overarching characteristics.  The first is cohesiveness amongst members and a sense of pride in their work.  The second is a fusing of work and non-work activities (Salaman, 1974).  These factors are primary motivators in the workplace rather than the ‘traditional’ ones such positive feedback from supervisors, pay and other pecuniary benefits (Lee-Ross, 2018).   Working conditions are poor in the hotel industry (Maxwell and MacLean, 2008) yet levels of job satisfaction are not necessarily low (Riley, Lockwood, Powel-Perry and Baker, 1998).  Therefore, there must be another set of motivators to consider and the present research contends that the OC thesis may help explain this situation.

The hotel industry has several characteristics which arguably help in the formation of Occupational Communities.  For example, jobs are not easy to codify but instead rely on ill-defined procedures.  According to Cameron (2001) this lack of basic process and procedure helps the community to ‘mystify’ or specialize the job.  This maintains control of members fusing them together whose motivations for working are not necessarily always shared with their employer (Lee-Ross, 2018).  Motivation for undertaking work may therefore not be the job itself but the opportunity for a paid holiday (Ball, 1988).  Furthermore, the provision of staff accommodation may render social aspects at least as important than job-related factors.

 

Table 1 Dimensions of Occupational Communities

 

Dimension

Explanation from which survey questions are derived

Job interest

The extent to which the job is interesting and a deliberate career choice

Group cohesion

The extent to which group membership is important over all else

Hedonism

The extent to which socializing with workmates is the major reason for undertaking the job

Fusion

The extent to which work and personal life overlap

Central presentation

This job requires certain skills, as such I am proud of what I do and tend to draw a sense of identity from my work

Job specialization /Marginality

The extent to which the job is special and only a certain kind of person could do it successfully

 

Earlier, these characteristics were deemed by Wood (1992) to attract a certain ‘type’ of worker.  That is, those who individuals who are happy with the ‘welfare’ provided their employer (food, cost of accommodation outside workplace, paying rent, rates and so on).  Here the ‘unrealistic’ living environment and limited obligations to management create a ‘bubble’ whereby workers can easily form cohesive bonds having a tendency for a hedonistic work-related outlook (Lee-Ross, 2018).  Marginality is also said to be a determinant of Occupational Communities (Van Maanen and Barley, 1992).  In a hotel context this may take the form of working non-traditional hours including short-term, part-time and casual shifts and having work-based friends.  Thus, the work organisation is pervasive and sets norms for activities outside work such as sleeping, eating and recreation.  Lee-Ross and Pryce (2010) summarize these dimensions of occupational communities in Table 1.

Thus primarily, the hotel becomes a meeting place for like-minded individuals.  Occupational Communities are social frameworks that create and sustain unique perspectives of work. They have identifiable characteristics that include task rituals, standards for acceptable behavior, work codes surrounding routine practices, rituals, standards, codes and occupational self-control (Lee-Ross, 2004).

Using the OC thesis, several hypotheses are advanced regarding dimensions and PTQ and they are shown below in Table 2.

 

Table 2 Hypotheses

 

H1

Job interest has a negative association with PTQ;

H2

Group cohesion has a negative association with PTQ;

H3

Hedonism has a negative association with PTQ;

H4

Fusion has a negative association with PTQ;

H5

Central presentation has a negative association with PTQ; and

H6

Job specialization has a negative association with PTQ.

 

 

APPROACH

The philosophy behind the present study was one of pragmatic positivism.  Collection of data was bound by several practical constraints.  For example, interviews would not have been possible given the short time between staff shifts.  An instrument taking only ten minutes to complete was more appropriate.  It contained three question statements per OC dimension and for PTQ.  Dimensions were derived from earlier studies of hospitality OCs (Shamir, 1975; Lee-Ross, 1996; Lee-Ross 2004; and Lee-Ross, 2008).  Each was represented by three question statements asking how workers would describe their jobs.  Response bias was minimized by using two questions worded positively and one negatively.  A Likert-type style scale was used with a response range of 1 (very accurate) to 7 (very inaccurate).  A questionnaire was the chosen approach for the present research.  This was chiefly because the dimensions as markers of organizational culture is still at an early stage of theoretical development. So too is the establishment of an inventory to identify and measure their impact on PTQ (Lee-Ross 2018).  A sample of statements is shown below:

 

  • Job interest – ‘I am interested in this type of work and this job is a deliberate career choice by me’.
  • Cohesion – ‘I feel a close bond with my group of workmates; we share similar work values and ideas’.
  • Hedonism – ‘I enjoy meeting people and socializing, it is the major reason I took this job’.
  • Fusion – ‘Many aspects of this job overlap with my leisure activities including relationships with workmates’.
  • Central presentation – ‘This is really ‘me’, as such I am proud of what I do and tend to draw a sense of identity from my work’.
  • Job specialization – ‘My job is special and it sets me apart from other people doing jobs in other organizations’.

