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6 Jun, 2005

“Fair Treatment Of Staff Will Lead to Fair Treatment of Customers”

Travel & tourism companies looking for ways to better retain and motivate staff to deliver quality customer service are being offered a very simple piece of advice – ensure they are treated fairly in the workplace.

Employee retention and motivation are major issues in the highly competitive, globalised travel & tourism industry which relies heavily on service delivery even while requiring staff to work long and odd hours, and put up with a babble of customer demands that vary from pillar to post.

Although pay, training opportunities and career prospects are seen as being the major determinants of job satisfaction and staff morale, a research paper presented at a conference of tourism educators in Malaysia last week underscored the importance of fairness in the way employees are treated – known in technical jargon as ‘procedural justice.’

Says the paper, by researchers Aizzat Mohd. Nasurdin, School of Management, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Mohamed Abdullah Hemdi, Faculty of Hotel & Tourism Management, Universiti Teknologi MARA:

“Procedural justice plays a pivotal role in influencing citizenship behaviour performed by service employees at the workplace. Such positive, customer-oriented behaviours, in turn, helps promote service quality.

“The proposition that fair treatment of employees will ultimately result in beneficial outcomes for organisations is especially salient for the hotel industry (whose) dependence on human resources is higher than other industries.”

Because the students of today are the job-seekers of tomorrow, human resources management issues are significant topics of study at tourism educators conferences.

Other topics discussed at the educators conference included how Singaporean hotel employees are reacting to the issue of ‘job redesign’ in the workplace at a time when the island state is facing critical labour shortages, and how introduction of new technologies can be better managed from a staff perspective.

But the paper on ‘procedural justice’ took many of these factors back to basics, noting very clearly: “One central issue that affects an employee’s decision to perform organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB, academic jargon for customer service delivery) is fairness.

“This is because fair treatment of employees will subsequently lead to fair treatment of customers. Therefore, as service providers, hotels need to understand the role of justice in influencing OCBs among their employees.”

The paper made no attempt to position this as a new theory but did regroup a lot of the past research and studies conducted since 1991, in order to remind the industry of an issue that may have receded from the radar screen.

Employees experience issues related to ‘procedural justice’ in deciding everything from pay increases to promotions, adjudicating internal conflicts to taking leave.

Says the paper, “Fair decision procedures entail the use of objective facts and evidence, a lack of bias, being consistent, and being honest. Fair treatment by organisational authorities indicates that the individual is a respected, valued, and worthy member of the institution.

“These feelings of respect, worth, and favourable social standing experienced by organisational members may motivate them to exert additional effort by performing tasks beyond their role prescriptions.

“Treating employees in a fair manner include issues pertaining to politeness, kindness, dignity, respect for rights, and concern for the needs of others.

“In hotels, extra-role voluntary behaviours exhibited by customer-contact employees when handling person-to-person encounter with hotel guests is likely to improve the functional aspect of service quality.”

The paper noted that “procedural justice reflects a person’s judgments about the fairness of the decision-making process” as well as the perceptions of “whether the decisions were made according to the organisation’s formal procedures and from the quality of interpersonal treatment received from the organisation’s authorities in enacting those procedures.

“In an organisation, the use of fair decision-making procedures will reassure its members that their interests will be protected and advanced as long as they maintain their membership status.

“Over time, members in a social exchange relationship are likely to feel proud of their institution, which in turn, may motivate them to reciprocate by engaging in voluntary and positive behaviours” towards the employing institution.

The paper says it is equally important to ensure that companies make employees feel like “a respected, valued, and worthy member of the institution.”

“To be successful, service providers, such as hotels, need to recruit and retain employees that are productive, self-initiated, and able to provide value-added services to customers.

“Hotel employees who exhibit high levels of courtesy are respectful and considerate to one another. These behaviors affect the quality of employee interactions among themselves and is likely to spillover on the employee-external customer interactions.

“Likewise, employees who display sportsmanship tend to view matters positively and avoid unnecessary complaining, all of which serve to create a positive work climate within the hotel. Such pleasant internal environment is likely to result in higher service quality,” the paper says.

“Hotel employees who display such behaviour tend to actively participate in meetings and other forms of gatherings. (They) offer suggestions for developing new services and/or improving the quality of current services, provide opportunities for sharing of experiences and problems, create a team spirit, as well as help uphold the hotel’s image to outsiders.”

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