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The Organisational Behavioural Issue of Employee Retention in the Hospitality Industry During COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the hospitality industry, leading to widespread closures, job losses, and working challenges that have significantly impacted employee behaviour, specifically, their decision to stay at their current jobs. According to Elshaer and Azazz (2021), during the pandemic, many employees in the hospitality industry also had to deal with the added stress of increased health and safety concerns, which could have further impacted employee retention. The sudden shift to remote work and the implementation of new safety protocols has created a unique set of challenges for employers and employees alike, making it increasingly difficult for employees to remain motivated and have high morale. Understanding and addressing these challenges and their impact on fundamental employee behaviour, such as employee retention, is crucial for the industry’s long-term success (Elshaer and Azazz, 2021). This new challenge has prompted this research article to study employee retention in the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, examining the shifts experienced by both employers and employees and identifying strategies for improving retention in this challenging environment such as this. Critical assessment of the employee retention aspect of employee behaviour can be used as a foundation for dealing with such an unprecedented challenge in the future. This paper aims to analyse the high turnover rates and low retention among employees in the hospitality industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. This paper has a literature review comprising a scoping review that discusses the behavioural issue of employee retention. Further, the report discusses the summary of the literature review findings and recommendations on ensuring employee retention during the post-pandemic period.

Scope Review

Employee retention refers to ensuring that the human personnel of a company is motivated to continue working for extended periods (Gorde, 2019, p.331). It is a crucial concept for organisations as it directly impacts their ability to remain successful and competitive (Xuecheng, Iqbal, and Saina, 2022). For example, if an organisation is dealing with poor employee retention, they face issues with their usual operations as they keep disrupting the achievement of different roles. Das and Baruah (2013, p.8) argue that even the protracted well-being of businesses is tied to their ability to retain their human personnel constantly. This is because of their ability to effectively carry out different roles that contribute to quality products and services and consumer happiness and contentment (Martin, 2005). More precisely, in the hospitality and tourism industry, the ability to retain employees is critical as it is tied to the image, reputation, and quality of the products and services of businesses (Kusluvan et al., 2010, p.172). This research will evaluate employee retention issues during the Covid 19 pandemic for companies in the hospitality industry.

Literature Review

A review of research before the COVID-19 pandemic, employee retention in the hospitality industry was already a significant aspect of employee behaviour. A literature review of studies conducted before the pandemic highlights several causes of low retention in the industry and solutions companies have implemented to address these issues. One of the leading causes of low retention in the hospitality industry is a lack of job security and career advancement opportunities (Devasia, 2018). A study by the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management found that many employees in the industry view their jobs as temporary or part-time, which can negatively impact retention ((Bauer and Erdogan, 2012, p.17). Additionally, a study by the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly found that many employees in the industry do not see clear career advancement opportunities, which can lead to high turnover rates.

Another cause of low retention and high turnover in the hospitality industry was poor working conditions, including long hours, low pay, and lack of benefits. A study by the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research found that many employees in the industry are dissatisfied with their working conditions, which can negatively impact retention (Abdou et al., 2020, p.4). However, to address these issues, hospitality companies implemented several solutions to increase satisfaction and motivation levels. Agarwal (2021, p.3) finds that offering competitive pay and benefits can improve retention in the industry. Additionally, many companies have implemented employee training and development programs to help employees advance their careers. Elshaer and Azazz (2021, p.12) argue that providing a supportive work environment can help improve industry retention. This includes implementing policies that promote work-life balance, such as flexible scheduling, and creating a positive and inclusive culture.

Additionally, in their article, Kusluvan et al. (2010, p.176) argue that organisational behaviour and retention of employees are linked to human resource management roles of ensuring proper remuneration, constant coaching of skills and talent, as well as the assurance of employee well-being and job surety. The article further argues that the hospitality and tourism industry has human resource management practices that are notorious for reducing the inducement of employees to remain working in their particular service companies (p.177). The primary cause of retention issues in the industry is the fear of losing jobs. It is the human resource management’s role to ensure the security of job positions (Elshaer and Azazz, 2021, p.2). This was showcased after the covid-19 pandemic impacted the hospitality industry, causing numerous employees to lose their jobs. Due to the closure, many employees’ perception of job security in the hospitality and tourism industry was negatively influenced, a factor that has augmented the organisational behaviour issue of employee turnover in the industry (Elshaer and Azazz, 2021).

Additionally, research illustrates that the pandemic prompted issues with employee retention among tourism and hospitality companies due to poor working conditions because of regulations and policies that were put in place (Yin, Bi, and Ni, 2022). This was evident mainly in the small number of employees allowed to work concurrently in the same hours because of the policy of minimal physical contact and interaction. This factor was despite many hospitality enterprises being containment areas for those affected by the virus (Yin, Bi, and Ni, 2022). Because of this, the covid-19 pandemic facilitated an increasing issue of the organisational behaviour of employee retention in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Research Gap in Literature

The literature review showed that employee retention within the hospitality industry had been widely addressed, its challenges addressed, and possible solutions proposed and tested. However, the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic was unprecedented, and there are very few studies addressing the issue of employee retention. This presents a research gap for this organisational behaviour issue to be addressed. For instance, other results show a direct relationship was identified between the style of leadership, employee retention, and employee well-being during the covid-19 period. Many scholars had previously recommended findings on HRM in hotels and employees’ well-being, arguing that HRM practices provide a strategic edge in all hotel functions, as a result, influences hotel operations. (Agarwal, 2021, p. 4). Another article also argues that employee turnover in the hospitality Industry is a massive issue as it costs 1.5 times the departing employees’ income (Abdou et al., 2022).

