TALENT MANAGEMENT: A CASE-STUDY INVESTIGATION IN HOSPITALITY OPERATIONS
Dr. Ashraf Tag-Eldeen
Associate Professor, Faculty of Tourism & Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt
The objective of this research paper is to investigate the potential of talent management concept that is implemented by some hospitality organizations. It intends to examine the approach that is practically in place. The research design used a case-study methodology to investigate the phenomena in one of the pioneers of hospitality organizations implementing the relevant strategy and develop an empirical framework for this strategy as such. Both secondary and primary data were used in the research. Survey questionnaires were used at both the management's and employees' levels to reflect the authentic practices in place. The findings of the study revealed the significance of the concept as a tool for human resource development and the indispensable role in enhancing the quality of employees' performance and loyalty. Furthermore, the study also validates talent management approach as a sustainable framework for organizational development and competitiveness.
Keywords: talent management, human resource development, employees' performance, employees' loyalty, Jumeirah Hotels & Resort
The study of Human Resource Development (HRD) indicates that views on what constitute HRD vary considerably. Traditionally, various terms were used such as training, development and education. The most contemporary terms are Human Resource Development (HRD) and Human Capital Development (HCD). According to Mondy and Martocchio (2015), human resource development is: “a planned and continuous process of helping employees to become better at their tasks, knowledge and experiences through training, education and development programs".
More specifically, the three fundamental component areas of human resource development include; individual development (personal), career development (professional), and organizational development. The importance of each component will vary from organization to organization according to the complexity of the operation, the criticality of human resources to organizational efficiency, and the organization's commitment to improved human resources. While these three elements are paramount and complementary, they all have one focus - individual performance improvement. The organizational ability to take this further is distinctive and definitely will influence both the organizational mission and strategies in many domains (Berger and Berger, 2011; Stone and Deadrick, 2015; Stone et al., 2007).
Career development programs have evolved during the last two decades due to changes in the workforce needs and characteristics (work-life balance, diversity, and focus on equality), advances in management theory (employee motivation), changes in managerial styles and the increasing complexity of technology. These contemporary trends have fostered the growth of career development programs (Patton and McMahon, 2014).
Human resource is a significant element in service-oriented organizations. Nowadays, hospitality employees are no longer interested in pursuing just the job path. Their aspirations are extended to have employment opportunity that will create an extension of interest, personality and life-long work related activities. As employees realize that they will have opportunities for development and continual growth, the consequences will be more commitment to their workplace and definitely outstanding performance (Frank and Taylor, 2004; Wan, 2007).
Moreover, Stroh and Reilly (1997) asserted that where an employer can provide the worker with ample opportunities for growth and advancement, a proper attitude of loyalty and satisfaction can be enhanced as well. Effective organizations create enabling environment for career development through Human Resource Department that plans several career development programs. Hameed and Waheed (2011) and Lips-Wiersma and Hall (2007) argue that when organizations contribute towards employee development activities, employees work harder, utilize their skills and efforts fully to achieve the overall goal of the organization. Hospitality organizations are no exception to the rule.
According to Stone and Deadrick (2015), career development is a mutual and continual effort directed towards assessing workers potentials, identifying likely career paths for employees, designing and implementing various forms of training and experience to prepare them for more advanced jobs. Therefore, it is a planned program designed to match individual and organizational needs. The personal dimension allows for necessary changes in individuals to acquire skills and advance progressively throughout the period of their career.
There are several career development methods that can improve employee performance in an organization (Bruvold and Chay, 2003). Hospitality organizations have used method such as career counseling, career mentoring, workshops, along with techniques such as self-assessment testing and job rotations to enhance their employees’ opportunity for growth and development. A more recent term that has become common in human resource setting is talent management. More significantly, it is also used as an element for assessing organizational development along with other human resources criteria. However, according to Al Ariss et al. (2014), Collings and Mellahi (2009), and Tansley (2011), the topic of talent management remains underdeveloped. A key limitation is the fact that talent management lacks a consistent definition and clear conceptual boundaries.
Most hospitality organizations are struggling with employees’ performance and attitudes towards work, which may be attributed to the management inability to design an institutional framework that would allow for career development programs necessary for continuous skill acquisition. Career development programs are of paramount importance to improve operational capabilities and organizational performance.
Employees normally lack proper guidance for achieving career goals and understand the organization's expectations which will enable them to perform their work effectively (John, 2000). To overcome this problem, hospitality organizations have considered innovative career development plans, namely talent management program.
