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Training soft skills via e-learning: international chain hotels

Jungsun (Sunny) Kim
Department of Nutrition, Hospitality & Retailing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA

Soft skills via e-learning

Received 13 May 2010 Revised 15 August 2010 26 November 2010 22 December 2010 Accepted 14 February 2011

Mehmet Erdem
William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

JeoungWoo Byun
College of Hotel and Tourism Management, Kyunghee University, Seoul, South Korea, and

Hwayoung Jeong
School of General Education, Kyunghee University, Seoul, South Korea
Purpose The purpose of this study is to investigate the perceived importance of soft skills for hotel employees, their willingness to use electronic learning (e-learning) as a training tool to improve their soft skills, and the impact of hotel employees individual characteristics (i.e. motivation, self-efcacy, technology anxiety) on their intentions to use e-learning across different age groups. Design/methodology/approach The sample was randomly selected from hotel employees working at various upscale international chain hotels in South Korea. The data were analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM) to simultaneously measure the impact of four independent variables on the intention to use e-learning for both younger and older learners. Findings The analysis revealed that responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, and working with diverse groups were rated more important by younger hotel employees. The results suggest that learners who have higher extrinsic motivations in using e-learning will be more likely to use e-learning. However, the other variables (i.e. technology anxiety, self-efcacy, and intrinsic motivation) did not signicantly affect the intention to use e-learning. Research limitations/implications The ndings are practical for hotel managers/trainers, because they can focus on external rewards instead of internal rewards to motivate employees to use e-learning. Age did not have a moderating effect between technology anxiety and the intention to use e-learning. Since the respondents tend to be younger and have a higher standard of education compared with those of the general population, they may more accurately represent hotel employees at upscale or international chain hotels. Originality/value The study proposes a framework to examine the impact of hotel employees individual characteristics on their intention to use e-learning. The study also validates some relationships that have shown inconsistent results in previous studies. Future research could employ qualitative studies to investigate underlying dimensions of the variables tested in this study. Keywords Hotels, Training, Learning, Worldwide web, International organizations, South Korea Paper type Research paper

This work was supported by a grant from the Kyung Hee University in 2009 (KHU-20090644). The preliminary phase of this study was funded by a seed research grant through the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The authors would like to express their gratitude for the support provided.

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management Vol. 23 No. 6, 2011 pp. 739-763 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0959-6119 DOI 10.1108/09596111111153457

