Umashankar, Venkatesh

In recent years, researchers, commentators, consultants and practicing managers have come out with the imperative of the empowered and hence motivated employee for sustenance of the organization in a world characterized, among other things, by the free flow of ideas, knowledge, information, skills, resources and most importantly people. The contention of this paper is that service sector employees, because of their ‘high-touch’ requirements, have a more immediate and pressing need to be provided with ‘extra’ motivational support within the modern organization. Secondly, the paper also tries to link the very high rates of employee turnover in the hospitality sector in particular, to this factor of empowerment and motivation. The paper, through the description of standard operating procedures and work conditions prevalent in the relevant industry, then tries to explain why employee motivation in the said industry is at such a low-ebb. A cultural perspective is also provided wherein the feudalistic basis of transactions evident in the industry is delineated. The paper concludes with the reasons there for and suggestions thereto, which may bring positive change.

“An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.”

Jan Carlzon, CEO, Scandinavian Airlines

It is a universally known and well-documented fact that when we talk of customer satisfaction it takes effective and motivated service (encounter) personnel at the delivery end to make the difference. All the product design, operation planning and other associated efforts will come to a nothing if the delivery end personnel fail. Earning profits through delivering customer satisfaction is one of the philosophical underpinnings of service businesses (Dawn et al., 1994). Therein comes the concept of the ‘service profit chain’ enunciated by Heskett et al, (1994), where in the chain consisting of profits earned through customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction precedes customer satisfaction and hence profits. One needs winners at the front lines and not just warm bodies, thus a key problem for managers is how to ensure appropriate behaviors on part of front-line workers at the point of the service encounter (Bowen and Schneider, 1988; Carlzon, 1987). But most service companies perpetuate a cycle of failure by tolerating high turnover and expecting employee dissatisfaction (Schlesinger and Heskett, 1991). It is easy to expect employees to be uniformly reliable, responsible, empathetic, assured and ready to serve (Parasuraman et al., 1991) during and between service encounters. There are situations wherein a shift stretches to ten or twelve hours quite frequently. It becomes difficult for the employees to cope up with such situations on a continuous basis. In the same vein, it is also relevant to note that a number of studies have established, empowerment or employee involvement as a TQM related dimension as well (Berry, 1991; Dean and Evans, 1994; Hofstede, 1984; Lawler et al., 1995; Ross, 1993).

Due to the potential impact that employees have on the business, it is imperative that management understands the specific dimensions that help shape employees’ attitudes toward their jobs. It is generally agreed that the hotel workforce has a high level of temporary workers, substantial female employment, low levels of training, low wages, high labor turnover and gender segregation (Charlesworth, 1994; Deery and Iverson, 1996; Riley, 1991). Over the past several years, considerable attention has been given to role conflict, role clarity, job tension and job satisfaction as four very important determinants of the performance of individuals and their impact on the operational effectiveness of the organization (Kelly et al., 1981; Lusch and Serpkenci, 1990).

Increasing job satisfaction among service personnel has the potential of generating higher customer satisfaction with the service, repeat purchases by current customers and positive word-of-mouth communications to potential customers. Research has indicated that job satisfaction of service personnel can be increased by hiring individuals who tend to be highly empathetic, by training current employees how to be empathetic, by providing employees with clear job descriptions, by empowering employees within the customer/employee dyad to make decisions that will result in higher customer satisfaction with the service, and in establishing a clear unity of command for each employee (Rogers et al, 1994). Spinelli et al. (2000) found that in the case of hospitality sector workers, pay and benefits are strong considerations in employee satisfaction, and most employees feel that they are underpaid for the job they do, irrespective of the compensation they get. Pay and benefits were however found to be just one factor among many. Research has indicated that the absence of these economic factors will lead to discontent, but more importantly, their presence will not add to long-term employee satisfaction (Bruce et al., 1992). It therefore seems to come back to job enrichment factors, such as recognition of employee contribution, participatory decision-making, open communication channels, along with the factors identified above that account for employee satisfaction.


