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The tourism industry needs to rethink values

People who work in the tourism industry recognize values that matter to companies, but do not always share them. In fact, in recent years, the tourism business is in a complex condition, and a values-based approach could benefit companies working in this sector, research carried out by Kira Reshetnikova and Marina Predvoditeleva, of the HSE Faculty of Management, indicates

This project* is the first research to focus on values in the Russian tourism industry.

In their article ‘Russian tourist firms through a sociologist’s eyes: Interdependence in employee and organizational values’ for the HSE magazine Organizational Psychology, Kira Reshetnikova and Marina Predvoditeleva consider a shift in the extent of development expressed by research questions in the hotel sector. Tourist companies remain outside the purview of academic research.

In their research, Reshetnikova and Predvoditeleva set themselves the goal of establishing a values profile of tourist firms, comparing it with the results of research into other sectors, and to analyze the extent to which the values of tourism firm employees correspond to those espoused by the companies.

A major Russian tourist firm with offices in 15 Russian cities were selected for this research, with a total of 150 people in the Moscow office, and a total payroll of 274 people. Kira Reshetnikova gave a presentation about this research at the HSE conference ‘Modern management: Problems, Hypotheses, Research.’

Research into the tourist industry in various different countries started about 40 years ago. However, Russia’s tourism business is a relatively recent development. In recent years this sector has faced serious difficulties as a result of the financial crisis, Arab spring, and dumping schemes. This can be seen in the numerous bankruptcies in the sector. The issue of what the tourism business today involves is not a simple one.

One of the researchers’ goals was to fill in this lacuna. During their research, they were guided by the Rokich theory, which defines values as ‘types of convictions that govern life’s principles, defining forms of behavior, desirable state, and lifestyle.’

A list of business values formed based on the results of previous research carried out by the HSE’s Faculty of Management.

Business values were identified as including: a focus on results, reliability, responsibility, perseverance, creative approach, decent pay and conditions, and a healthy lifestyle.

Respondents were asked to define a list of business organizational values (prioritizing them in line with the priorities, as they understood them, at their place of work), and a list of their own personal values.

Polar values

Values that employees deemed significant for organizations and staff differ, the research results indicate. The greatest difference was related to the value placed on ‘decent pay and conditions’. This matters to company staff, but the employees do not feel it matters to the company.

Company staff also feel that more focus should be on ‘respecting employees’ rights and interests’, ‘improving qualifications, learning new skills’, ‘professionalism’, ‘reliability, responsibility’. Employees say they are less focused on results, clients, and teamwork style than companies are.

This research also revealed that managers’ and staff values were broadly similar. Among those surveyed, 64.5% of respondents were ordinary employees (couriers, cleaners, technical staff were not included), and 35.5% were managers. Research showed a slight difference between these two groups, in the managers’ favor, on issues such as creative approach, professionalism, and continually improving technologies. At the same time, employees placed a higher value on partnership, fairness, trust, and mutual assistance than did their managers.

Minimal focus on pay

During research, the authors compared organizational values in tourist firms with those in other companies. This showed that tourist firms are less focused on decent salaries and working conditions for their staff. Tourist firms are also lagging behind in values such as professionalism, client-focus, and adhering to quality standards.

Values such as team-work and flexibility were more common among tourist firms. This latter is due to the fact that tourism is, as a sector, highly dependent on external circumstances, and can be impacted by revolutions, natural disasters etc., and therefore, it is more able to adapt to new conditions.

The author concludes that, overall, employees’ views of company values reflect its focus on business development and results. However, the difference between the organizations those surveyed represent, and their own values, gives cause for the tourism industry to consider how it can improve how it functions, by taking a values-driven approach.

*The project was implemented by the HSE Department for Human Resources Management under the Faculty of Management, led by Department Head Veronica Kabalina, in collaboration with Maina Predvoditeleva, who teaches the MA course Experience Economy: Hospitality and Tourism Management. Tourism and Hotel Management.

 

Authors: Kira Reshetnikova, Marina Selina, December 29, 2014