Adapted from Lee-Ross (2004).

 

Three hotel managers were telephoned to seek permission for the study to take place.  A subsequent email was sent to arrange interviews with managers where the research project was explained fully.  All agreed for the data to be gathered during one week in each respective organization.  The researcher used the staff canteen at different times of the day from Monday to Friday (in two-hour blocks) to ensure a wide and representative convenience sample.  Forms were completed by workers and returned via a ballot box anonymously.  Hotels were seasonal with a tourist-oriented focus and all situated in North Queensland.  All had similar operating procedures, quality ratings (five star), size (150 rooms) and staff (150 – 200). One-hundred and ninety forms were returned; 159 were useable.

 

PROPERTIES

Prior to using a new instrument its properties must be assessed, that is, the reliability and validity of items.  Reliability involves ‘…scrutiny of the instrument’s robustness…[to see whether it will] produce the same findings over time and under different circumstances.’ (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, p. 430).  Validity concerns ‘…the ability of a questionnaire to measure what it intends to measure’ (p. 429).  An exploratory factor analysis with Cronbach’s alpha was used for this purpose after the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy was returned as an acceptable 0.754 and Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity shown to be significant (p<0.001).  The initial analysis of scale reliability and validity is shown in Table 3.

Table 3 Exploratory factor analysis with Cronbach’s alphas

 

Factor

Job interest

Hedonism

PTQ

Job spec.

Fusion

Group coh.

Central presentation

Jobint 1

.949

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jobint 3

.909

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jobint 2

.908

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hedonsim 2

 

.943

 

 

 

 

 

Hedonism 1

 

.940

 

 

 

 

 

Hedonism 3

 

.912

 

 

 

 

 

PTQ 2

 

 

.911

 

 

 

 

PTQ 1

 

 

.885

 

 

 

 

PTQ 3

 

 

.841

 

 

 

 

Jobspec 3

 

 

 

.907

 

 

 

Jobspec 1

 

 

 

.902

 

 

 

Jobspec 2

 

 

 

.879

 

 

 

Fusion 2

 

 

 

 

.923

 

 

Fusion 3

 

 

 

 

.843

 

 

Fusion 1

 

 

 

 

.812

 

 

Cohesion 2

 

 

 

 

 

.864

 

Cohesion 1

 

 

 

 

 

.808

 

Cohesion 3

 

 

 

 

 

.732

 

Centpres 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

.821

Centpres 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

.811

Centpres 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

.751

Alpha

.960

.943

.942

.917

.865

.764

.782

Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalization. a. Rotation converged in 7 iterations. Loadings below 0.5 not shown.

 

Principal components analysis was used to identify scores for the factors underlying the proposed instrument. analysis revealed seven factors, one of which had an Eigen value of 0.98.  However, the derived scree plot implied a seven-factor solution.  Cumulative total variance explained was 84.3%.  These results suggest that the instrument is acceptable for further statistical analysis.  Nunnally (1978) recommends a value of 0.70 or higher before accepting scale reliability.  All alphas in Table 3 exceed this threshold.

 

 

RESULTS

Multiple regression was used to assess the predictive power of the hypothesized model proposed for hotel workers and their PTQ.  A significant regression equation was found (F(6, 113) = 10.635, p < 0.000), with an R2 of 0.327.  The summary is shown in Table 4.

 

Table 4 Model summaryb

 

Model

R

R Square

Adjusted R Square

Std. Error of the Estimate

Durbin-Watson

1

.601a

.361

.327

1.10630

1.906

a. Predictors: (Constant), Job Interest, Fusion, Job Specialization, Cohesion, Hedonism, Central Presentation

b. Dependent Variable: PTQ

 

The complete model accounts for 33 percent of the variance in PTQ.  In other words, 67 percent of the variance is unexplained or due to other factors not accounted for in the model.  The associated ANOVA has an F value of 10.64 which is significant at p < 0.001. Scatterplots revealed relationships between predictor variables and entrepreneurial intent to be largely linear. 

