Organizational success depends on the crucial value of human resources. The effective utilization of human resources in an organizational context can lead to a competitive advantage (Guest, 1987). The achievement of organizational capabilities such as speed, agility, employee competence, and learning capacity is essential for the organization to become successful. However, attaining these organizational capabilities is a challenge (Leonard-Barton, 1995).
Many people argue that traditional training methods at the operational level are not suitable for meeting the demands of organizations in the new economy (McCracken and Wallance, 2000). Human Resources Development encompasses various theories and is consistently viewed as a strategic management approach to training and learning, with the goal of achieving organizational objectives and maximizing the utilization of employees’ knowledge, skills, and strengths (Griego; Geroy, and Wright, 2000).
There is ongoing debate surrounding human resource development and how it compares to traditional training methods. Some key areas of disagreement include the integration of HRD with organizational missions and goals, the level of top management support, the existence of complementary HRM activities, the recognition of cultural differences, and the emphasis on evaluation (Garavan, 1991). One notable point of contention is the assumption that HRD principles can be effectively applied to organizational contexts, as empirical evidence supporting this is difficult to find (Mabey, Salaman, & Storey, 1998). In service industries, especially in the hotel industry, having proficient, skilled workers and motivated employees is essential.
The hotel industry heavily depends on the performance of its workers to provide satisfactory service to customers. The role of hotel employees is vital in this industry, and it is essential for the industry to prioritize training them in interpersonal skills and delivering appropriate service to meet standard requirements, ensure customer satisfaction, and increase profitability. In a competitive market where luxury is common, developing human resources has become a crucial element in gaining a competitive advantage (Nolan, 2002).
Improving employee productivity, performance and motivation in the service industry can be achieved through substantial literature that focuses on and verifies the benefits of offering better training (Baum, 1995). However, the management of human resources in hotels is retrograde and lacks sophistication (Lucas, 2004) due to financial constraints (Wood, 1994), high labor turnover (Boella, 2000), and a lack of training customs (Mullins, 1998). China places great importance on training and development in the hotel industry, although most hotels in China are characterized by conservatism and luxury.
Moreover, China has become a popular destination for tourists, consequently, the role of hotels in the country’s industrial wayfaring has become essential. Since the implementation of the ‘Open Door’ policy in 1978, China’s tourism and hospitality sectors have experienced significant advancements. The Chinese government actively promoted foreign investments in the hotel industry, enabling the development of hotels that meet international standards (Lee, 2002). In order to meet customer demands and effectively adapt to changing surroundings, the hospitality industry in China must have skilled employees.
China has made significant advancements in tourism, but its economic transition, in which market principles and central planning systems interact and conflict, is not yet complete (Pine and Qi, 2004). Organizations must let go of some long-held beliefs and embrace a more market-oriented view of management. This may have a profound impact on the rapid growth of the Chinese hospitality industry, including a shortage of skilled labor (Stuttard, 2000) and insufficient research in the field of HRM (Anderson and Nicholson, 1999).
Previous research has noted that human resources is a relatively new concept in China (Warner, 1995) and is still in its early stages (Kaye and Taylor, 1997). This study aimed to investigate the current training and development strategies in Chinese luxury hotels and evaluate them by comparing them to Western models of human resource development in terms of strategic integration, systematic planning, and implementation processes. The study also compared the findings between Chinese state-owned hotels and Sino-foreign joint venture hotels to identify any valuable lessons that have been applied to luxury hotels in China.
The primary data collection methods employed in each hotel included conducting semistructured interviews with managers at different levels and reviewing pertinent documents like company policies and training strategies. This all-encompassing approach facilitated comparisons between hotels, considering the necessary variations for this research. In total, twenty-eight interviews were carried out, with a minimum of three interviews conducted in each case hotel (twenty-five of which were recorded with the managers’ consent). The duration of each interview varied from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the agreed-upon schedule with the interviewees.
The findings suggest that while training and development among employees is important, there are differences in the actual sophistication of practices. All eight case hotels provide basic skills training to frontline employees, with some hotels placing more emphasis on management development and training for organizational culture change. The performance of frontline employees greatly affects the service quality in hotels. Chinese training methods in hotels mostly draw from Western training and development approaches.
Despite the increasing use of various methods, many still rely on conventional delivery methods such as lectures and apprenticeship. However, training behavior differs from hotel to hotel, even when the same approaches are used. In joint venture hotels, training and development are more systematic compared to state-owned hotels due to their more complete and consistent training procedures. In some Chinese state-owned hotels, training and development are often ad hoc and lack an appreciation for the importance of synergy and consistency as proposed in Western human resources theories.
The text highlights the retrograde nature of strategic integration, employee involvement, and evaluations of training and development. It also emphasizes that state-owned hotels focus on leaders’ learning attitudes and available resources for training and development. On the other hand, joint venture hotels adopt the human resource policies and practices of their foreign partners. Many effective training and development practices are transferred from one hotel to another, despite differences in ownership. However, the process of transferring these practices affects hotel management’s perceptions and is influenced by the available resources for training and development.
When considering the long term development of hotels, it is necessary to have systematic and strategic integrated training and development structures. Chinese state owned hotels have contributed valuable content to existing Western human resources development models. This contribution enhances the robustness of these models in cross-cultural contexts and improves their effectiveness. Maintaining positive and energetic learning attitudes can transform passive training into active training and ultimately establish effective training and development practices in the Chinese hotel industry.