The following section of literature review will investigate and scrutinize the process of career development, its significance and impact as identified by authors and practitioners. The research question for this research addresses the practice of the implementation of talent management program within the context of career development, and what impacts does this practice have on employees' performance, employees' loyalty, retention and the competitiveness status of the hospitality organization?
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Patton and Mcllveen (2009) argue that career development is the process by which individuals collect information about values, interests, and skill strengths and weaknesses (career exploration), identify a career goal, and engage in career strategies that increase the probability that career goals will be achieved. The career management process according to John (2000), involves career exploration, development of career goals, and the use of career strategies to achieve career goals.
Career development according to Watson (2008) has increasingly become a vital guide for skill acquisition, and operational capabilities. Considering the dynamic nature of hospitality environment that such capacity especially through training has, therefore, emerged as a necessary requirement in preparing a long-term strategic plan of the organization human resources. On the same vein, Berger and Berger (2011), Heinen and O'Neill (2004), and Scott and Revis (2008) perceived career development as a sustained strategy for enhancing employee job performance in order to achieve a competitive advantage in the changing business environment. Thus, organizations strive to optimize their workforce through comprehensive career development programs in order to take abreast of its environment. In this respect, hospitality organizations are increasingly demanding superior skills, increased productivity, and work-related knowledge from their workers.
Authors like Lent (2005) addressed the conceptual issues of career development program. The components of this approach comprise career counseling, career mentoring and career assessment. The desired outcome of such a program is to match the employee's needs with those of the organization.
Career Counseling is the first logical step in career development process. According to John (2000), Nathan and Hill (2006), and Sharf (2014), this step assists the organization in identifying employees with high performance potential and maps out realistic career opportunities. This stage evolves self-understanding, broadening one's horizons, work selection, challenge, satisfaction, and other interpersonal matters, work site behavior, communication, and other interpersonal phenomena, and lifestyle issues, such as balancing work and family requirements.
Kidd (2006) asserted the aim of career counseling to employees as understanding self, making personal decision, setting achievable goals which enhances growth and planning in the present to bring about desired future, coping with difficult solutions, controlling self-defeating emotions, acquiring effective transaction skills and acquiring positive self-regard, and sense of optimism about one’s own ability to satisfying one’s basic needs.
Therefore, the purpose of career counseling is to assist employees in exploiting their strengths and potential and avoiding mismatches between individual aspirations, capabilities, and organizational opportunities. In a more pragmatic perspective; that is to reduce the waste of preparing an employee for a position for which they are not suited, but might otherwise accept, in order to conform to the wishes of the organization (Armstrong, 2006).
The second stage in career development process is career monitoring. According to Kong et al. (2012); that is a professional relationship in which an experienced employee (mentor) supports another less experienced (mentee) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less experienced persons' professional and personal growth. In fact career monitoring is a two-sided phase, where the organization identifies a mentor and a mentee. The first step is to define a mentor as a corporate manager who supervises, coaches, and guides selected lower-level employees by introducing them to the right people, and generally being their organizational sponsor. The second step is to provide guidance and advice which will help to develop the careers to the people allocated to them to be more efficient in improving the quality of work.
In fact, networking and having mentors are essential for succession planning because it builds and develops managers by widening their knowledge and better understanding of the overall operations, and to prepare for task ahead. Mentoring is used to complement learning on the job which of course is the best way of obtaining particular knowledge and skills (Ayres, 2006).
The final stage in career development process is skill assessment. This is an important step to ensure the effectiveness of the overall process. When an organization engages an employee to perform certain job/task to perform adequately well, there is the need to train the employee to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies to be able to perform the job effectively and efficiently. Therefore, skill assessment is an evaluative and feedback point (Baum, 2006).
As regards the impact of talent management on employees' retention, developing talents and recruitment, authors like Bethke-Langenegger et al. (2011), Oladapo (2014) – based on empirical investigation – and Hughes and Rog (2008) - in a conceptual paper - confirmed that business organizations while struggling to find talented employees have recognized the strategic value of an effective talent management program affecting retention rate. Further investigations by Bethke-Langenegger et al. (2011), and Tarique and Schuler (2010) extended to include the impact on organizational performance. The results established a significant positive impact on human resource outcomes such as job satisfaction, motivation, and commitment. Moreover, talent management practices had a significant impact on organizational outcomes such as company attractiveness, the achievement of business goals, customer satisfaction, and, above all, corporate profit and sustaining a competitive advantage. As such, the literature review suggests the following hypothesis:
H1 - There is a positive relationship between pursuing talent management program and the quality of employees' performance.
H2 - There is a positive relationship between pursuing talent management program and employees' loyalty.
