That’s no way to say goodbye: exit interviews and employee turnover in New Zealand hotels
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The hospitality and tourism industry is an increasingly important part of the New Zealand economy, contributing almost nine percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2008. One of the key concerns regarding this part of the economy is the impact of a tight labour market and intense skill shortages on its ability to maximise returns from tourists. Labour turnover rates have been extremely high in the hospitality sector over the past few years and this has contributed to the intense labour market pressures affecting this industry. Hotels have suffered particularly high turnover rates in the past few years and exit interviews have been one of the tools that Human Resource Managers used to try and gain data about employee reasons for leaving. This study looks at exit interviews as a source of data on the causes of labour turnover in two New Zealand hotel chains. The aim of this study was to analyse hotel exit interview data in order to identify significant patterns that might illuminate the causes and potential moderating factors of labour turnover in New Zealand hotels. In addition, the study aimed to analyse the processes used to gather exit interview data in order to evaluate the efficacy of exit interviews and see if any practical recommendations could be made regarding the use of exit interviews to address labour turnover. A qualititative, triangulated research methodology was applied in order to analyse the data generated from over 4500 exit interviews, from 17 hotels, in two New Zealand hotel brands. The interviews cover six years of exit interview gathering. In addition, in depth semi-structured interviews with six hotel Human Resource Managers were used to gain insight into the practice and perceptions around exit interviews. The study found that despite considerable application of time and resources, hotels gain very little benefit from the exit interview process. Several issues are identified as bringing the efficacy of exit interviews into question, including power imbalance between interviewees and interviewers, language and cultural concerns, and the impact of psychological contract breaches on the employment relationship. In addition, the study found that even when opportunities for organisational improvement did arise from exit interviews, little or no action was taken by the hotels in question. The study concludes that there is insufficient benefit to the hotels given the costs of exit interviews and suggests that other forms of employee feedback, such as engagement surveys may be more efficacious in addressing labour turnover.