Table 5 shows associated coefficients and reveals the unremarkable Tolerance and VIF statistics suggesting no significant level of collinearity.  For example, Central presentation returned the lowest statistic of 0.75; Job interest returned one of 0.90 which is acceptable (MSSPSS, 2012). 

 

Table 5 Coefficients

 

Coefficientsa

Model

Unstandardized Coefficients

Standardized Coefficients

t

Sig.

Collinearity Statistics

B

Std. Error

Beta

Tolerance

VIF

1

(Constant)

8.180

1.228

 

6.660

.000

 

 

JSp

-.169

.082

-.172

-2.067

.041

.821

1.218

Hed

-.026

.069

-.031

-.381

.704

.866

1.155

CPres

-.369

.179

-.179

-2.059

.042

.749

1.336

Fusion

.189

.122

.131

1.548

.124

.789

1.268

Coh

-.256

.153

-.136

-1.668

.048

.854

1.171

JInt

-.361

.063

-.452

-5.683

.000

.896

1.116

a. Dependent Variable: PTQ

                           

 Respondents predicted PTQ is equal to 8.180 – 0.169 (JSp) – 0.026 (Hed) – 0.369 (CPres) + 0.189 (Fusion) – 0.256 (Cohesion) – 0.361 (Jint), where all variables are measured on a scale of 1 – 7.  Propensity to Quit decreased by 0.169 for each scale measurement of JSP, 0.026 (Hed), 0.369 (CPres), 0.256 (Cohesion), 0.361 (Jint) respectively and increased 0.189 for Fusion.  All OC dimensions were significant predictors of PTQ with the exceptions of Hedonism, which remained in the expected direction and Fusion.

 

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

Many studies have found that job satisfaction and employee turnover have a counter-intuitive relationship, that is, job satisfaction is not necessarily an accurate predictor of turnover.  The hotel industry has a poor record in terms of working conditions, rates of pay and management styles, yet levels of job satisfaction do not reflect this.  Gomez-Mejia (1984) seeks to explain this by positing the OC thesis.  In short, this is where employees form cohesive informal groups and maintenance of this structure becomes more important than the organization’s espoused culture.  Groups are formed on the basis of a blending of work and leisure/social activities.  Lee-Ross and Pryce (2010) argue that the hotel industry creates and maintains an environment where conditions for OCs seems inevitable.  The six hypotheses of the present study were based on this notion.

The aim of the present study was twofold.  First, the instrument need to be validated in terms of the measurement of OCs existence in hotels.  Second, the accuracy of the proposed model needed to be assessed.  The initial analysis showed the instrument to be robust and the second evaluation found the model to be acceptable.  However, the relationship between two OC dimensions and PTQ were not as hypothesized.

Hedonism is based on the idea that hotel work attracts a certain ‘type’ who choose this lifestyle as it affords then a paid holiday.  This idea is augmented by the opportunity to ‘live-in’.  That is, where the hotel offers staff accommodation and where workers have ample opportunities to bond and share work and life experiences.  No hotels included in the present study offered this facility.  This may help explain the present result for hedonism as an OC dimension.

The fusion of work and social activities hypothesis was not supported nor in the predicted direction (although the result was insignificant).  Notwithstanding this, the outcome has resonance with earlier work in the field.  For example, it is an acknowledged phenomenon that when an employee quits their job, others closely bonded colleagues follow due to the strength of their work relationships and social activities and interactions.  In the present context it is also important to note the ‘familial’ relationship between OC members.  If the relationship between one or more members of the OC becomes untenable, the only practical resolution is to quit their job.

This situation is not as complex as it appears so long as hotel managers understand the motivational aspirations of their workers.  In a practical sense it matters not whether employers and employees share the same work ethic.  The key here is to ensure managers understand why individuals are attracted to the hotel industry and plan their operations accordingly.  The informality of work cultures must be acknowledged and planned for by employers.  An OC lens allows employers a greater insight into their employees by considering work and non-work inclinations.  Moreover, this would go some way in clarifying the ‘psychological contract’ between employee and employer.

Clearly, there needs to be more work undertaken using the OC construct to understand the relationship between employees and PTQ.  Moreover, Hedonism and Fusion need to be further explored because of the nuanced relationship they have with PTQ.  For example, hotels offering staff accommodation must be included in future studies.  Additionally, whilst job satisfaction was acknowledged in the current study, it was not explicit in the proposed model. Therefore, job satisfaction must be included in future work as a mediating variable to gain a more comprehensive understanding of OCs and PTQ. 

 

 

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