In the light of Fisher (1935) and Clark’s (1940) division of the economy into three sectors (agriculture, industry and services), it could be argued that the ‘service or tertiary society’ is the stage towards which all countries are moving. As countries move from being industrial societies to becoming post-industrial societies more and more contributions to the national income will emanate from the tertiary sector of services. An increasing share of services and a diminishing share of production of goods in their economies characterize highly developed societies. This changing pattern is also reflected in employment where there is growth in service employment and reduced employment in the production industries.

A further feature of this changing pattern is one brought about by rapid technological change in the economy, which results in the work content within industries also rapidly changing. There is an increasing emphasis on occupations delivering services rather than being involved with the physical work to produce the goods. This means that not only is employment increasingly skewed towards service industries, but in the production industries also, the activities within them are increasingly oriented towards service activities (Sarossy, 1996). The occupational structure of postindustrial society is therefore increasingly dominated by employment in which professional groups grow rapidly in number and thereby increase their overall importance. Education levels of the workforce are high and increasing. The socio-economic system tends to become increasingly technocratic, with skills and education increasingly overtaking family background and property as the determinant of individual’s social position.

This basically is symptomatic of higher levels of professional aspiration in the new generation entering the job markets as a whole, characterized, among other things, by-need for faster career growth curves; preference for informal, team-based work environment; lack of preference and impatience with hierarchies; direct entry to managerial positions rather than working one’s way up through the ranks; desire for higher compensation levels/disproportionate pay hikes based on performance rather than anything else; stronger need for affiliation and overt recognition; different definition and perception of loyalty; etc. The demands therefore on the workplace in terms of – culture, environment and potential is different, and employee retention is a commonplace concern. Traditional organization structures based on Weber’s formal rationality and Taylorian work organizations have been referred to as ‘dis-empowering’ by van Outdshoorn et al (1993), with traditional structures, which create feelings of powerlessness (Johnson, 1993) amongst employees leading to a resultant lack of commitment and motivation. Normann (1982/1984) and Grönroos (1982) have shown how a traditional management focus (based on the principles of scientific management) overemphasizing cost reduction efforts and scale economies may become a management trap for service firms and lead to a vicious circle where the quality of the service is damaged, internal workforce environment deteriorates, customer relationships suffer, and eventually profitability problems occur. Growing marketing and sales budgets may slow down the negative trend for some time, but as this normally only means increased persuasion and over-promising, in the long run it only leads to unsatisfied and defecting customers (Grönroos, 1994).

The above discussion when combined with the definition given by Albrecht (1988) that-“service management is a total organizational approach that makes quality of service, as perceived by the customer, the number one driving force for the operations of the business”, presents a case for a different approach to people management to be effective in the service organization.

Another concern is that even large sized companies have to increasingly fight harder to attract and retain executive talent. A McKinsey study of 77 large US companies suggests that executive talent has been the most under-managed corporate asset for the past two decades. The study by Chambers et al (1998) indicates that large companies face three qualitative challenges. First, a more complex economy demands more sophisticated talent with global acumen, multi-cultural fluency, technological literacy, entrepreneurial skills and the ability to manage increasingly de-layered, disaggregated organizations.

Second, the emergence of efficient capital markets has enabled the rise of many small and medium-sized companies that are increasingly targeting the same people sought by large companies. Small companies exert a powerful pull across the whole executive spectrum, offering opportunities for impact and wealth that few large firms can match.

Third, and not surprisingly given the above, job mobility is increasing. A war once conducted as a sequence of set-piece recruiting battles is transforming itself into an endless series of skirmishes as companies find their best people, and in particular their future senior executives, under constant attack.

All this boils down to the fact that high employee turnover hence poor retention is a reality irrespective of the hierarchy level that one is talking about, right from the managerial echelons to staff levels. Therefore it is imperative for survival that organizations have strategies in place to attract and more importantly retain employees at high levels of knowledge, skills and motivation.


