- The Introduction:
According to Adecco, Millennials (born between the 1980s to the 2000s) are currently the largest generation in the workforce and will make up an estimation of 75 percent of the Singapore workforce by the next decade. (Channel NewsAsia, 2016) However, as Millennial continue to take over the workforce, hospitality industries face high turnover rate and manpower shortages. (Faldetta, Fasone, & Provenzano, 2013) The negative characteristics such as “long working hour, poor working environment, salary and lack of pay and benefits” turn them away from this industry (Tan et al., 2016), especially in housekeeping department.
Many hotels have to rely on foreign talent to make up the numbers of headcounts in that department. According to Faruk & Nedim (2015), in the hotel sector where almost all the work is provided by people, communication is seen as an important issue for continuity and efficiency of organization. However, as most of the foreign talents do have not a good command of English, cause them to face difficulties in meeting managers and guest expectation.
- Problem Identification:
The interpersonal communication problem will revolve around the language barriers between housekeeping managers and room attendants in Singapore. As hotels rely on a lot of non-english speaking staff notably in housekeeping, It is not easy for room attendants to understand instructions conveyed by the housekeeping managers (HM Staff, 2009). This can be an impediment to proper training and supervision if they have a poor command of English to interpret guest requirements too, hence unable to prepare the rooms up to the brand’s standards.
- Objective of Study:
The purpose of the study is to understand how language barriers can cause a variety of problems in the hospitality industry which can hamper the communication between room attendants and managers. It will highlight the possible consequences if language barrier problem is not addressed well. Most importantly, this study will alleviate this language barrier issue so as to reduce unnecessary issues for hotels such as:
- eg. guests think it’s rude when they don’t get replies, but in fact is due to room attendants not understanding and inability to answer back in English
- eg. room attendant misunderstood certain instructions and set up the guest room incorrectly
- eg. managers requiring excessive repeating of instructions and sign language to convey simple instructions to RAs, hence low productivity and job efficiency
- eg. hotel reputation prone to be tainted, reduces returning customers, reduce profits eventually when rooms are not made to the brand’s standards (LQA mystery shopper too)
All these result in unhappiness in three parties (guest, manager, room attendant) and affects team morale.
- Potential Solutions / Implementation for Problem Resolutions
Pertaining to the language barrier issue, the team has decided to an implement an English language training program to improve the speaking standards of housekeeping staff. The housekeepers will be rotated to attend this course of 15 lessons to prevent manpower shortage issues and successfully educate all housekeepers. The program will be compulsory for all housekeeping staff with problems speaking the language. In addition, the course of lessons will be made available online and the staff will be taught how to access then. Devices to access the material can also be provided to the housekeepers to use during or after work hours, where they may have spare time to view and self-educate. A learning management system may be set in place to verify if they have clicked and view the resources, making it easy for the HR department to determine whether or not the room attendant has completed the course. As the housekeeping department might usually find it hard to cope with manpower, this training program may be fully implemented online without the physical lessons taking place during work hours.
- Proposed Data Collection/Research Method:
In order to better understand the language and communication barrier between housekeeping staff and guest, a series of in-depth interviews will be conducted with several employees who have similar experiences in their workplaces. Primary data would be collected by having interviews with current or previous housekeeping staff to understand more about their day-to-day operational issues. In addition, academic papers will be cross-referenced from multiple sources to further strengthen the findings, and provide alternative viewpoints on the topic of language barrier in the hospitality industry, specifically housekeeping department.
The benefits of having training would be the understanding of the English language for housekeeping staff who otherwise would not be able to communicate with guests in basic English. This would allow ease of communication between guests in the hotel and housekeeping staff, and prevent the occurrence of a communication breakdown due to the language barrier. This would reduce operational issues, and thus, reflect well on the hotel’s reputation.
Channel NewsAsia. (2016). Companies take steps to attract, retain millennials. [online] Available at: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/business/companies-take-steps-to/2478514.html [Accessed 03 Mar. 2017].
Faldetta, G., Fasone, V., & Provenzano, C. (2013). Turnover in the hospitality industry: can reciprocity solve the problem? Volumen de Negocios En La Industria de La Hospitalidad: La Reciprocidad Puede Resolver El Problema?, 11(4), 583–595.
Faruk, S., & Nedim, Y. (2015). Organizational Communication in Five Star Hotels and Experienced Problems. International Journal Of Science Culture And Sport, Vol 3, Iss 4, Pp 126-139 (2015), (4), 126.
Tan, Z. M. A., Baharun, N., Wazir, N. M., Ngelambong, A. A., Ali, N. M., Ghazali, N., & Tarmazi, S. A. A. (2016). Graduates’ Perception on the Factors Affecting Commitment to Pursue Career in the Hospitality Industry. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 224(IRSSM-6 The 6th International Research Symposium in Service Management), 416–420.
HM Staff (2009) .Topple the language barrier. Available at: http://www.hotelmanagement.net/housekeeping/topple-language-barrier [Accessed 02 Mar. 2017]