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1. Introduction According to Horton (2000), e-learning is one of the biggest changes in the way people conduct training since the invention of the chalkboard or perhaps the alphabet. Electronic learning (e-learning) is dened as education or training initiatives that takes place anytime a learner uses electronic means for gathering information acquired without the physical presence of an instructor on location (Gustafson, 2002; Swan, 2003). E-learning can be synchronous or live (i.e. an internet conference in which geographically separated instructors and students congregate in an online class-room) or asynchronous (i.e. self-paced training modules with pre-recorded presentations of the instructional content) (Gustafson, 2002). E-learning is a rapidly growing application that can reduce a companys training costs, increase trainees convenience, and provide a viable alternative to other forms of instruction (Bray, 2002; Erdem, 2004; Little, 2001). According to a recent study by the Sloan Consortium (Allen and Seaman, 2010), the demand for online courses has been growing, with 66 percent of institutions reporting increased demand for new courses, and 73 percent seeing increased demand for existing online courses in 2009. Given these advantages, e-learning is increasingly used for soft skills training in the hospitality industry, especially in the hotel segment (Cobanoglu et al., 2006; Swanson, 2000; Weber et al., 2009). Soft skills, such as being able to handle guest inquiries and maintaining professional and ethical standards in the work environment, are identied as the most fundamental competencies in the hotel workplace (Baum, 1988; Tas, 1988). In a transcontinental study, Christou (2002) suggested that soft skills are perceived to be the most essential and desired traits for hospitality workers in both Europe and the USA. The hotel industry is well known for investing heavily in training. The reason for this substantial investment in hotel employee training is apparent: hotels are not only selling their core products (e.g. accommodations), but also the service experience that is created and provided by their employees (Raleigh, 1999; Teare and OHern, 2000). Researchers have reported that e-learning has become a commonly used training tool for hotel operators (Hu et al., 2004). However, a decade ago some began to argue that e-learning may not be appropriate for soft skills training, since employees interactions with instructors or other employees could be limited in an e-learning environment (Horton, 2000; Pollard and Hillage, 2001). When this subject was initially studied, some industry experts suggested that e-learning is not a viable platform for training all skills or as a replacement for traditional training (Van Hoof and Combrink, 1998). Bosman and Charness (1996) pointed out that it was signicantly harder for older learners to be trained in information technology (IT) applications. The debate and discussion on the utility and effectiveness of soft skill training via e-learning is still ongoing, even though e-learning technology has improved over the last 15 years. However, the scope and direction of this debate has not been investigated recently, particularly from the perspective of learners. Given the major emphasis put on training in the hotel industry, the ever-growing popularity of e-learning, and the increasing number of aging learners in the workforce, the researchers of this study believe there is a need to re-explore and document the current perceptions of hotel employees on e-learning based soft-skill training. The data for this study were collected from upscale chain hotels in South Korea. South Korea is known as one the fastest growing countries in e-learning (Lee et al., 2009). The Korean government has played a signicant role in developing the eld of corporate e-learning

in accordance with the governments strategic plan in the mid-1990s to transform the country into a knowledge-based information society (Lim, 2007). However, few results about their e-learning acceptance behavior have been published to the globalized world. Thus, by investigating e-learning adoption in South Korea from the hotel employees perspective, this study attempts to validate e-learning related theories/models at the individual country-level. The purposes of this study are to explore: . the perceived importance of soft skills by employees; . hotel employees willingness to use e-learning as a training tool for soft skills; and . the potential impact of employees individual characteristics (i.e. motivation, computer self-efcacy, and technology anxiety) on their intentions to use e-learning across different age groups of learners. A thorough review of related hospitality literature on e-learning revealed that few published studies have focused on the use of e-learning in training soft skills within the hotel context. Therefore, this study seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge on this topic. 2. Literature review 2.1 Soft skills in the hospitality industry Employees in the hospitality industry are not only trained in specialized skills (i.e. technical skills), but are also trained to be ethical, exible, tolerant, amiable, and responsible (i.e. soft skills). Burns (1997) pointed out that soft skills required in hospitality settings have no quantiable element, and thus they often tend to be underestimated and sometimes even classied as low skills. Baum (2008) postulated that soft skills should be bundled with traditional technical skills to delineate the skill-set required in the tourism sector as well as to identify and manage employees talent. A study on comparing technology and soft skills of hotel managers also concluded soft skills are perceived to be the most important set of skills sought after by hoteliers (Cobanoglu et al., 2006). Another study reported park and recreation managers consider soft skills to be the most important skills desired for entry-level positions (Chase and Masberg, 2008). Lundberg and Mossberg (2008) demonstrated soft skills are essential for line-level hospitality employees when dealing with critical service encounters. This fact also applies to management positions; for example, a study by Watson and McCracken (2002) identied soft skills as key elements of success for visitor attraction managers. Accordingly, if hotel managers do not recognize the value of soft skills and, in turn, fail to develop appropriate training methods for soft skills, it will demean what they purport to value most, i.e. hospitality. Components of soft skills consist of, but are not limited to, personal qualities, thinking skills, and interpersonal skills. The denitions of these components are explained as follows (US Department of Labor, 1991, pp. 5-6): (1) Personal quality: . Responsibility exerts a high level of effort and perseveres towards goal attainment.

