Hotel staff key to successful implementation of eco initiatives, research finds

Clean-up event at Embudu Island by Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu associates
Clean-up event at Embudu Island by Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu associates

According to recent research conducted by a team of professionals from The School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, hotels should first consider the behaviour, attitude, and awareness of their employees towards eco-friendly policies before trying to implement any new, green initiatives.

According to Dr. Eric Chan, Dr. Alice Hon, and Dr. Wilcon Chan of SHTM, although most hotels have set targets to reduce their environmental impact on the world, it is the staff that will directly see to it that the set policies are implemented. The research also suggests that while some employees may derive a greater satisfaction working for environmentally friendly companies, hotel managers still have to worry about the percentage who are unwilling to change their ‘habitual behaviour’ or change their daily routines to fit to that of the new company policies.

Elements of resistance

Researchers believe that one of the main reasons why employees put up resistance in following environmentally friendly policies is because of the added workload such as, office staff being asked to use ‘double-sided printing’, and chef’s being asked to ‘turn on cooking equipment only as needed’. In addition to this, some of the staff may feel threatened by the fact of their lack of knowledge on the subject itself.

To ensure the success of a ‘green hotel’, hotel managers must have a firm understanding of what motivates the staff to work in an eco-friendly environment. The researchers worked to help hotel managers get a better understanding of what drives the staff and what affects their behaviours. They worked out that awareness, concern, and environmental knowledge affected their intentions on pursuing ‘green hotel policies’.

Knowledge and habit affects behaviour

The researchers also note that environmental knowledge of each individual is likely to affect their behaviour because ‘people tend to avoid situations where they do not have enough knowledge to guide their behaviour’.

They conducted a survey at 10 Hong Kong hotels, 8 of which were 4 or 5 star and 2 of which were 3 star hotels. There was a 50/50 gender split, and the majority of the group were aged between 20 and 49. Fewer than half had a Bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, and just over half had worked for their current employer for more than 5 years.

The employees who took part in the survey were noted to be aware and concerned about the environmental impact, but were noted to be unlikely to implement any positive behaviour in line with the ‘green hotel policy’ if their daily routines did not fit into it, or if it was considered to be outside of the ‘norm’.

Strategies for success

Based on their research, the professionals suggested a few methods that will help hotel managers make their businesses more environmentally friendly. For instance, before hiring a staff, the human resource management team could find out about an individual’s ‘green credentials’ or their previous work working in an eco-friendly environment. Secondly, the researchers suggest that managers share their ‘green policy’ idea with future employees who might be interested in working in such an environment. They also suggest that the business/hotel/company hold training progammes to ‘upgrade the employees’ skills and environmental knowledge’.

Finally the researchers state that employees who take a personal interest in ecological environmentally friendly practice are more likely to act similarly in their work place and are known to be more committed to their work because they prefer to work in more environmentally friendly places.

By adopting the researchers’ strategy suggestions, hotels stand to not only increase the adoption of green practices among employees but also to reduce the risk of staff turnover associated with the introduction of new policies.

Source: Ehotelier.com