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Penn State Hotel Managers Initiative (updated February 22, 2005)

CWFR researchers from Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management (SHM) and the departments of Psychology, Labor Studies and Industrial Relations (LSIR), and Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) are working closely together on a set of inter-related, interdisciplinary research investigations of the work-family interface in the hotel industry. The American hotel industry, an important player in a national economy increasingly dependent on tourism, is an ideal context for increasing knowledge about what it means to work in settings that put a high premium on customer service and operate on a 24 hours/7 days a week/ 365 days a year basis. Goals of this initiative are to build a knowledge base that will help us identify ways in which the industry can increase the flexibility of the hotel workplace for managers and hourly employees and to disseminate this knowledge effectively to the hotel industry. The studies that are part of the Initiative are listed below:
Hotels and Home Lives: A Qualitative Study of the Work-Family Challenges of Hotel Managers, March 2003- June 2004
A program officer’s grant from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Dr. Kathleen Christensen, Program Officer) provided funding for the “Hotels and Home Lives Study,” a set of pilot activities. The effort was spearheaded by Jeanette "Jan" Cleveland (Psychology) and John O'Neill (SHM) in collaboration with Nan Crouter (HDFS) and Bob Drago (LSIR). Jody Buffington, a graduate student in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology, coordinated the project.
The overall goal was to learn about how work and family life are interrelated in the hotel industry and to identify work-family issues that stood out as emblematic for managers. The project consisted of three activities:
? A qualitative study of 30 hotel managers and their partners or spouses. Semi-structured home interviews with managers in a variety of positions (e.g., Rooms; Food and Beverage; Sales; General Manager) focused on aspects of working in the hotel industry that enhanced or interfered with life off the job; what it takes to be successful in this industry; and industry norms about issues such as "face time" and geographic mobility. Spouses or partners were asked about what it was like to live with and raise a family with a hotel manager.
? A series of single-gender focus groups with Penn State seniors majoring in Hotel Management. In these audio-taped sessions, students were asked how they envisioned careers in this industry, why they chose the hospitality field, and how they imagined combining work and family responsibilities.
? Development of an Advisory Board of hotel industry leaders. We invited six high-level industry leaders to help us: (1) interpret and understand our data; (2) think through the full range of possibilities for the next stage in a program of research in this area; and, (3) negotiate access and entrée to hotel companies in the next stage of this program of research.
Hotel Work and Well-Being: The Penn State Hotel Managers Initiative, January 2005- December 2007
Building on the foundation of knowledge established during our pilot activities, the team was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to conduct a more ambitious, three-year plan of work, led by Co-PIs Nan Crouter (HDFS & CWFR) and John O’Neill (SHM) in collaboration with David Almeida (HDFS) and Jan Cleveland (I/O Psychology). Graduate students on the project include Michelle Harrison (I/O Psychology) and Qu Xiao (SHM). The team seeks a full-time project coordinator with extensive industry experience to serve as a liaison between project faculty and the hotel industry. Penn State’s Survey Research Center works closely with the CWFR team and is collecting much of the data.
The project includes three inter-related investigations:
? A telephone-administered survey of 500 hotel managers employed in a diverse array of full-service hotels across the country about the quality of work life, work-family conflict, and physical and psychological well-being. The managers will reflect a variety of family situations. For those living in partnered relationships, we will request permission to conduct a short partner survey about the implications of the hotel manager’s work situation for the partner and family (we estimate about 150 spouses will be surveyed).
? A daily diary study of 120 hotel managers and their partners, recruited from the study described above. These individuals will participate in a series of 10 consecutive evening telephone calls focused on their specific experiences that day on and off the job, their mood, and physical health symptoms.
? A series of in-depth, qualitative interviews with leading executives in the hotel industry about how they conceptualize work life issues and workplace flexibility. In these free-ranging conversations, we will ascertain how hotel executives frame these issues; identify which issues they see as particularly important—and why; and ask for suggestions about practical policies and practices that would enhance managers’ workplace flexibility and facilitate hotel companies’ ability to attract and retain this important human resource.
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