This section has drawn heavily, for statistical data, on the latest published results compiled by the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI, 2001), and the authors are grateful to the FHRAI for granting permission to use and present their findings as a part of this paper. The study included hotels from India, China, South Korea and Singapore belonging to the following seven categories of – Five Star Deluxe, Five Star, Four Star, Heritage, Three Star, Two/One Star and Unapproved/ Approved Hotels. The hotels from the countries apart from India were also included for the sake of comparison as well as for benchmarking.

Areas of Concern

Some of the results from the FHRAI study are being presented, which indicate the problem areas that confront the Indian hotels.

Staffing Ratios

The results indicate that room to staff ratios in the hotel industry has wide variations, ranging from 0.88 to 5.12 staff to a room (See Appendix 1). Even in the same star category many hotels employ 100 percent more staff than the better managed hotels, and some even go up to the level of 300 percent more staff than hotel with low room to staff ratios. Although some of these hotels may have reasons like large farm/garden areas or large number of Food and Beverage (F & B) (including banquet) areas, the research data shows that this is not a justifiable reason for the high levels of overstaffing, which exists. Although no two hotels are same in all respects, most hotels in the same star category have very similar facilities and services and fair comparisons can be made in their staff requirements and organizational structures.

The results also indicate towards a glaring difference between India and other countries studied, where the average room to staff ratio in Singapore in Five Star hotels, with Five Star Deluxe facilities and services is 1.07 while it is 1.22 for India. For Hong Kong this ratio was found to be 1.06.

Another relevant fact is that of the ratio of managers/supervisors to staff. This ratio ranges from 1:3 to 1:4 for the 5 Star Deluxe hotels in India, to 1:10 for the 3 Star categories.

In the survey of General Managers’ opinion on overstaffing in Indian hotels (Appendix 2), on an average across all hotel categories, view was equally divided on the reasons for overstaffing. The most important determinant of overstaffing was reported as lack of trained staff, low wages, concern for quality service and union pressure. Absenteeism and lack of automation as well as interest on part of owners were also cited as factors leading to overstaffing but not by all categories. Crucially, lack of trained staff seemingly is the major factor causing overstaffing.

Hierarchical Levels

It has been reported that 5 Star Deluxe hotels have on an average four levels in managers, two levels in supervisors, and two to four levels in staff positions. However in best practice hotels these went down to 3-2-2 for managers, supervisors and staff. In hotels in Singapore this was found to be 2 – 1 – 2. It was also found in best practice hotels in India and Singapore that managers and supervisors work as teams with the staff and all had same uniforms. They also undertook some of the basic functions, particularly in restaurants and front offices, rather than just supervising.

Multiskilling and Multifunctioning

The report indicates a limited level of multi-skilling and multi-functioning being practiced in all categories of hotels although the best practice hotels have manifested this more than the others.

In this regard it is also interesting to note that in the opinion of general managers of 5 Star Deluxe hotels, the most important means of controlling employee and wage cost in Indian hotels was reported to be through the route of multi-skilling, wherein more than 80 percent of the respondents averred to this. About 80 percent were also of the view that outsourcing and flattening of hierarchies are also important means of reducing employee cost. But for the same, less than 10 percent responded to Training also as a means of cost reduction. Although how their objective of multi-skilling could then be achieved, remains a moot question, as well as a seeming contradiction.

Employee Training

The statistics presented here are attributed to another report brought out by the FHRAI jointly with HVS International (FHRAI, 2000). An overall total of 1,131 hotels participated in this survey, categorized under 8 types. In order to increase the sample representation to higher levels, this report combines hotels, which are government-approved and expected to receive a star grading with those with existing star categories. Those that were unapproved have been put under the ‘others’ category. All figures are annual for fiscal year 1999-2000.