Guarantee work security is essential to leaders, as shown in the articles above, which indicate a negative standing in employee job security. Moreover, HRM plans determine employee behaviour in times of uncertainty, such as Covid-19. Another researcher gap identified is the lack of HRM policies governing moments of uncertainty, as shown during the Covid-19 period. Abdou et al. (2022) also highlighted a positive correlation between negative employee job satisfaction and high employee turnover. Further research is required around HRM policies in the hospitality industry that addresses the well-being of employees and other stakeholders and an evaluation of changes applied. The equity theory developed by John S Adams explains the relationship between employees’ job satisfaction regarding how they are treated and retention (Miner, 2005, p.116). In addition, this work is studied within the environmental context of the Covid 19 pandemic, which is a high-level threat and causes a lack of control across various industries in different locations worldwide.

Summary of literature review findings and analysis

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the hospitality industry, leading to widespread closures and job losses. Employee retention has become a critical issue as businesses begin to reopen and recover. The literature review revealed some central issues in the hospitality industry during the pandemic and how they have influenced employee retention. First, the sudden shift to remote work and the implementation of new safety protocols have created challenges for employers and employees. A study by the National Restaurant Association found that nearly 3 million jobs in the restaurant industry were lost between February and April 2020, with many restaurants facing closures and significant reductions in business (Nhamo et al., 2020, p.189).

Loses of Hospitality Industry During the Pandemic

A survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) in April 2020 found that 80% of hotels had laid off or furloughed employees, and nearly half (47%) of hotels had temporarily closed. (Haryanto,2020, p.2) This sudden shift in the industry has led to increased job insecurity and uncertainty, which can negatively impact employee retention. Secondly, the pandemic has also led to changes in consumer behaviour, with a shift towards contactless and digital services. This has forced many businesses to adapt and invest in new technologies, which can put additional pressure on employees and increase job insecurity. A study by Yin et al. (2022, p.540) found that the pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of the hospitality industry by several years, with many businesses now relying on digital platforms for reservations, payments, and customer service. Thirdly, the pandemic has also led to increased health and safety concerns for employees in the hospitality industry. A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that employees in the hospitality industry are at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to the nature of their work. This added stress can negatively impact employee retention, with many employees choosing to leave their jobs due to increased health and safety concerns (Haryanto, 2020, p.4). The literature review shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the hospitality industry and employee retention. The sudden shift to remote work, changes in consumer behaviour, and increased health and safety concerns have all contributed to increased job insecurity and uncertainty for employees in the industry. Addressing these issues will be crucial for improving employee retention in the long term.

Causes of high employee turnover

Causes of high employee turnover

In summary, the articles and studies discussed above illustrated the importance of positive organisational behaviours in influencing employee retention. Because of the covid-19 pandemic, the tourism and hospitality industry has challenges with employee retention. This factor is mainly because of the pandemic that caused a high loss of jobs and insecurity of positions.

Recommendations on how to ensure employee retention in the industry

Ensuring that human resource management practices within the industry advocate for the overall well-being of employees (Xuecheng, Iqbal and Saina, 2022). According to the article by Kusluvan et al. (2010, p.176), there is a positive reliance on the organisational behaviour of ensuring employees’ emotional and psychological well-being is taken care of and improving their desire to remain working for a company. Because of the covid-19 pandemic, this was disregarded. This is because employees had to spend long hours of labour under threatening conditions close to people with the virus (Yin, Bi, and Ni, 2022). Therefore, hospitality and tourism companies should strive to incorporate a working environment that fosters positive overall well-being for their employees to ensure their retention is guaranteed.

The hospitality industry should improve the surety and security of their employees’ work positions to ensure high retention (Gurchiek, 2010). This recommendation is in line with the main issue causing high employee turnover in the industry discussed earlier (Elshaer and Azazz, 2021, p.2). Research illustrates that companies that guarantee surety of job positions positively motivate employees to remain working for protracted periods (Gurchiek, 2010). This can be done by involving them in decision-making regarding crucial issues in adverse organisational and operational shifts (Valackiene et al., 2021). For example, most hospitality and tourism stakeholders can involve their employees in discussing the division of labour and working hours to abide by the physical distancing policy. This improves their sense of security in their jobs and guarantees their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being is taken care of, thus improving their retention.

Human resource managers within the hospitality industry can also ensure that they recruit suitable talent to carry out the various roles (Ghani et al., 2022). This recommendation is based on the fact that employees with the skills to carry out the roles assigned are more likely to remain in the organisations (Walden University, 2019). This is since they are well equipped with either a theoretical or practical understanding of their roles, meaning they can easily carry out their jobs with minimal stress. Even so, the industry should ensure that all other factors are conducive and positively contributing to motivating the employees to continue being productive and working for their organisations.


As discussed, the assurance of security and well-being while working are crucial contributors to improving the retention of employees within organisations. Because of this, it is essential that the tourism and hospitality industry work towards improving their working environments to ensure the employees are positively influenced to remain working within their organisations. Research on various solutions on how to make work tedious task lighter for employees in the hospitality industry to reduce tasks on employees and improve well-being and job satisfaction.


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