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Self-esteem believes in own self-worth and maintains a positive view of self. . Sociability demonstrates understanding, friendliness, adaptability, empathy, and politeness in group settings. . Self-management assesses self accurately, sets personal goals, monitors progress, and exhibits self-control. . Integrity/honesty chooses ethical courses of action. (2) Thinking skills: . Creative thinking generates new ideas, combines information in new ways. . Decision making species goals and constraints, generates alternatives, considers risks, and evaluates and chooses best alternative. . Problem solving recognizes problems, devises and implements plan of action. . Knowing how to learn uses efcient learning techniques to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills. . Reasoning discovers a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects and applies it when solving a problem. (3) Interpersonal skills: . Participates as a member of a team contributes to group with ideas, suggestions, and effort. . Teaches others helps others learn. . Serves customers works and communicates with customers to satisfy their expectations. . Exercises leadership communicates ideas to justify position, persuades and convinces others. . Negotiates works toward agreements that involve exchanging resources or resolving divergent interests. . Works with diversity works well with men and women from diverse backgrounds.

In spite of the importance of soft skills in the hotel industry, no published research study has investigated the perceived importance of soft skills by hotel employees. Conrming and updating the skills listed above has not been carried out within the context of the hotel workplace. Thus, this study asked hotel employees to rate the importance of each soft skill and provided the respondents the opportunity to suggest new skills to be added to the existing list. The new soft skill list acquired through this study could help identify a more comprehensive set of skills sought out by the employees. 2.2 Advantages and disadvantages of e-learning According to Coleman, a global learning manager at Unilever which has pioneered e-learning techniques, e-learning can be an effective training method because it allows people to learn at their own pace and make better use of their time, removing the need

to book time off for a course. Coleman believes e-learning is most effective for compliance-driven learning, such as health and safety training (Green, 2005). For the hospitality industry, e-learning has been mainly used for compliance-driven training such as food safety, and alcoholic beverage sale (Hanrahan, 2007). On the other hand, some industry experts suggested that e-learning cannot be a viable platform for training for all skills or as a replacement for traditional training (Collins et al., 2003; Whitford, 2000). Therefore, it is critical for hotel operators to understand the advantages and disadvantages of e-learning and determine whether or not the disadvantages outweigh the benets sought. Some researchers have identied the major advantages of e-learning as: . offering employees the opportunity to integrate learning with work; . enhancing employ performance in a dynamic, interactive, exible, and measurable way; . providing information immediately; . eliminating travel expenses and the time to attend training sessions; . removing the need to create print manuals; and . helping hotel properties increase operating efciency as well as guest and employee satisfaction (Collins et al., 2003; Whitford, 2000). On the other side, the following challenges of e-learning have been discussed in previous studies: . investing to set up and maintain the system; . developing an infrastructure for employees to use the system; . providing robust and high-speed internet access; . developing a proper assessment system; . training employees who are not familiar with electronic communications; . motivating employees to ethically complete their assigned courses; and . having limited interactions among learners and instructors (Collins et al., 2003; Horton, 2000). 2.3 Best practices Effectiveness of e-learning for soft skills has been discussed through best practice cases such as Hiltons online learning portal, called Hilton University. This program provides basic business, professional and technology-related skills, and online coaching and mentoring. What makes this program more interesting is the universitys virtual classroom environment, which allows users to learn with other team members who are geographically separate. Furthermore, team members can share new ideas and learn the best practices via the discussion forum in the online learning site. The company believes that e-learning offers a cost-effective way of improving the employees general skills, particularly in the area of communication with customers (Baldwin-Evans, 2006). A survey of Hilton employees demonstrated that the majority of respondents indicated that the e-learning system was easy to access and preferred to learn at their desks or at home instead of traditional classrooms. Most of them also