The figures (see Appendix 2) reveal that about 55.4 percent managers in the 5-Star category have had some formal training (defined as a Certificate/ Diploma programme of minimum one year duration) with about 22.9 percent having short-term training (total 78.3 percent trained managers). Across the eight categories this was the highest figure. Similarly, in the case of supervisors, these figures for the same category was 46.5 and 21.5 percent (total 68 percent) respectively and for staff it was found to be 27.5 and 29.7 percent (total 57 percent). The surprising data is of the 5-Star Deluxe category where, against expectations, the percentage of average (including formal and short-term training) trained employees is 48.5 as against 58.6 percent for 5-Star and 56.8 percent for 4-Star category respectively.

Annual Staff Turnover

It was found for 5 Star Deluxe hotels that the highest turnover of staff including managers/supervisors, was in the area of Food and Beverage Service at 16.2 percent followed closely by Food and Beverage Production, Front Office and then House-keeping. The turnover in departments like Sales and Marketing, Maintenance, Human Resources and Finance were relatively low. This pattern was reported in similar percentage levels in 5 Star, 4 Star and 3 Star hotels. However the annual turnover of staff in 2 and 1 star was as high as 27.9 percent in the Food and Beverage Service area. The pattern of turnover of staff was similar in South Korea, Singapore and China.


Besides the statistical data presented in the paper, in order to create a backdrop, the following issues have been identified through experiential learning. It is felt that all the above issues that are facing the Indian hospitality industry and the ones that are mentioned below constitute a vicious circle at the core of which is the human resource issue. Majority of the issues that seem to lead from one to the other, either originate or are focused in the handling of human resources in the Indian hospitality scenario. Some of these reasons are also cultural and thus may require greater effort on the part of the hospitality industry to change the perception about the industry.

One has come to realize over the years that being a resource in the industry is not easy, added to which is also the cultural pressure, which has not really accepted hospitality as an industry. In a majority of the cases, ‘Hotel Management’ is still related to catering being done by caterers (say) in weddings and or family functions. Others seem to continue to believe that hospitality is an area, which must be chosen as a last choice. Hence, over the years people seem to have made hospitality one of their last career options.

This has led to the basic motivation issue in terms of delivery. Since the individual has taken up a job in a hotel primarily because he or she could not take up his or her other options it is obvious that the motivation levels would not be at the optimum level. If motivation is to be enhanced by either internal or external sources then one would have to create an environment fit enough for the individual to grow. Growth leads to another issue wherein culturally we have been programmed to believe that growth is only in terms of position and only when one reaches a ‘managerial’ position is one able to be acceptable in society. This obviously is due to the lack of valuing the dignity of labor (high power distance cultures of Geert Hofstede), which creates an environment wherein one (belonging to higher social strata) is expected not to do the so-called ‘menial’ jobs. Also familial dignity and prestige is seemingly seen to be at stake (especially if one thinks in the context of food and beverage service, which is correlated with domestic servants at home, which is so very common in third world countries and prevalent in India) as well. Where as one has seen that growth can be in so many different forms and so many different stages, however, it would be unfair to blame only the social structure entirely. By design human beings seek some authority and power along with acceptance. In keeping with our psyche, it is imperative for one to have power to be accepted, whether socially or otherwise. Again, history is fraught with examples where feudalism has bred servility and humility manifest in the behavior of entire classes of the population1. It is thus quite possible that our entire industry has been traditionally based on feudalism rather than hospitality and today’s industrial culture is a mix between understanding hospitality as a concept and this deep-rooted philosophy of feudalism.

This deep-rooted feudalism has led to a great deal of belief in hierarchies and their ability to deliver results. However, it must be noted that hierarchical structures deliver results that tend to satisfy only a few. Due to the dissatisfaction that is generated in the process of delivery through the hierarchical system, there are other side effects and one of the major issues already highlighted is that of motivation. Lack of motivation leads to lesser productivity and thus usually results in the need for greater number of people, to complete the same task or longer work hours for the existing workforce. It would then not be highly improbable that the organization is then looking at either reduced pay scales and/or lesser number of people.

