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Fun at work helps retain employees but may hurt productivity

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Washington – A new study has suggested that within the hospitality industry, manager support for fun is instrumental in reducing employee turnover, particularly for younger employees, but could also reduce employee productivity.

Michael J. Tews, assistant professor of hospitality management, Penn State, said that in the hospitality industry, employee turnover is notoriously high because restaurant jobs are highly substitutable — if you don’t like your job at Chili’s you can go to TGI Friday’s down the street.

He said that high employee turnover is consistently quoted as being one of the problems that keeps managers up at night because if you’re involved with recruiting and training constantly, then you can’t focus on effectively managing your existing staff and providing a high-quality service experience.

The team — which included researchers at Penn State, Loyola University of Maryland and Ohio State University — surveyed 195 restaurant servers from a casual-theme restaurant chain in the United States.

The survey included items related to different aspects of fun at work, including “fun activities” and “manager support for fun.” The researchers then compared the survey responses to sales performance and turnover data.

In the survey, questions related to “fun activities” focused on social events, such as holiday parties and picnics; teambuilding activities, such as company-sponsored athletic teams; competitions, such as sales contests; public celebrations of work achievements; and recognition of personal milestones, such as birthdays and weddings.

The research yielded three key findings. First, manager support for fun lowers turnover, particularly among younger employees. Second, fun activities increase sales performance, particularly among older employees. Third, manager support for fun lowers sales performance irrespective of age.
The results have been published in the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.

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