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Intergenerational Synergy Among Hospitality Workers Essay

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Updated: Dec 15th, 2020

Description of Research Topic

For the first time in history, the workplace environment is defined by the presence of multiple generations of employees working at the same time. Particularly, many studies show that up to four generations of personnel could be working in the same organization. Typically, they include baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and1976), Generation Y/Millennials (born between 1977 and 1997), and Generation Z (born after 1997) (Hillman 2014). These four cohorts are driven by different beliefs and values that may create conflict within an organization and undermine the synergy needed for employees to accomplish their tasks. As highlighted by De Clercq and Belausteguigoitia (2015), some of these conflicts are value-based, behavior-based, or identity-based.

There is a consensus among most studies that intergenerational conflicts in the workplace are common causes of high employee turnover, unhappy employees, poor financial performance, and low productivity levels in the workplace (Costanza & Finkelstein 2015; Hillman 2014). These issues manifest because evidence shows that some employee groups do not trust or respect each other. For example, studies conducted by Gursoy, Chi, and Karadag (2013) show that there is a general lack of respect noted between generation X and Y. These conflicts have forced managers to rethink their human resource strategies and look for ways of minimizing intergenerational conflict. As explained by Edge (2014), the main challenge for many organizations in this regard is to understand how to harness the potential of these four generations to create harmony in the workplace and boost productivity. This document suggests a research study to explore how to promote intergeneration synergy in the hospitality sector.

Aims and Objectives of the Study

The proposed study aims to promote intergenerational synergy among employees in the hospitality sector.

The objectives are outlined below:

  1. To explore key communication strategies that could be used to promote intergenerational synergy among employees in the hospitality sector.
  2. To describe the differences in work ethic among different generations of employees in the hospitality industry.
  3. To find out how to proactively prevent intergenerational conflicts among employees in the hospitality industry.
  4. To identify strategies for improving teamwork among employees in the hospitality industry.

Background and Issues underlying the Research

The hospitality industry is characterized by one of the highest rates of employee turnover compared to any other industry of its magnitude (Vail Center 2018; Gursoy, Chi & Karadag 2013). Employee turnover in the industry is pegged at 70%, while the average turnover rate in other industries is only 46% (Vail Center 2018). Part of the problem is intergenerational conflicts between younger and older workers in hotels, restaurants, and other subsets of the industry (Gursoy, Chi & Karadag 2013). Particularly, most companies operating in the sector are managed by older generations of workers (mostly baby boomers), while younger employees are their subjects (DeVaney 2015; Jones, Hillier & Comfort 2014). Different beliefs, values, and attitudes held by these employee cohorts about their work are a source of conflict for most of them. Consequently, employee dissatisfaction and a high turnover rate continue to impede progress in the industry, leading to financial losses (Gursoy, Chi & Karadag 2013).

Justification for the Study

The proposed study will specifically investigate three key areas of intergenerational collaboration: communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and work ethic integration. At the end of the study, it would be possible to understand how to create synergy within the workplace. This information would be important to managers who are struggling to understand how to create a workplace environment that caters to the needs of all employee groups. Therefore, the findings of the proposed paper will help to provide fresh perspectives on conflicts in the workplace, leadership blind spots, and the promotion of intergenerational synergy as strategies for improving industry success.

Business Discipline and Academic Areas that Relate to the Research

Some business disciplines and academic areas that relate to the research topic include human resource management, marketing, employee recruitment and retention, strategic development, employee training and development, customer service, leadership, and business communication.

Literature Review

Critical Review of Academic Literature

Most of the literature underpinning the proposed research topic has focused on explaining or describing intergenerational differences among employees in the workplace (Gursoy, Chi & Karadag 2013). Little attention has been paid towards finding solutions that would promote intergenerational synergy in the workplace. Studies that describe the problem include the likes of Lyons et al. (2015) and DeVaney (2015) which have shown that intergenerational differences in the workplace lead to ineffective knowledge transfer methods. The same authors describe differences among generations by pointing out unique cultural, social, and historical issues that influence their values, beliefs, and attitudes (Lyons et al. 2015; DeVaney 2015). They also demonstrate that each employee group has distinct preferences, goals, and work styles, which affect how they operate. Similar studies argue that employee groups respond to different motivations and rewards in the workplace (Bussin & Van Rooy 2014). These differences have created varying experiences and rewards for different employees in the workplace (Chawla, Dokadia & Rai 2017). At the same time, generational differences among employee groups are still being studied as younger employees enter the workplace.