H3 - There is a positive relationship between pursuing talent management program and enhancing the competitiveness status of the hospitality organization.
Within the hospitality industry context, Chacko and Nebel (1990) advocate that qualitative research is a more appropriate methodology for hospitality researchers to use, particularly when the subject of the study is concerned with leadership, managerial and behavioural issues and processes. The nature of the investigation plays a major role in deciding the methodology type (Creswell, 1994; and Silverman, 2013). Within the framework of this research, the aims and objectives are related to approaches and processes in implementing talent management programmes in a hotel company. It is about investigating and exploring the tools and operational procedure currently in use by the participating case-study. Consequently, the features of this research correspond with the doctrine of qualitative methods and the inductive approach. Additionally, the research focuses on the context that may have an effect on the understanding of the phenomenon being studied.
Van Maanen and Kolb (1985) and Yin (2012) advocated that the specific cases to be studied may be selected by several different rationales, one of which is the general relevance to the research area in which the researcher is interested. Another is to select exemplary cases. The use of this latter rationale means that all of the cases will reflect strong, positive examples of the phenomenon of interest. Yin (2012) further claimed that, methodologically, the case can be deliberately designed to present answers to a series of questions precisely because this particular organisation has historical significance/experience or showing a high level of concern as a leading organisation.
The selection of the case-study aimed to reflect the understanding, approaches and pattern(s) of implementing talent management programmes. The rationale for this strategy was the researcher’s aspiration to investigate thoroughly their systems and processes in order to learn from their experiences and to draw upon their success.
In fact, both the case study approach and the purposive sampling approach are similar in their methodological rationale. For instance, the case study approach illustrates the selection of particular case(s) based on specific criteria mainly related to the research question (s) and the availability of information. It is also underpinned by some ‘real life’ issues, e.g. securing access and availability of subjects involved (Robson and McCartan, 2016).
Similarly, the purposive sampling approach has the same methodological rationale by selecting particular elements of the population while looking at the wider context where the phenomenon being investigated is apparent. It also provides alternative access options if selected element(s) deny access.
The research design adopted for this research is a case-study approach. The objective is investigate thoroughly and in depth one of the pioneers in the area of implementing talent management programs. The hotel company has considered the concept as one of its strategic objectives in line with its organizational development. The primary data was gathered from both management and employees. Two structured questionnaires were administered; a management questionnaire, and a staff questionnaire. The management survey was addressed to the Vice President of the chain for talent management and leadership development and two middle managers. The staff questionnaire was communicated to five staff participants undergoing the talent management program. The secondary data was gathered from sources including various published sources. These published sources are academic books, journals and the organization training and development policy documents were also reviewed. This case-study investigation took place during January 2018 at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts Chain. The company approved acknowledging the identity of the company for publication.
The list of questions of the survey was developed by the researcher based on the review of related literature. Additionally, the questions were also piloted by two human resource managers to ensure clarity and consistency and provide suggestions to improve wording, sequence and structure of the questions and organization of the survey. The feedback was considered and the survey was adjusted accordingly.
The management questionnaire addressed issues like the process of implementing talent management program, how the program is integrated and its impact on the organization. Additionally, other aspects were raised like assessment and measurement, cost-benefit relationship and challenges encountering the implementation of talent management program.
The staff questionnaire dealt with staff perspective as regards the implementation of talent management program. It included collecting demographic data, the introduction and advantages of the program. Moreover, other questions addressed the challenges/problems and assessment tools of implementation.
All questions' responses were further transcribed and analysed by the researcher to identify themes and issues as they relate to the objectives of the investigation.
4. ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
Diesing (2017) and Corbin and Strauss (2015) discuss the essence of qualitative data analysis, emphasising the fact that qualitative data analysis is about interpretations, flexible procedures, creativity and generation of themes. The researcher used the qualitative content analysis technique, themes and categories emerged from the data, then emphasizing the significance of understanding the meaning of the context (Bryman, 2015).
Samples of the transcribed text were used in presenting the results of the survey as examples of the different themes, and issues in implementing and handling talent management concept in practice. In the meantime, it should also be recognized that the sample responses do not necessarily need to be identical or reflect an overall consensus of the idea under investigation. While these responses may reflect either a unique case or a general pattern, the significance is attached to the interpretation of the meanings and within the overall context of the investigation. Data for this study were presented and analyzed with respect to previously outlined objectives. The three abovementioned hypothesis were addressed by the survey questions and further examined and assessed.
At the outset, it should be acknowledged that due to the small number of staff participants (junior management level), the demographic data is not indicative or revealing. However, the sample included males and females, various age ranges, diverse educational levels and even different length of number of working years with current chain/operation.
