Motivating Your Employees

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Maintaining a satisfied and motivated workforce within tourism, hospitality and leisure organizations. The hospitality industry has been struggling to find out what motivates employees and keeps them satisfied. Systems may be flawless in your hotel or restaurant, the food may be great, but what matters most is how the employee will deliver the service to the guest. I would say, employees have been seen as tools to deliver quality service, whereas their welfare is never attended to. High employee turnover can be attributed to poor remuneration, ill treatment at work place, and poor working environment (Maroudas et al., 2008). If only the working hours would be commensurate to the wages, and if only respect from superiors would be exercised towards junior employees and the general welfare would be observed, then guests would be met with a smile and service would be top notch.

A motivated receptionist or front-office employee is paramount to any hotel, restaurant, bar or recreation facility for that matter. The employee handles issues affecting guests and is the face of the facility. Guest satisfaction starts from the front-office and this will reflect highly on the type of treatment the guest will receive in the rest of the facility. But how to we keep the employee motivated is the million dollar question. Chitiris (1990), observed that motivation determines a lot an employee’s behavior at work, and whether the employee has superb abilities, or whether he has high level training, if he is de-motivated at work then his performance is poor. Michael and Robert (2011) noted that employees are not only motivated by monetary rewards, but also by non-monetary rewards. Factors behind monetary or financial rewards include; meeting the employee’s personal needs, the strength of reinforcement (positive and negative), longing to receive a reward, and equality in dishing out rewards

Any employee’s basic motivator is money. An employee receives wages or salaries. According to Maslow (1943), an employee must be well paid to meet his personal basic needs before they can use rewards to meet other non-basic needs. The employer may not increase wages but may offer other means for an employee to meet his basic need. For instance, an employer may find a favorable health scheme that is affordable for the employee family and this will go a long way to meet the basic need of health.

The strength in reinforcement can be viewed in two perspectives: positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is rewarding good behavior while negative reinforcement is not rewarding poor behavior. If you do so, you will receive more of good behavior than bad behavior. This is a psychological principle that is widely accepted. Negative reinforcement can also be instilled through reprimanding for bad behavior.

An employee will long to receive an award if there are set goals. The human resource management can set challenging but achievable goals. It has been observed that challenging goals lead to high performance. If these goals are co-joined with an amount of compensation, then the output is even higher and the performance is exceptional.

Equity in giving rewards is one other motivating factor. People are social beings and will tend to compare themselves with others, to form the basis of judging what if fair or unfair (Albrecht, 2009). If an employee notes that a colleague has been remunerated better for a similar effort that he has put to a task, then he will feel injustice has been done and this will reduce performance. People often judge fairness according to how they are remunerated vis a vis how others are remunerated, of which neither could be accurate. The results of feeling under-remunerated are absenteeism, high employee turnover and in some cases theft.

The manner in which monetary rewards are given go a long way to fulfill appreciation needs as well as monetary needs. Therefore different remunerations can keep employees focused on excellent performance. Monetary rewards can be a strong motivating tool and can build a culture of service fineness. These though, if coupled with non-monetary rewards, will strengthen motivation even better.

A program to recognize excellence is one way that is non-monetary to motivate an employee. Sarova Whitesands Hotel in Kenya has a program where at the end of the high season, the best performing department and the most hardworking employee is awarded and his name placed on a board for all to see. Such rewards put more emphasis on good behavior and reinforce excellence performance that supports the goals of the institution. Such like awards clearly show that you are pleased and that you highly appreciate your employees’ efforts. Appreciation by a plaque, certificate of performance, trophies and so on, create an emotional attachment and the feeling of pride in a person for work well done. You will find that in many occasions, they motivate better that a twenty dollar bill that will be spent and forgotten the following day.

Poor performance at work can be caused by a poor working environment (Condly and Pietro, 2001).

Employees need proper equipment to work with, enough working space, enough ventilation and adequate lighting. A good working environment includes good working relationship with managers and supervisors. Managers must learn to trust employees and show that they value whatever effort an employee contributes to the company. Managers must learn to listen to ideas, complains and suggestions from employees regarding their working environment or their workplace.

