An investigation into contemporary hotel general managers behaviour and activity in the context of private, franchise and chain ownership/business models.
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MARTIN, A.L. 2017. An investigation into contemporary hotel general managers behaviour and activity in the context of private, franchise and chain ownership/business models. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.
Since the early 1990s, the rapid growth of international hotel chains and its effects on managerial work have drawn the attention of researchers (Gilbert & Guerrier, 1997 and Ladkin & Juwaheer 2000). There is a current need to investigate how management in hotels is adapting to the significant change in the last decade (McKenney, 2016). The contemporary Hotel General Manager’s (HGM’s) role, responsibility, and ultimately autonomy, are seen to be largely influenced by the owners, management companies or the franchise the hotel is operating under. “Understanding the scope and limits of HGMs decision autonomy is an understudied yet important topic for hospitality research” Hodari & Sturman, 2014 p.434 How management is practiced at the highest level in the hotel is the research problem to be investigated. Kotter (2010), Whitley (1989) and Hales (1986) emphasised how the nature of managerial work is closely linked to its organisational context. Accepting that managerial work is shaped and exercised in context (Dierdorff et al, 2009; Akrivos, Ladkin and Reklitis 2007), the aim of this research is to explore and understand the way in which contemporary HGMs manage and what influences how they manage. This work aims to shed light on hotel general management across three contemporary business models in the operating environment of Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire. The research strategy will be interpretivist, with a qualitative approach taken to elicit HGMs’ experiences about their working life and chosen activity to understand the influences on their management practice. Dann (1990), credits Hales (1987) with providing a methodology, which allows the conduct of managerial work to be placed within the context of the management process. On account of this Hale’s five broad questions are built into the interview schedule. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews are held with HGMs who were members of the Aberdeen City and Shire Hotel Association. This Association has a membership of thirty-eight hotels operating through private, chain and franchise models. In total 21 HGMs are interviewed. From this data a profile of the HGM is provided, as found in each of the three ownership/business models (private, chain and franchise). The data were analysed by the constant comparison method. This study contributes to the body of research through looking at what HGM’s actually do, and how these individuals practice management. This work provides new knowledge in the form of a model, which maps out the identified management context (characteristics) that influence HGM behaviour/activity and the consequences for management across business models surveyed. The business model under which the HGM manages is found to be the primary influence on HGM activity and behaviour. The work sheds light on the meaning of work, and why it is the way it is. At the first level of analysis management context across three business models is identified. These then map onto the second level of analysis, which explains how these influences shape management behaviour and activity. The model identifies consequences for management across the business models. The proposition in the study is that HGMs have not been de-skilled; they have instead prioritised skills and activity in line with the demands of the business model and the ownership style under which they manage. In effect new skills have been learnt, and behaviour and activity tailored to meet the contemporary demands in context of the business model. This research has found that although HGMs have the same title, they are found to be very different managers that are managing different things. Not only do the HGMs manage differently the priorities of management are also quite different. The contribution to knowledge is considered at theoretical and practical levels. At the theoretical level a modern take on Taylorism shows that specialisation is relevant to contemporary hotel management. Silos are created on account of the business models, with markedly different ways of hotel services being delivered. The priorities of HGMs, dictated by the business model, are different. The extreme cases being the people centric, long term focus of the private sector manager juxtaposed with the short financial term focus by the chain HGMs. At the practical level, accepting that hotel general management is not homogeneous, and driven by the business model, hotel organisations need to develop their own organisationspecific competency framework for their HGMs. Success across the business models is measured differently; for chain and franchise HGMs there is a need to generate higher gross profits and for results to reported frequently, and for the private sector HGMs success is linked to long term sustainability, serving the community and providing a personal service. A challenge for each HGM in each of the models is managing stakeholders. These stakeholders vary with the model; managing the owners and operating company superiors are vital in chains, while the customers and staff are more important to HGMs in private model. For HGMs in both chain and franchise business models activity and behaviour is influenced by the need to ensure brand compliance through standard operating procedures.