The results confirmed that the hotel chain introduced the talent management program since two years and half. The management participants have confirmed that the company has a systematic process for introducing the talent management program to the employees. This approach is well-established within the company's culture by using technological medium via the Intranet (Talent Management Platform). Both management and staff replies were consistent.
"Our talent management program is introduced during the 'Welcome Program' for our new staff, via emails, notice boards and banners, etc."
Director of Human Resources
"Upon joining the company, I was made aware of our talent management system through training; this covered the overall process, system training and assessment competency."
Staff Member (4)
"We have an online talent management system that supports the performance-driven culture, which is part of our strategic objectives."
Vice President of Talent Management
The program of talent management evaluates itself systematically. It starts with setting the Individual Learning Plan by establishing the objectives, rating and reviewing of performance and evaluating the potential of the individual. Further, actions are taken to retain high-performance individuals. This evaluation system is scheduled by calendar month time plan.
As for the key stages that are practically considered for implementing talent management program, the management participants identified four steps for such a purpose. It starts with setting objectives to improve the organization capabilities, then raising the awareness of the required behavior, ensuring fair and objective rating which relates to both the individual and the company. Then the selection process takes place; setting personalized programs and identifying learning and development opportunities and finally feedback management. Measurement of outcome is essential. Some of the tools in use are guest loyalty scores, employees' engagement scores and assessing build-versus-buy if recruitment takes place. Figure 1 summarizes the key stages of talent management that is currently taking place at Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts chain as perceived and interpreted by the researcher.
Figure (1) Key Stages of Talent Management Program
"Our first step is to identify end-in-mind objectives and to build a performance-driven culture and retain and improve the organization capabilities."
Vice President of Talent Management
"The focus should also be on the individual development plan to ensure that each colleague works on his/her personal improvement using the 'Learning & Development' opportunities that the company offers."
Vice President of Talent Management
The result also implied by both management and staff that talent management program is clearly embodied in the organization's vision and fully committed to the welfare and development of its staff. The talent management program is offered to all levels of staff. The hotel company has also developed its measurement system via developing Learning & Development catalogue that has different sections to each job level to guide performance. As for program's participants, they emphasized that individual development plan; bi-annual performance appraisal and guest feedback survey are all tools in use to assess the program's outcome.
The criterion for selecting the target/potential participants depends on the rating of both performance and potential and the mobility of the colleagues to move within the business units. On one hand, the company also emphasized the transparency in selecting target participants, and further, motivates non-participants for better performance. On the other hand, the company offers alternatives for personal growth for non-participants. Figure 2 reflects the standard steps for managing talent management program within the company as perceived by the researcher.
"Business needs and workforce planning dictate the required number of people to be trained."
Vice President of Talent Management
Figure (2) Standard Steps for Managing Talent Management Program
The impact of introducing talent management program on the organization outcome included a list of positive results. The schedule includes more loyalty, higher motivation and engagement of staff and better retention rate of qualified staff. As the impact extends to employees' performance, it will also affect guest loyalty positively, stronger brand image and culture as well as improved organization capabilities.
"Our tools for assessing our talent management program include; the number of transfer and promotion year by year, engagement score related to how performance affects quality of work and fair career opportunities score. Finally, retention of high performers and overall rating of performance year by year are also considered."
Vice President of Talent Management
As from the program's participants perspective, it was stated that pursing the talent management program was advantageous and really helpful in setting targets and goals, monitoring and keep track of individuals' performance in addition to getting to know the team better. The bi-annual appraisal system, keeping track of previous years' achievements and facilitating contact are key tools in this respect. They all confirmed that talent management program enhances their career path.
"Talent management is a system to review own performance and set goals for professional development. The talent management system platform gives opportunity to employees to conduct their self-assessment and receive valued feedback for future growth."
Staff Member (3)
The cost-benefit relationship also adds to the benefits of implementing talent management program. In this respect, the company was proactive to prove this association with a solid figure to justify its commitment and expenses as a profit-oriented company. The fact is reflected by the words of the company's vice president for talent management stated below.
"We have made a research which proves that buying talent cost 30-35% more than investing in internal talent. Each % point increase in internal transfer or promotion saves cost to the company."
Vice President of Talent Management
As for the challenges/problems facing the introduction of talent management program, some issues were raised; inter alia, vague strategic direction, lack of coherence between the strategic directions and staff personal objectives, unclear competency model and finally the insufficient communication of the program's impact.
5. CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS
Based on the findings, the study concludes that hospitality organizations can increasingly improve the quality of employees' job performance if considerable attention is given to career development practices in their organizations, namely talent management. As hospitality organizations operate in a dynamic and complex environment, therefore, the ability of organizations to strategize today and enhance their most prominent capability and differentiation edge will definitely enhance the level of employee's operational capability, skills, and working competence (Wright, el al. 1994).
All participants' replies have confirmed that there is a significant positive relationship between the adoption of talent management program and employees' performance, loyalty and retention rate and the quality of service as well (Hughes and Rog, 2008; Kehinde, 2012; Oladapo, 2014). The quality of employees' performance can be sustained through career mentoring especially when this process provides guidance, advice and continuous skills assessment in order to complement learning on the job.
This positive relationship is reflected by and confirmed by several media for instance, by the attention being given to individual members of staff, the style of dialogue and communication in place between the management and the staff. Further, the system in place for assessing the program used a variety of tools, inter alia, training sessions, appraisal system and follow-up. Moreover, the use of e-learning proved to be effective, efficient and supportive (Frank and Taylor, 2004). Those results are consistent with the hypotheses H1 and H2 of the research and subsequently proved their validity.
The results also show that employees' efficiency significantly improved as a result of implementing such a program by sponsoring high-potential and talented members of staff. Additionally, the approach of building-versus-buying with reference to recruiting from within impacts positively on operational efficiency as reflected by the management research in this respect and confirmed by relevant literature (Barron, 2008; John, 2000). Therefore, hospitality organizations are encouraged to provide an institutional framework that can allow its employees to acquire practical skill, and learning experience through career counseling and provide various career development paths. This result is consistent with the third hypotheses (H3), and therefore proves its validity.
As it was admitted by both the management and the program's participants that pursuing talent management program affects positively guest feedback and loyalty (Stroh and Reilly, 1997), this implies that adopting talent management program has a significant effect on the competitive edge of the company over its competition (Ashton and Morton, 2005) and suggests a positive relationship for pursuing this approach. Therefore, this result is accepted and consistent with the third hypotheses (H3) and hence proves its validity.
From the aforementioned, the study recommends that organizations should encourage and entrench career counseling activities as a head way of providing a sustainable framework upon which employees acquire the needed operational skills that will enhance their job performance in a typical organization. Also, a considerable attention must be directed towards instituting career mentoring programs that have the capacity of educating the employees on the job for improved job performance in the organization. Finally, Management should initiate a periodic skill assessment training program for its employees. In doing so, the employees stand the chance of acquiring additional skill that would make them proactive in their operations, and in meeting the demands of the environment.
Emphasis on talent management results in several positive individual and organizational outcomes such as higher performance, high quality individual and organization problem solving, enhancing career plans and employability, sustainable competitive advantage, higher organizational commitment and enhancing organizational retention (Edgar and Geare, 2005; Lips-Wiersma and Hall, 2007; Oladapo, 2014; Stroh and Reilly, 1997; Wright et al., 1994).
Moreover, building a culture of lifetime learning promotes a motivated workforce (Collings and Mellahi, 2009; Stone et al., 2007). So, the best way to keep people going on that path is via the identification of the talents of the organization's workforce and developing their promising skills and qualities.
The outcome of the research has also revealed that talent management has a strong relationship and integration with other conceptual approaches of organizational development (Thorpe and Gold, 2016). More specifically it has a positive impact on individual and organizational outcomes. The survival of any organization in a competitive society depends on its ability to train its human resource to be innovative, creative and inventive that will invariably enhance performance and increase organization’s competitive advantage.
6. LIMITATIONS AND FURTHER RESEARCH
A major limitation of this research topic is associated with the methodology of research in use as a case-study research and further a single-case investigation. However, the scarcity of the cases adopting talent management programs along with access issues dictated this particular method. While this limitation may influence the generalizability of the research outcome, the uniqueness of the information and the in-depth investigation may balance and overcome this deficiency.
Another limitation was also relevant to the number of participants which was limited. However, the researcher tried to have different views and perspectives at three different levels; senior management represented by the vice president for talent management, head departments, and employees. This approach enabled the researcher to scrutinize and complement the various issues of the case, investigate the reliability of the practices, and ensure the credibility of the spoken data.
As for further research, the researcher would suggest to expand the sample/cases under investigation to include more hotel companies. Another point would be probably using semi-structured interviews rather than a structured questionnaire to enable the researcher to probe in depth unanticipated issues along with the interviewees as they arise. Another proposition would consider investigating the career path of the program participants after a longer time span to find out the outcome of the program and its impact on the individuals' level.
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