Identifying the Motivational Factors of International Students in the Hospitality Workplace: An Insight Into Motivating and Retaining Part-time Hospitality Employees

Zhu, Dan
Poulston, Jill
Kim, Peter
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Master of International Hospitality Management
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Auckland University of Technology

The New Zealand export education levy annual report shows that there were 106,955 international students in New Zealand in 2016 (Ministry of Education, 2016), and it is estimated that tuition paid by international students offers New Zealand an average of $883.8 million in income per year. Besides these financial advantages, international students are also regarded by New Zealand hospitality organisations as an important temporary workforce that can help them address the ongoing shortage of part-time employees. According to the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (2015), nearly one in ten foodservice jobs are held by international students.

However, the characteristics of hospitality work means it lacks enough charm to retain its employees, because of long work hours, poor work conditions, low pay, etc. Accordingly, the staff turnover rate in the New Zealand hospitality industry was nearly 50% in the past two years (Human Resources Institute of New Zealand, 2016). Theoretically, the positive relationship between employee motivation and staff retention has been proven by many researchers (Lam, Lo, & Chan, 2002; Milman & Dickson, 2014). Thus, cognisant of the importance of international students to New Zealand hospitality organisations, hospitality employers may need a better understanding of job motivation and the motivational needs of international students in order to increase student-worker job satisfaction, and therefore, retention. Nevertheless, although previous literature exists on the motivational factors of hospitality employees, little has been done on the motivational factors of student-workers, especially international students.

This study therefore identified and measured the motivational factors of international students in hospitality workplaces, informed by Herzberg’s motivation theory and using the IPA (Importance-Performance Analysis) model, and examines the relationship between international students’ perceptions of motivational factors and their turnover intentions. The study adopted a quantitative research approach (survey) that entailed distributing an online-questionnaire to respondents who were international students and part-time employees in Auckland hospitality organisations. A total of 161 valid responses were collected and analysed using SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences, version 21).

In contrast to Herzberg’s motivation theory, the findings of this study reveal that good pay, work-life balance, and a comfortable working environment are the most important motivational factors for international students in hospitality workplaces. However, in terms of the relationship between perceptions of motivational factors and turnover intentions, the results are aligned with Herzberg’s theory, in that perceptions of hygiene factors can significantly predict turnover intentions while perceptions of motivators fail. Moreover, the findings also include an exploration of the relationship between demographic factors and motivational factors. For example, job security is found to be more important to female students than to male students, and work-life balance is more important to Indian students than to Chinese students.

As an exploratory study, the results add new knowledge to existing literature regarding the motivational factors of international students in the hospitality workplace, and the discussion provides practical information to hospitality practitioners and an insight into motivating and retaining part-time hospitality employees.

International students , Hospitality , Motivation , Part-time
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