One other motivating factor is a pleasurable job. Sometimes, working can be rewarding by itself. Hotels in the world that perform really well, conduct a survey among employees to know their level of satisfaction in their workplace. Issues of interest in the survey include: employee relationship with their superiors, how employees feel about their remuneration and the nature of their working conditions (Barsky J. et al., 2004). Employee turnover can be predicted by employees who are not satisfied, as indicated by a number of surveys carried out in the world (Podsakoff N.P. et al., 2007). In the hospitality industry it is paramount to ask employees what part of their work pulls them back from good performance. By doing so, the human resource department can tune their jobs to focus more on what the employees love doing best and in the end result perform best. W hat may seem not pleasurable to one employee, may be the most ideal for another employee.

An interesting job means good performance in the responsibilities. A job can be made interesting in various ways such as job rotation. An employee may find his job boring because of repeating the same routine on a daily basis. It is therefore important to expose them to new interactions, give them new tasks and subject them to new challenges. You can also make an employee’s job feel important by making him know the job’s contribution to the hotel’s goals. Once an employee knows that his job is a major contributor towards the company’s goals and purpose, he will respect it and work with all enthusiasm so he can be recognized in the end. Other ways of making a job interesting, especially in the hospitality industry, include formation of work groups so that the employee feels he is part of a winning team, and also, treating the employees with respect and integrity. Once you increase autonomy in a job it shows that you have respect for the knowledge that the employee has in a certain area, his skills and his capabilities.

The success of a hotel or an establishment in the hospitality industry depends a lot on the employees. For instance, if a visitor is ill-treated by the staff at the reception, then he/she will paint a very bad picture of the whole institution. Similarly an untidy room done by a dissatisfied employee will automatically send the visitor away. All departments work hand in hand to meet the goals of the institution. To wrap it up, motivation and satisfaction of employees solely lies upon the Human Resource Department. The department must get down on the ground and interact more with its workforce and learn from the different departments. A successful human resource department must collect data often, sit down and analyze the information provided by the employees, implement points of importance to the purpose of the institution, and in cases where verification is required, it is important to call for departmental meeting of the employees so that they can raise their issues. Employees want to work in an environment that is interesting, that is important, has a lot of fun to work in, and is fair. Any employee will want to have a management that can identify what each employee is looking for and is in a position to provide it often and impartially. From what we have learnt above about employee motivation and satisfaction, the only way to reduce employee turnover and managing them well, is by creating a job that will meet the four items of fun, fairness, interesting job and important positions. Rewards will always go a long way to meet the purpose and goals of the institution and must be given equally without partiality. After listening to employees and collection the necessary information about what they need, the management must strive to ensure that the employees are well treated, they are respected, they are recognized by the institution, and most importantly they are rewarded accordingly. It goes without saying at this point that the most important tool to motivate and satisfy employees in the hospitality industry is getting to know the employees.


A. H. Maslow, "A Theory of Human Motivation," Psychological Review 50(4) (1943): 370-396.

Chitiris, L. 1990. Who Are the Work-Motivated Managers in the Hotel Industry — An Exploratory Study. International Journal of Hospitality Management 9 (4): 293-304. ScienceDirect. (accessed December 09, 2018).

Condly, S.J. and De Pietro, R. (2001) Motivation in the Hospitality Industry. Available online at: accessed [09/12/2018]

C. Albrecht, "Sales Compensation and the Fairness Question," Workspan 8(9) (2009): 17-20.

J. Barsky, C. Frame, and J. McDougal, "Variety of Strategies Help Improve Employee Satisfaction," Hotel and Motel Management 219(21) (2004)

Maroudas, L., Kyriakidou, O., & Vacharis, A. (2008). Employees’ motivation in the luxury hotel industry: The perceived effectiveness of human-resources practices. Managing Leisure, 13, 258-271.

N. P. Podsakoff, J. A. LePine, and M. A. LePine, "Differential Challenge Stressor-Hindrance Stressor Relationships with Job Attitudes, Turnover Intentions, Turnover, and Withdrawal Behavior: A Meta-analysis," Journal of Applied Psychology 92 (2007): 438-454.

Sturman, M. C., & Ford, R. (2011). Motivating your staff to provide outstanding service[Electronic version]. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, School of Hospitality Administration site:

October 24, 2023
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Employee Motivation

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