Respect: an Ethical Solution to Employee Motivation in the Hospitality Industry | By Allen Reich – Hospitality Net – Hospitality Net

Our primary job as hospitality managers is to motivate employees to perform certain tasks in a manner that produces certain desired outcomes. Historically, in a time when people went to work for a firm and sometimes remained there for the majority of their career, motivation was easier because there was a significantly greater level of pride and a stronger work ethic amongst employees than currently exists. These tendencies of long tenure and strong work ethic were primarily based both on the cultural and normative values of the time—that is what people did—what was expected of them and on the significantly less competitive environment that existed (i.e., fewer hospitality businesses to work at).
Obviously, things have changed. A significant percentage of current-day employees view our industry as way to earn money and get work experience while they are in high school, college, or simply trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. The current average tenure of hospitality employees in the U.S. is about one year. These changes have been exacerbated by the COVID 19 virus—some career-oriented employees are taking a more long-term view of their careers by trying to find work that they view as more stable and because some potential applicants are hesitant to work in the hospitality industry, managers are finding that the power over determining wages, benefits and incentives has begun shifting from owners and managers to employees. These and various other challenges, such as some, but not all industry managers being viewed as not caring about employees or their future, has resulted in hospitality firms having significant challenges staffing their businesses.
The question becomes, “How do we motivate employees to view their jobs as having career potential and therefore to take their job-related responsibilities more seriously?” Regarding the career potential in our industry, there are three major influencing factors—political regulations, disruptive changes in our industry, and the competitive nature of individual businesses. We have very little control over political regulations (e.g., taxes, deregulation, wars, response to viruses/pandemics, etc.) and disruptive changes (third-party food delivery, home-sharing, etc.), but fortunately we have a considerable degree of control over the third factor, the competitive nature of individual businesses. The key question of course is, “What is the best way to effectively motivate employees to remain with our businesses for longer than the one-year average and to do their absolute best to help our company achieve its goals?” There are many opinions on this topic, but based on 50+ years of both hands-on experience in the industry (cook through VP of operations, consulting, expert witness, etc.) and theoretical experience through teaching human resource management and marketing courses and researching related information for many books and articles, the following is my opinion. The solution is to simply increase our attention on helping each employee to achieve their potential through the ethical application of respect. This can be accomplished through a sequential process as seen in the model in the figure below. Since this is not an 8,000-word academic article and the vast majority of the process is highly intuitive, especially for hospitality industry professionals, I will provide a brief overview of the components of the model.
Luckily, the solution to many of life’s challenges is to simply and ethically treat everyone with respect. The results are amazingly satisfying and productive. As one saying goes, employees don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Allen has worked and taught in the hospitality industry since he was a teenager (1965)— mostly in the restaurant industry, but also in food & beverage in resorts and hotels. In the industry he progressed from cook to corporate VP of operations with positions such as sous chef at Green Pastures, a restaurant on James Beard’s list of top 100 restaurant in the world, where he often cooked for Lady Bird Johnson for various functions at the LBJ Presidential Library, the Texas Governor and Lt.


Book an appointment