How Real-Time Data Collection Provides Insights on Hospitality Employee Well-Being

Executive Summary
With the goal of being at the cutting edge of their field, Ms. Xiaolin (Crystal) Shi and Dr. Susan Gordon from Purdue University’s School of Hospitality & Tourism Management set out to investigate the dynamic nature of employee well-being in the hospitality industry. They wanted to better explain how hotel job demands and job resources impact employees' daily subjective well-being and turnover intention. To accurately capture daily thoughts and emotions of hotel employees, experience sampling methodology was the obvious approach to take. However, given the hotel industry’s around-the-clock nature and employees’ variable work schedules, static web-based surveys were not a feasible solution and introduced significant challenges to collecting real-time, real-world data. Shi and Gordon needed a real-time data collection tool that could (a) send question prompts at multiple intervals throughout the day, (b) provide an intuitive and easy way for employees to share responses in the moment, and (c) streamline all real-time data collection into one single dataset. They found it all in ExpiWell.


Challenges and Objectives

With an annualized employee turnover rate of 73.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hotel industry is notorious for burning out its employees at a rapid rate. A variety of factors contribute to the industry’s higher turnover, including understaffing, inconsistent shifts, overtime hours, emotional labor, and disparity of benefits. The bulk of hospitality-related research has mostly analyzed between-person well-being and holds assumptions that well-being is stable over time. A drawback of this approach is missing how individuals’ unique experiences fluctuate on day-to-day basis. However, within-person well-being research can point to daily fluctuations and, as a result, point to new and interesting insight into employee well-being. Within-person variability is what Shi and Gordon set out to better understand.

Shi and Gordon conducted initial pilot data collection using one of the mainstays in survey software, but shortly realized the barrier that static, email-based web surveys created. In order to capture employees’ daily thoughts and feelings, the static survey software required multiple individual surveys per each participant, which required the researchers to manually send surveys to each person twice per day and track each participant’s data. The outcomes were countless spreadsheets, low response rates, and questionable datasets. The increased overhead and high cost involved with the static survey approach was a significant barrier and rendered the project improbable.

They instead sought technology that could seamlessly track all the daily responses gathered by each individual while also providing participants customization capabilities to accommodate for variable work schedules, so they turned to ExpiWell.


Solution

Shi and Gordon wanted to capture work-related thoughts and feelings of hotel employees immediately before and after their respective shifts. They focused primarily on employees in guest-facing positions in either the food & beverage or front office departments.

During the summer and fall of 2019, 65 hotel employees participated in the study. Each employee completed a one-time baseline survey and responded to two daily diary surveys for at least three days within the study period. The baseline survey asked participants to report demographic information and rate questions of resilience, self-efficacy, work orientation, family orientation, general positive affect, and negative affect. The daily diary study asked participants to complete surveys both before they started their shifts and after they clocked out. In the before-shift survey, participants were asked to rate their positive affect and negative affect to control the “good day and bad day effects.” In the after shift survey, participants were asked to rate their daily job demands, job resources, subjective well-being, and turnover intention.

With the ExpiWell scheduling personalizer, participants were able to adjust the timing of surveys to before and after each shift period, preserving the integrity of real-time assessment. This feature allowed participants to conveniently have a say in when they took their surveys, increasing response rates and leading to consistency in feedback and stronger insights.

The data tracking features provided the researchers with comprehensive results and insights in real time, streamlining data collection and eliminating the tedious manual collection process customary for other survey platforms.


Results

Upon preliminary analysis, Shi and Gordon found that within-person variability does indeed “exist within all of the constructs, including: the job demands of emotional dissonance and stressors; job resources of supervisor support, coworker support, and job autonomy; the positive affect, negative affect, and job satisfaction aspects of subjective well-being; and turnover intention.”

They also found that turnover intention can vary within-person on a daily basis, validating the anecdotal understanding that employees in guest-facing positions may think about quitting one day and not the next due to scheduling inconsistencies and always-shifting job demands.


Implications

Hotel industry practitioners have historically conducted annual or bi-annual employee engagement and satisfaction surveys, but they fall short in capturing employees’ daily thoughts and feelings, especially as they have proven to fluctuate greatly from day to day. This study is a first of its kind and proposes the utilization of daily surveys to better understand hotel employees’ day-to-day needs. Shi and Gordon’s research indicates there is evidence for assessing well-being and turnover intention on a more frequent basis than status quo, static methods afford.

Shi and Gordon’s evidence also makes a new contribution to turnover literature, and it serves as a significant stepping stone for future research to examine how short-term variability can influence employees’ long-term behaviors and decisions. These findings allow Shi and Gordon to further investigate the specific job demands that impact the daily well-being and the job resources that could improve well-being and, in turn, reduce employee burnout and turnover in the hotel industry.

About the Researchers

Ms. Crystal Shi is a third year Ph.D. candidate in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University. Her research focuses are employee well-being, psychological contract, turnover intention, and computational social methods (e.g., digital trace data analysis, text mining, etc.). Prior to her Ph.D. program, she spent close to four years in management roles with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in Seattle and Shanghai. She is particularly interested in organizational behavior issues in the hospitality industry because of her work experience in the hotel industry. Her goal is to apply the theories from I/O psychology and OBHR to the field of hospitality. At the same time, she aims to use advanced methodology to move the field of OBHR research in the hospitality industry forward.

Dr. Susan Gordon is an Assistant Professor in the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Purdue University from where she received her PhD in August 2014. Prior to her faculty appointment at Purdue University, Dr. Gordon was an Assistant Professor in the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Dr. Gordon has over ten years of hospitality industry experience which includes various management positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World, and Marriott International. Dr. Gordon’s research area is primarily human resources and she is particularly interested in how organizations can improve employee well-being, both emotional and physical, and increase supervisor and organizational support.

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