Some organizations even work towards providing external motivational stimuli to service encounter personnel in order for them to enrich the guests’ experience or at least its delivery. This can lead to an extremely complex kind of work environment for the resource, which is explained diagrammatically below –

Keeping the above in mind, the resource who gets into the industry is looking to grow at a much higher level and pace than the others because that is what will bring to him/her power, authority, respect, dignity, social acceptance and perceived growth. These, besides money, will contribute to his/her personal growth. This phenomenal need of the individual entering into the industry, to grow is explained below. It is only natural for an individual to want to grow in terms of his/her working environment. However, as Maslow (1987) indicates, it is possible that the individual to be in different stages of the need hierarchy pyramid at the same time. As far as the hospitality resources are concerned, majority of them are constantly fighting for the social acceptance stage since they have not yet really received recognition as a profession and an industry. Only declarations of the hospitality sector being an industry cannot create this acceptance, as there is a more important aspect, which is social acceptance. For years, there have been people who did not make hospitality as their first career choice. Those who did so, did it either for the glamour associated with the hospitality or for other reasons. A telling statistics is that on an average about 65 percent of managers in Indian hotels did not get any formal training or qualification in this area (see Table 2, Appendix 4). Thus today when a lot of the students seem to make the hospitality sector as their first choice they are entering into an industry which is predominantly managed by people not technically qualified to run this business. To add to that, many of the resources coming in at the junior levels also joined up because they could do little else. Thus this industry has enjoyed the reputation of being an industry where, if you work hard you can do it’, and you don’t need to be ‘intelligent’ to be a ‘hotelier’.

This is an industry which may not require individuals with exceptional intelligence but certainly makes heavy demand on attributes like effective people handling, decision making and creativity.

All these factors put together create a not so rosy picture for individuals looking to make a career in this industry. Add to that the fact that there seems to be this norm of long working hours and though a lot of hotels seem to talk about productivity, it is felt that these are mere lip services provided to sound “in-touch” with the global HR scenarios. Looking at the staffing ratios above and the productivity that these numbers are delivering, it is obvious that there are two missing links-one of them is the motivation to perform at the optimum level. Why there is no motivation is a question that finds enough evidence in the three points briefly described below –

1. Over-work

A normal day’s cycle consists of three shifts of 8 hours each. If one were to take a random sample of the hotels in the capital (New Delhi) one would be sure to find that a majority of the resources invariably work more than that or substantially more. It is not difficult to come across industry ‘professionals’ who tell their new inductees that 12-14 hours per day is the norm. Due to the high percentage of dependence on the ‘guest’ needs there is little predictability about timings, it cannot be however overlooked that at other times there are no functions (say, at the banquet department). And yet immaterial of what time one managed to get off the shift yesterday, one is expected to come into work the next day at the same time. Given also that in an area like banquets there is a substantial amount of physical work involved, it may be expecting almost the impossible that the individual comes regularly to work in the first place and at the same time is motivated and productive at optimum levels. Should we begin to regulate the exact number of hours worked or should we focus on what has been achieved during these hours?

2. Hierarchical Tyranny

Majority of the students that get admitted to hotel management programs in this country (and it is believed that are some 10000 graduates every year) need to go through some form of industrial exposure during their hotel management programs. When these students / interns do come into the hotels, it is expected that they will learn, practice and polish what they were told in the classrooms. These students have already been introduced to the hierarchy in most departments in the hotel through their courses. However, when they do go into the industry they realize exactly what these hierarchies signify and how they function. As an industrial trainee or an intern, one finds oneself at the lowest rung of the hierarchical ladder. Its not that this is a travesty or anything as one is expected to learn and move up in the hierarchy. Most Indian organizations however would have anywhere from 10-12 levels at the least (see paragraph above on hierarchical data) above the industrial trainee level and the industrial trainee continues to get negatively stroked as his/her environment is constantly telling him/her that it is almost impossible to make it to the top. With such an environment wherein most non-executive/managerial resources believe that the manager does little than to sign a couple of papers and make a few decisions a trainee level resource begins to develop a two-fold thought process. Since it is extremely difficult to get to these coveted managerial positions especially if you start at the very bottom of the climb, the intern is hoping that the education qualification that they are receiving provides them with the necessary push and support that is required for entry at executive levels. However, in an industry whose academic partners are growing faster than the industry itself, the supply is huge compared to the demand for the managerial positions. The aspiration is to join a Five Star Hotel as that is where there is some social acceptance. But with limited avenues to do so, people then take on whatever jobs come along and that leads to a completely de-motivated employee, as the start has not been as per expectations.