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believed that what they learned via the e-learning system yesterday could be used for their work today (Baldwin-Evans, 2006). The REFOCUS (oldeR Employees training on inFOrmation and CommUnication technologieS) program is another example of the best practices that is currently being adopted among subject matter experts in Europe. The purpose of REFOCUS was to develop a replicable framework for the training of workers over the age of 40 by means of an experimentation in which a model of a learning system (LS) was designed according to the most innovative teaching approaches and technologies available (Themistocleous et al., 2008). This practice suggested e-learning systems can be designed to enhance effectiveness and meet the needs of employees of different ages (i.e. senior employees of 40 years of age and over). As a result, REFOCUS provided the companies the opportunity to re-qualify and enhance the value of this specic category of workers, paying particular attention to the development of the information communication technology (ICT) skills required to manage core processes within the companies. 2.4 Overview of theoretical foundations and hypotheses development Figure 1 is a framework of this study for exploring inuential factors of hotel employees intention to use e-learning for soft skills training. The framework suggests that four factors (i.e. self-efcacy, technology anxiety, extrinsic motivation, and intrinsic motivation) may play important roles in increasing hotel employees acceptance levels of e-learning. Though the model share similarities with other models (e.g. Compeau and Higgins, 1996; Igbaria, 1993), it is unique in the incorporation of a moderator (i.e. age difference) and its application to hotel settings. In the following sections, each of the relationships of the framework is discussed, and hypotheses based on the discussions are highlighted. 2.4.1 Impact of computer self-efcacy on intention to use e-learning. The factors inuencing peoples intentions to use new technology has been widely discussed in many studies that utilized Daviss (1989) work of the technology acceptance model (TAM) as their theoretical foundation. In the TAM, Davis identied perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness as the most important determinants of computer technology usage. The TAM suggests that an individuals intention to use computer technology is largely based upon the individuals assessment of whether the technology is helpful and easy to use, and the individuals positive intention will lead to his or her

Figure 1. Research framework

actual IT usage. However, the model lacks consideration for the individuals expectations of his or her capabilities when using technology, which can inuence his or her behavior. According to social cognitive theory (SCT), postulated by Bandura (1977), an individuals belief about outcomes may be insufcient in inuencing behavior if the individual doubts his or her capabilities to successfully undertake certain behaviors. SCT claims that an individuals behavior is inuenced by two types of expectations: (1) outcome expectation; and (2) expectations related to self-efcacy. First, outcome expectation refers to the theory that individuals are expected to undertake behaviors if he or she believes it will be helpful or useful to them. The outcome expectation is similar to the perceived usefulness variable in TAM. Second, expectations related to self-efcacy, the belief that one has the ability to perform a particular task, is also likely to play an important role in inuencing an individuals behavior. When an individual believed that he or she had the ability to successfully perform the task or actions, it was found to positively inuence the cognitive and behavioral reactions of the individuals by enhancing both motivation and performance (Bandura, 1977, 1982, 1986). The relationship between self-efcacy and the intention to use technology has been discussed in several studies (Compeau and Higgins, 1996; Ellen et al., 1991; Hill et al., 1986). For example, the ndings of Hill et al.s (1986) study showed consumers with higher self-efcacy in technology reported higher intentions to use technology products, such as word processors and personal computers. Similarly, in a more recent study by Lam et al. (2007), self-efcacy was found to be the most important factor affecting hotel employees behavioral intentions toward the adoption of information technology (IT). With this implication, Lam et al. (2007) further suggested that hotel managers should provide relevant training that will help to improve the competency of using IT among their employees. The signicance of self-efcacy was also highlighted in the context of the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness in other studies. In the study on the predictors of web-based information system usage, Yi and Hwang (2003) found that self-efcacy had a positive effect on both ease of use and the intention to use the technology. In the e-learning technology contexts, McFarland (2001) conrmed computer-efcacy (i.e. self-efcacy in use of computer technology) had a direct effect on e-learning system usage, perceived ease of use, and perceived usefulness. Similarly, Tsai and Tsai (2003) found that internet self-efcacy plays a crucial role in e-learning adoption. Although the number of published studies focusing specically on acceptance of e-learning systems is still limited, the results of relevant studies imply that hotel employees higher self-efcacy in using computers will likely result in higher intention to use e-learning systems. Thus, the rst hypothesis is as follows: H1. Employees with higher computer self-efcacy will show higher intentions to use e-learning than those with lower computer self-efcacy. 2.4.2 Impact of technology anxiety on the intention to use e-learning. Computer anxiety is dened as emotional fear, apprehension, and phobia felt by people when considering use or actually using computer technology (Herdman, 1983; Howard, 1986). Doronina

