New Research from BMIHMS Reveals the True Effectiveness of Mentoring Programs in Hospitality (October 2020)

By Associate Professor Simon Pawson, Associate Dean and Academic Director (BMIHMS)

Hospitality has a high turnover rate of talent, with around 30% of hospitality graduates leaving within the first 10 years. There are several reasons for this high turnover, but lack of proper mentoring is one such reason.

Companies hoping to catch and keep the brightest young graduates have increasingly used mentoring programs in the hotel and hospitality industry.

However, there’s surprisingly little research out there assessing whether or not these programs are actually successful. Do they help mentees achieve their career goals, and do they help hotels retain young staff?

This recent study by Dr Madalyn Scerri and Associate Professor Rajka Presbury from Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) and Dr Edmund Goh from Edith Cowan University just published answers to some of these important questions.

The study applied a systematic approach to evaluate the mentoring process, and to assess the effectiveness of different forms of mentorship.

The study looked at mentoring as a four-stage process:

  1. Initiation
  2. Goals and action plans
  3. Cultivating the relationship
  4. Evaluating the relationship

Mentors and mentees were asked to share their opinion on the mentorship, at each stage of the process. Overall, the study found positive outcomes when Alumni hospitality industry partners and students were matched in a hospitality-mentoring program.

Find out below exactly what the benefits are for mentees and mentors, and what types of mentor programs proved the most successful.

Who participated?

This study collected data through interviewing 48 hospitality student mentees and 14 industry mentors, to find out their perceptions on how effective their mentor program was.

  • Mentors were predominantly male, between the ages of 25 and 45, who graduated between 1991 and 2012 and who hold management positions across a variety of hotels or hospitality businesses.
  • Mentee respondents were both undergraduate and postgraduate students, both male (35%) and female (65%), and were working mainly in four-star and five-star hotels, predominately in Front Office positions (61%).

What participants wanted to get out of the experience

Of course, everyone has their own reasons for wanting to participate in a mentoring program. What you expect from a mentoring program, and whether you even have clear expectations, will define whether or not you consider your experience a success.

Mentees participating in the study had a number of pre-written goals, linked to anticipated outcomes of the mentoring process. These included a desire for:

  • Industry knowledge and learning
  • Advice and guidance
  • Assistance with career progression
  • Professional networking opportunities

These goals were similar to the goals of the mentors. They recognised that the key outcomes of the program were:

  • To support mentees in setting goals and choosing a career path
  • Assist in setting goals and working towards those goals
  • Obtaining technical advice about skills, service or role in hospitality
  • Psychological or emotional support

How mentoring benefitted mentors and mentees

The study found that mentorship delivered a range of positive outcomes for mentors and mentees, generally in line with their goals. In addition, the researchers reported some interesting feedback on how the relationship functions most effectively.

For the mentor, the relationship provided them an opportunity for reflection on their own skills and experience. They also gain a sense of value and altruism, as they share skills and insight with the mentee during a pivotal time in their lives.

“I find the program very rewarding when the students build a connection and grow.” – Mentor 9.

For the mentee, the formal mentoring program brought many benefits when combined with their studies:

  • A practical insight into the industry
  • Building knowledge and skills
  • Developed networking opportunities
  • Confidence building
  • Emotional support

Career benefits was listed as the main outcome for most mentees, indicating their mentoring relationship has provided them with professional networking and job opportunities, as well as industry insights regarding “alternate career paths instead of the obvious one” (Mentee 11).

The study found that overall, the majority of mentors and mentees had a positive experience and gained value from the program. Having a better understanding of the industry enriches the learning environment for mentees, and may also contribute to a long-lasting career in the hospitality industry.

What makes for a successful mentoring program?

Of course, not all mentoring programs are created equal. There are factors that will influence the success of a mentoring program from the outset, such as:

  • Initial pairing
  • Personality traits
  • Formality of the arrangement
  • Commitment between mentors and mentees

The study found that the most successful mentoring programs were ones with a formal matching process, where there was initial preparation and goal-setting that set the stage for positive relationships.

Through interviews with mentors and mentees, the study also uncovered some important points regarding the relationship dynamic. For example:

  • Although the achievement of positive outcomes relies on commitment from both parties, the study also found that mentees have to drive and initiate the relationship. Overall, mentors expect this of them.

    “They must opt in first and foremost. They have unlimited ability to explore the business mechanisms, but only if they want to.” – Mentor 5.

  • An area of mismatch that emerged was the high proportion of female mentees and lack of female mentors. This could be due to the under-representation of females in higher management in hospitality. Female mentees expressed a preference for female mentors and were unable to access them.

    “I would have loved to have a female mentor to tell me her experiences on how to make it work when you are a woman working in hospitality, a wife and a mother.” – Mentee 40.

  • Mentees expressed preference for more emotionally supportive qualities in their mentors, including honesty, transparency, kindness and willingness to help. Enhancing the depth of emotional support provided to mentees was found to be an important factor in building the relationship.

    “[The mentor] was very open to any sort of conversation, personal and professional, was flexible with time, took time to understand what I wanted and what I needed to be, where I want to be.” – Mentee 39.

  • The motivations driving mentors during the preparation stage is important. A mentor’s reasons for participation will influence the style of mentoring they provide.

These are just some of the insights provided by this research. This useful information can help mentors and mentees learn how to foster a more effective mentor relationship.

The findings of this study can also guide the establishment and continued evaluation of mentoring programs in the future.

You can read the full case study here:

50 days’ free access to the article is available through our Torrens page by clicking access to document link before October 22, 2020.

The research team:

Associate Professor Rajka Presbury

Dr Rajka Presbury is an Associate Professor at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) at Torrens University Australia. Her PhD is on the topic of service quality in hotels, and her research interest remains in and around the issue of service experience, exploring perceptions of customers, managers and employees in hotels. More recently, she has become fascinated by the triadic service relationship of educational institutions, corporate service providers and students as current and future employees of the hospitality industry. Thus exploring topics such as Work Integrated Learning and Mentoring.

Dr Madalyn Scerri

Dr Scerri is a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) at Torrens University. From a hotel food and beverage background, Dr Scerri was awarded her PhD from Southern Cross University in 2014. Her research focuses on the dynamics of service language and interaction, primarily in the context of Australian hotels. With interest in the complexity of customer service, Dr Scerri is applying this unique hospitality knowledge to research different service settings such as health care and peer-to-peer accommodation in the sharing economy. She has presented her research at national and international conferences and in peer-reviewed publications.

Dr Edmund Goh

Dr Edmund Goh is the Deputy Director, Markets and Services Research Centre, School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia. He has published in leading journals such as Tourism Management, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, International Journal of Hospitality Management, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Journal of Vacation Marketing, Journal of Tourism and Travel Marketing, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Tourism Recreation Research, Tourism Management Perspectives, and Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics. Edmund sees his research as the nexus to address education and industry gaps.

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