Once the resource is in the hotel/organization, he/she begins to realize how centralized everything is and in reality the executives could actually be performing enhanced supervisory roles. But this is true even at the staff/ line half of the hierarchy. One still finds the use of busboys and restaurant cashiers and maitre d’hotels or senior captains, whereas these positions should be highly redundant in today’s food-service operations, which have the opportunity to use enhanced equipment and has the advantage of using honed and improved systems over the years.

3. Lack of Dignity of Labor

Should one look into our cultural history it is not surprising to see why one is still caught up/entangled in giving respect to the position rather than the person who is performing a certain task. This is evident in more than one ways in the hotels in India. People working at the Steward/Bellboy/ Houseman level are looked upon as individuals who exist in those positions, as they could not do or deserve much else. It is unfortunate though that the same stewards’ position in the western cultures is looked upon as a job and sometimes even a career and thus awarded its right degree of respect as a job and sometimes even as a profession.

All the above constraints find an individual in a position wherein he/she has finds himself/herself with no other choice but to quit the industry and hence we find that our industry is then left with again those who could not make it elsewhere. This does not speak very highly of either the industry or the people who are working within this industry, but there are still some extremely motivated individuals out there. For how long they will remain or can remain so is the moot question.

Employee empowerment therefore seems to be the necessity as the industry seems to be demanding for the implementation of such philosophy and practices. All the evidence points towards low employee morale leading to various ailments derivative to it.


Frontline or service encounter personnel especially, who feel empowered at work, are likely to be committed to the organization, which provides this empowering experience. Kirkman and Rosen (1999) found that perceptions of team empowerment were positively and significantly related to organizational commitment. Effort is therefore required on building the four dimensions of empowerment, namely – meaning, impact, competence and choice. Thomas et al (1990) describe ‘meaning’ as how an individual compares the value of a work goal or purpose to his/her own standards and values, such that he/she perceives the task to be of value to him/herself. Impact is the belief of the individual worker that his/her work can or does influence the outcome (Ashforth, 1989). Competence refers to the belief of individual worker that he or she can perform an activity on-job with skill, wherein the individual concerned knows that he/she can do the job if they make an effort (Gist, 1987). Finally, choice indicates that individuals have the autonomy at one hand, in making work related decisions and changing or modifying their work behavior on the other (Deci et al, 1989).

Using the above stated four dimensions it should not be too difficult a task for the industry in India to start on the path of employee empowerment, provided the industry is willing to actually get down to implementation. Given below is an attempt to use the four dimensions using real operational examples.

Meaning: In the present context of the Indian hotel industry, it is no secret that many a hotel professionals, who either enter the industry or exist in the industry today, did not choose to take up hotels as a first career choice. This is not only substantiated by the fact that a lot of the professionals seem to take on other service industries readily as compared to hotels. However, a part of the responsibility that the industry is not ranked amongst the top professional choices not only rests with the work environment and the long hours but also with the professionals themselves.

Unfortunately not enough importance or meaning has been assigned to the tasks that are being performed by the industry. It is not difficult therefore to see that if “Managers” cannot find meaning in what they do, then the dishwasher (given the existing hierarchies) definitely does not find any meaning or pride in what he/she does. It is thus going to be important for not only the managers but also the dishwashing team to find meaning in what they do. Having said that, the next obvious question is “how”. Use of simple logic would make it evident that no food (however delicious and tasty) would be edible, were it to be served on a dirty plate. It is thus going to be imperative for the dishwashing person to be doing his job just as well if not better than (say) the Chef.

