Staffing Issues Among Small Hospitability Businesses

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Hospitality industry usually faces a number of challenges that management needs to address. An article by A.D. Alonso and M.A. O’Neill (2009) deals with the domain of management concerning operation of hospitability businesses of small scale. The purpose of the study is to investigate labour shortage, employee turnover, and other issues of small hospitability enterprises located in college towns of America. Employee retention, caused by peculiarities of labour force, seems to be the major problem for businesses of such scale. This is why it became a focus of the given article, as this issue is insufficiently explored in literature. Thus, results of this work are useful both for management experts and employers, as well as employees because they may be used by enterprises to increase their efficiency and profitability.

Literature Review

The analysis of literature on the topic investigated by the authors emphasizes lack of scientific attention paid to managerial challenges of small hospitability enterprises (supported by the findings of Morrison & Thomas in 1999), and in some cases authors resort to general literature on hospitability management, which can be justified. The drawback of the reference list is a number of old articles (here belong works of Ashness & Lashley, DeMicco & Parks, and survey by Standard and Poors among the others). They, however, can also be perceived as essential for comprehensive analysis. A strength of the study is that authors analyzed economic premises (low relevance of competition to staff related problems explained in the work of Barrows et al.; unstable low pay to employees mentioned in the research of Madera & Kapoor) as well as purely managerial (Wildes 2007; Ross 1997). Multilateral approach to the problem is ensured by referring to employer and employee parties of business, underlining the importance of the latter, especially for small-scale enterprises (Pratten 2003). This is because the quality of service is a key point in hospitability business, regardless of its size (Baum 2011). Analysis of personnel related issues, and namely their intentions when applying to hospitability business, is provided in the article written by Milman (2003). Staff attraction, retention, and motivation are revealed in the research of Aziz et. al as factors contributing to success. Thus, findings of researches presented in the literature review can be considered comprehensive and appropriate for the article under analysis. They also provide readers with important results of studies of other researchers relevant to the topic of small-scale hospitability businesses.

Research Methodology

Research design which Alonso and O’Neill used may be called a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods. The latter method was used when choosing a sample. The reasoning was explained by geographic proximity of two towns intended for the analysis. This decision is justified by research aim to analyze enterprise types that researchers are locally more familiar with. Quantitative approach was used for interviewing sample participants and calculation of numerical results. Combining qualitative and quantitative methods is a research method that has proved its effectiveness in numerous studies and for many researches. It also proved to be appropriate for the research described in the article under analysis, because it helped to make valid conclusions and numerous insights complying with the aim of investigation.

Data Collection

Data collection tools used in the research under analysis are appropriate, as they include both personal interactions (face-to-face and telephone interviews, which were transcribed verbatim) and secondary participation (distributing questionnaires). However, it should be mentioned that only four interviews were conducted face-to-face while the majority were conducted via telephone. This can be explained by ethical considerations explained further. Alonso and O’Neill are precise in mentioning types of questionnaire distribution both direct and indirect ones. Data analysis reveals such items as work experience of employers, various professional and personal characteristics of employees as well as a list of major management difficulties presented in tables, which are incorporated in the text. Some essential drawbacks of data collection are related to sampling and will be discussed in the corresponding section further in this paper. Analysis of case studies, which was done in the literature review section was an important preliminary means used by the researchers. The investigation itself, however, focused on independent data collection, which is an important advantage and a proof of the study’s scientific novelty.

Ethical Issues

Although face-to-face interview allows the researcher to gain deeper understanding of the subject, it is not ethical to keep a working employee for longer hours when conducting the interview. It is, therefore, important not to cause inconveniences to the staff or slow down service delivery during the interview session. Thus, authors avoided interviewing on holidays because it is a potentially busy period for businesses. This allows one to regard such approach as polite and complying with ethical requirements. The research can also be regarded as well-designed in terms of methodology and chosen data collection tools.


A non-random sampling method is used by researchers, which is suitable for studying geographically adjacent areas. As there were approximately 100 establishments in total, including 39 businesses which situated 20 miles from the researcher in the sample for interviews gave an accurate picture of the whole population of interest. However, only 51.2% of the targeted businesses (21) participated in the survey. Critical assessment of this number may lead to a conclusion that the response rate turned out to be rather low. This influenced outcomes of the research. The advantage of this research, however, is the critical approach to sampling, which is proved by including two businesses of franchise participation of different level in the sample. Concluding the above discussion, researchers reached the stated aim by using this sampling method.

Validity and Reliability

Facial validity was ensured during the interviews. Other validity and reliability measures that were used included ensuring predictive validity by using secondary data, content validity by checking how well the instrument retrieved information, and construct validity by determining whether participants understood the topic of study (Hanushek & Woessmann 2010). It should be mentioned that higher reliability could have been achieved if a larger sample was used by the researchers.

Data Analysis Tools

This study used interpretive data analysis tool to understand what respondents meant. Statistical data analysis was also performed to get percentages. In addition to this, researchers could have used more visualization tools like graphical representations to clearly present the information. An important strength of the research is that authors provide quotations from survey responses displaying actual results in an impressive personal way. Such approach is extremely appropriate bearing in mind the peculiarity of the chosen topic. Although methodology and data collection tools were appropriate, response rate of the sample in the final stage of the analysis was rather limited.


In their research published in the IJFM Alonso and O’Neil found out that challenges facing the hospitality industry included poor attraction of skilled staff, poor employee retention due to lack of motivation, perceived low status of the job, and unstable low pay. These factors make the industry unattractive to skilled labour and lead to high employee turnover. Some business owners and managers felt that employment in this industry was seasonal, thus not interesting for skilled workers. Others felt that economic recession posed major threat to the hospitality industry. Appropriate methodology of data collection, sampling, data analysis, and attention to issues of ethics, validity, and reliability made the research reliable and its results accurate. Future perspectives of the research partially eliminate noted drawbacks of the study.

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