A Multilevel Investigation on How Hospitality Employees’ Career Commitment Changes Over Time

Zhu, Dan
Kim, Peter B.
Milne, Simon
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

As working in the hospitality industry is often considered a negative career option by the latent workforce, the industry is facing labour shortages. The high turnover rate of the industry being a global concern not only indicates that hospitality workers are leaving their employers, but also implies that they are withdrawing from the industry. This PhD research project aims to contribute to the understanding of hospitality employees’ career commitment which is vital for the sustainable development of hospitality businesses and the industry but has received scant attention from researchers.

Though a number of studies have uncovered the reasons for leaving the hospitality sector, there is a paucity of empirical evidence on the factors driving hospitality employees to stay in their occupational field. Even, among the limited works on this topic, the majority adopted between-person (cross-sectional) design and neglected within-person variance in career commitment and its antecedents, failing to provide evidence on whether their findings can remain valid over time. Based on vocational theories and meta-analytical reviews, the present study examines the relations of career commitment with the two important but less investigated antecedents (i.e., occupational self-efficacy and family support) using longitudinal design. This work also explores the mediation mechanism (i.e., affective organisational commitment) underlying these relationships.

A review of extant literature shows that few studies have tested an integrated model of career commitment combining both antecedents and outcomes. Particularly, with respect to the consequences of career commitment, much emphasis has been placed on the organisational outcome. This study assesses the causal relation between career commitment and wellbeing to provide a better understanding of the impact of career commitment on individual outcomes. While it is widely believed that the development of a career is a life-long process and several career-related constructs (e.g., career calling) have been found to be time-varying, the temporal nature of career commitment is understudied due to lack of longitudinal data. This study fills this gap by exploring the dynamic process through which career commitment develops. This thesis also investigates whether the predictive effects of the antecedents may vary as time passes.

The study adopts a positivist paradigm with a quantitative methodology. A survey research method is employed with the aim of empirically and quantitatively examining hospitality employees’ career commitment. Longitudinal data were gathered from 310 respondents working in the hospitality industry who were surveyed at three points in time, with a three-month lag between each. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) 26, Hierarchical Linear Modelling (HLM) 7 and Mplus 8.0 were applied to analyse data and test hypotheses.

The research findings show that occupational self-efficacy and family support positively predict career commitment at both the within- and between-person levels. The results also exhibit that affective organisational commitment mediates such relations at both the within- and between-person levels. The positive time-lagged effect of career commitment on wellbeing is revealed. The research also reveals that career commitment indeed changes over time. While early-career employees display higher levels of career commitment than old-timers (employees who have relatively longer career tenure), they experience a drop in career commitment as time passes. In contrast, an increasing trajectory of change occurs in old-timers’ career commitment. The change in the magnitude of the antecedents of career commitment is also captured.

This is the first work to develop and present a dynamic theoretical model for understanding the antecedents of career commitment, the psychological process concerning how it is influenced by the antecedents, as well as its effect on individual outcomes using multi-wave and multilevel research design. This is also the first study to record the developmental trajectory of career commitment and the time-varying effects of the antecedents. The contributions of the findings to the existing knowledge and their implications for practitioners are elucidated along with detailed suggestions for future studies on hospitality employees’ career development and management.

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