Impact: Using the definition of the authors, it is evident that any and every individual needs to feel that his/her work is part of a fuller, bigger picture and each piece of this jigsaw puzzle is just as important, however small it may seem either in size or magnitude. Using the above example, if the dishwasher understands that his/her role in getting the guest to go back happy is just as important as that of the “Sommelier’s” or that of the Maitre d’hotels, then that individual is going to feel that much more empowered to complete their tasks and thus improve productivity. The task therefore at hand is one of inclusion and communication such that the individual concerned clearly realizes that she/he is an important part in the customer satisfaction delivery chain.

Competence: Majority of the workforce today in the hotel industry, who suffer from some sense of disillusionment and /or lack of motivation seem to do so because they do not believe that the task they perform requires any skill or competence. It is a firm social belief that there aren’t too many skills required to perform the tasks that hoteliers perform. However, one would contest that in order to send a majority of guests with varied tastes and needs back home satisfied and to meet, nay but to exceed these various expectations need more than one set of special skills. Thus, it is our opinion that hoteliers need to believe in themselves and the tasks that they perform and build their own place in the arena of competency. It is also essential to realize that no task is mundane and that all tasks in order to be completed to their optimum need a high level of competencies even if it means cleaning crystal and producing a sparkling result. For instance, detailed manuals for various operational processes at departmental levels are traditionally not to be found, especially in smaller hotels and establishments, although this may not be the case with larger chain hotels. This reflects an overt dependence on young workers to ‘learn’ on the job by either emulating their seniors at work or by asking them for instructions. Obviously this does not augur well for setting-up professional standards of quality or provide a standardized basis of learning.

Choice: If one is to take the above three components and make it possible for them to be implemented in any working system, then the fourth component of choice cannot be left out. It means providing every individual with a choice of either a system or a set of procedures or a way of working which works best for them, as long as the end result is not compromised upon.

Other than this, one of the key areas of improvement is that of controlling the stress levels of employees. What this implies for management is-clear roles, unambiguous instructions, sufficient resources and information to effectively complete tasks and less overtime. It also means that management needs to improve communication with staff (Deery and Shaw, 1999). At a very operative level, what is also evident is that there is a need for organizational restructuring both at the structural and process levels. Work therefore needs to be reorganized around flatter, team oriented structures with performance linked compensation, reward and succession systems.

This study has been an attempt to identify some of the bottlenecks that hinder the Indian hospitality industry and looks at it from the employee empowerment perspective. Basic directions have been delineated for possible improvements and effort now needs to be focused on these individual components such that operational guidelines and strategies are evolved.


1 The Varna system (1500 BC-1000 AD) of social stratification in India wherein the society was stratified into four distinct classes consisting of the Brahmanas (or the educated class who are supposed to be the brain behind the state/governance), the Kshatriyas (the warrior class or those who rule/defend as they are vested with the power), the Vaishyas (the trading/ mercantile class who manage the economy) and lastly the Sudras (the menial class who serve the above three categories). There is a very interesting representation of this classification that is depicted through an analogy with the human body. In this, the head represents the Brahmanas (brain/ thought process and intellect), the Chest stands for the Kshatriyas (bravery and ‘heart’), the torso including the belly and excretory organs representing the Vaishyas (the necessity of consuming, digesting and excreting, akin to transactions or the process of give and take necessary to remain alive) and the lower limbs that carry the body as the Sudras.


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Mr. Umashankar Venkatesh, a postgraduate in Management Studies from the Banaras Hindu University, India, is Professor and Dean at the Institute for International Management and Technology, Gurgaon, India. He can be contacted at umashankarv@iimtobu.ac.in.

Mr. Akshay Kulkarni, a postgraduate in International Hospitality Management from the Institut de Management Hotelier International, CORNELL-ESSEC, PARIS, is Associate Dean & Assistant Professor at the Institute for International Management and Technology, Gurgaon, India. Training & Career Development Manager at yak & yeti, Kathmandu. Prior to that he has held corporate and Head & Department positions in the areas of Human Resources and Hotel Operations in various hotel chains.

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