Within the hospitality industry, manager support for fun is instrumental in reducing employee turnover, the rate at which a company gains and losses employees, particularly for younger employees, researchers said.

However, manager support for fun also reduces employee productivity, which can negatively impact sales performance.

"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," said Michael J Tews, assistant professor of hospitality management, Penn State.

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 US.    
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; team-building 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 employee 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 question becomes, is the productivity loss associated with manager support for fun worth the significant reduction in employee turnover?" Tews said.

"We think if you have both manager support for fun and fun activities, the dip you see in productivity as a result of manager support for fun may be cancelled out by the increase in productivity you see as a result of fun activities. In this scenario, you also see the greatest reduction in employee turnover," Tews said.

"The take-home message is that fun can work, but it's not a panacea," Tews said. The study appears in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.


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