Theoretical Models and Frameworks

Some theories and models that relate to the research objectives and that have been explored by researchers include Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, hygiene theory, and psychological contract theory (Cloutier et al. 2015). They have largely been used by researchers to understand how generational differences in the workplace impact organizational performance. Some studies that have referred to the theories discuss the changing psychological contract between employees and employers based on societal influences (Cloutier et al. 2015). Particularly, the generational cohort theory has been advanced as a unique model for understanding generational differences in the workplace. It postulates that differences in values and beliefs among employee groups are products of historical events and societal changes (Parry 2014). Here, it is important to point out that most studies, which have contributed towards the development of the above-mentioned theories, have been based on empirical research investigations, which have mostly included young people from middle and upper-class backgrounds. Therefore, few studies have embraced a national outlook that cuts across different socioeconomic classes.

Relevant Research Completed To Date

Relevant studies that have been completed to date are such as those of Amayah and Gedro (2014) and Urick et al. (2017), which suggest that many managers are having trouble adapting or coping with generational differences that exist in today’s workplaces. Some of them also show that organizations, which have existed before the birth of some of these generations, are having the biggest problem adapting to their needs, or even finding out how to create harmony among workers who have different needs and values (Amayah & Gedro 2014). Intergenerational differences have also been lost among most works of literature because researchers have only focused on exploring diversity through gender and ethnic lines. The impact of this approach has been explored in several studies such as that of Urick et al. (2017), which show how managers have failed to guide employees regarding the promotion of organizational synergy. Nonetheless, such studies do not undermine the fact that, although generational differences are largely seen as social problems plaguing the society, they play out every day in the organization and in ways that hinder productivity.

Debates within the Literature

Debates that characterize the content of studies, which have explored intergenerational differences in the organization, have focused on identifying the right leadership and management styles to promote synergy among different generational groups (Alrowwad, Obeidat & Aqqad 2017). There have also been discussions about the right type of work ethic to apply to organizations that want to promote employee synergy poor work ethic (Costanza & Finkelstein 2015; Hillman 2014). Debates about the extent that informality should be introduced in the workplace also exist (Becton, Walker & Jones-Farmer 2014). The same is true for discussions that focus on the lack of respect for authority among younger generations of workers and the need for supervision among older workers who believe that the latter is necessary for the improvement of organizational productivity (DeMeulenaere, Boone & Buyl 2016).

Studies that propose solutions for bridging intergenerational gaps in the workplace have also debated the extent that change management should be embraced to support diversity in the workplace (Costanza & Finkelstein 2015; Hillman 2014). Understanding the level of supervision that should be associated with employee tasks is also a huge area of debate among studies that strive to provide solutions for promoting intergenerational harmony because older generations of workers are commonly known to prefer micromanaged functions, while younger generations of employees tend to support task autonomy (DeMeulenaere, Boone & Buyl 2016). The type of recognition that should be offered in the workplace is also another area of debate because different employee generations are motivated by unique values and beliefs (Lyons & Kuron 2014). Therefore, it may be difficult for managers to create a common framework for rewarding employees. Lastly, researchers such as Akkucuk and Turan (2016) have mentioned the extent of technology integration in organizational processes as a key area of debate. This is because older generations have been commonly associated with a dislike for the excessive reliance on technology to carry out organizational functions, while younger workers are synonymous with the same (Akkucuk & Turan 2016). Comprehensively, these issues explain some of the common debates underlying intergenerational conflict in the workplace.

Gap in the Literature

Most of the literature highlighted in this document explain issues that organizations and managers strive to address in a quest to promote intergenerational harmony in the workplace. However, most of the findings are descriptive in nature and unfocused. Therefore, it is difficult to understand how they relate to a specific industry or how managers working for a specific organization could employ them to promote employee synergy in their organizations. Consequently, there is a gap in the literature, which is premised on the failure of researchers to include industry dynamics when exploring intergenerational issues in the workplace. This gap is more prevalent in the hospitality industry because it is a big one and yet few researchers have investigated how intergenerational synergy in this sector could be promoted.

Nature of the Literature (Theory, Research, Policy, and Prescriptive)

Most works of literature that have discussed intergenerational conflict have relied on employee motivation theories, such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and contingency theory (Dow et al. 2016). These theories have been borrowed from the human relations and behavioral science schools of thought. The works of literature also borrow heavily from human resource practices as a unique aspect of business management. Organizational behavior is also another widely discussed area of practice as seen from the works of Alexander, Havercome, and Mujtaba (2015). This business field has mostly defined the policy perspective of intergenerational conflict and has helped researchers to link the psychological and behavioral aspects of the analysis with workplace policies. Key areas of organizational management, such as leadership styles and management acumen, are borrowed from this link (Al-Asfour & Lettau 2014). The diversity of management and organizational dynamics that apply to this area of study means that few prescriptive proposals address intergenerational conflict in the workplace. Furthermore, there is no consensus regarding the true values, beliefs, and practices of different generational cohorts in the workplace because some of them overlap with one another or are affected by other workplace factors, such as employee pay.

Link between Research Gap and Objectives

As mentioned above, the research gap that emerges from this literature review is defined by the failure of studies to investigate how to promote intergenerational synergy among workers in the hospitality sector. It is associated with the four research objectives in this paper because the latter underscores four key areas of employee relations: communication, work ethics, proactive conflict resolution methods, and team building. These four key areas of analysis tap into the research gap highlighted in this study because they address intergenerational issues that affect the performance of the hospitality industry. This research focus will provide a tailored understanding of intergenerational issues affecting performance in the hospitality industry and outline a guiding framework for managing the same challenges to promote intergenerational synergy in the workplace. Therefore, unlike other studies that describe differences among different generations, the proposed study will focus on taking advantage of the strengths of each generational cohort to provide an overall framework where they could be harnessed to promote synergy in the workplace.

Reference List

Akkucuk, U & Turan, C 2016, ‘Mobile use and online preferences of the millennials: a study in Yalova’, Journal of Internet Banking and Commerce, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 1-11.

Al-Asfour, A & Lettau, L 2014, ‘Strategies for leadership styles for multi-generational workforce’, Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 58-69.

Alexander, V, Havercome, C & Mujtaba, B 2015, ‘Effectively managing employees to get results in a diverse workplace such as American Express’, Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 13-26.

Alrowwad, A, Obeidat, BY & Aqqad, N 2017, ‘The impact of transformational leadership on organisational performance via the mediating role of corporate social responsibility: a structural equation modeling approach’, International Business Research, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 199-221.

Amayah, A & Gedro, J 2014, ‘Understanding generational diversity: strategic human resource management and development across the generational divide’, New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 36-48.

Becton, JB, Walker, JW & Jones-Farmer, A 2014, ‘Generational differences in workplace behaviour’, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 175-189.

Bussin, M & Van Rooy, DJ 2014, ‘Total rewards strategy for a multi-generational workforce in a financial institution’, Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 1-11.

Chawla, D, Dokadia, A & Rai, S 2017, ‘Multigenerational differences in career preferences, reward preferences and work engagement in Indian employees’, Global Business Review, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 181-197.

Cloutier, O, Felusiak, L, Hill, C & Pemberton-Jones, E 2015, ‘The importance of developing strategies for employee retention’, Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 119-129.

Costanza, DP & Finkelstein, LM 2015, ‘Generationally based differences in the workplace: is there a there’, Industrial and Organisational Psychology, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 308-323.

De Clercq, D & Belausteguigoitia, I 2015, ‘Intergenerational strategy involvement and family firms’ innovation pursuits: the critical roles of conflict management and social capital’, Journal of Family Business Strategy, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 178-189.

DeMeulenaere, K, Boone, C & Buyl, T 2016, ‘Unraveling the impact of workforce age diversity on labour productivity: the moderating role of firm size and job security’, Journal of Organisational Behavior, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 193-212.

DeVaney, S 2015, ‘Understanding the millennial generation’, Journal of Financial Service Professionals, vol. 69, no. 6, pp. 11-14.

Dow, B, Joosten, M, Biggs, S & Kimberley, H 2016, ‘Age encounters: exploring age and intergenerational perceptions’, Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 104-118.

Edge, K 2014, ‘A review of the empirical generations at work research: implications for school leaders and future research’, School Leadership & Management, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 136-155.

Gursoy, D, Chi, CG & Karadag, E 2013, ‘Generational differences in work values and attitudes among frontline and service contact employees’, International Journal of Hospitality Management, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 40-48.

Hillman, D 2014, ‘Understanding multigenerational work-value conflict resolution’, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 240-257.

Jones, P, Hillier, D & Comfort, D 2014, ‘Sustainability in the global hotel industry’, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 5-17.

Kicheva, T 2017, ‘Management of employees from different generations – challenge for Bulgarian managers and HR professionals’, Economic Alternatives, vol. 1, no. 5, pp. 103-121.

Lyons, S & Kuron, L 2014, ‘Generational differences in the workplace: a review of the evidence and directions for future research’, Journal of Organisational Behavior, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 139-157.

Lyons, S, Urick, M, Kuron, L & Schweitzer, L 2015, ‘Generational difference in the workplace: there is complexity beyond the stereotypes’, Industrial and Organisational Psychology, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 346-356.

Parry, E 2014, Generational diversity at work: new research perspectives, Routledge, London.

Urick, MJ, Hollensbe, EC, Masterson, SS & Lyons, ST 2017, ‘Understanding and managing intergenerational conflict: an examination of influences and strategies’, Work, Aging and Retirement, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 166-185.

Vail Center. (2018). Fixing high turnover in the hospitality industry, Web.

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