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(1995) suggested this type of anxiety can be characterized by excessive timidity in using computers, negative comments against computers and information science, attempts to reduce the amount of time spent using computers, and even the avoidance of computers in the place where they are located (p. 80). In another study, Beckers and Schmidt (2003) suggested computer anxiety is comprised of elements, including low condence in ones own ability to use computers (related to self-efcacy), negative affective responses to computers, and negative beliefs about the role of the computer in peoples lives. Although these studies emphasized on the anxiety related to personal computers, their implications can be extended for application of technological tools in general (Meuter et al., 2003). Meuter et al. (2003) suggested technology anxiety specically focuses on a users state of mind regarding his or her ability and willingness to use technology-related tools. Although there are differences among some authors in the ways of differentiating technology anxiety in general from the computer anxiety in specic, this study collectively refers to them as technology anxiety. The importance of technology anxiety on the intention to use technology is evident from the ndings of several previous studies. For example, Harrington et al. (1990) found the fear of using computers was one of the causes of computer use avoidance among undergraduate students. In another empirical study by Meuter et al. (2003), the results revealed technology anxiety was the most inuential predictor of self-service technology (SST) usage among other variables, such as age and gender. However, some research results (Ball and Levy, 2008; Venkatesh, 2000) showed computer anxiety did not have a direct inuence on technology acceptance. Other researchers have also suggested that computer anxiety acts as an antecedent of perceived ease of use (Venkatesh, 2000) or as a moderator between perceived ease of use and perceived ` usefulness (Saade and Kira, 2006). Since previous research results on technology anxiety are mixed, this study tests the following hypothesis to validate prior research: H2. Employees with higher technology anxiety will show lower intentions to use e-learning than those with lower technology anxiety. 2.4.3 Impact of motivations on the intention to use e-learning. According to Decis (1971, 1972) work on motivation theory, behavior is determined by both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is derived from rewards such as satisfaction or enjoyment that are inherent to a task or activity itself. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation comes from external rewards or incentives, such as improved job performance or advancement (Vroom, 1964). In the extended model of the TAM, Igbaria (1993) suggested that perceived usefulness is an extrinsic motivator, while enjoyment is an intrinsic motivator. Previous studies have suggested a positive relationship between extrinsic motivation and technology acceptance. Igbaria (1993) revealed peoples intention to use technology can be inuenced by extrinsic motivators, such as the perception of usefulness of technology. Rogers (1986) posited that extrinsic motivation has a positive effect on intention to use technology, and the motivators can exist in the forms of perceived economic protability, decrease in discomfort, and savings in time. In a study by Tannenbaum (1991), the results showed that extrinsic motivation of using cellular phones, such as being able to have more control over work and manage family responsibilities, strongly inuenced peoples intention to adopt cellular phones.

Intrinsic motivation was also found to have a signicant positive effect on the perceived ease of use and usefulness variables of the TAM (Yi and Hwang, 2003). In an empirical study, Yi and Hwang (2003) posited enjoyment (intrinsic motivation) in using a given technological system can reduce anxiety and helped people feel condent about their ability to execute requisite actions. Although their study utilized intrinsic motivation as a contributing element that inuenced the determinants of intention for technology usage (e.g. ease of use, usefulness, and self-efcacy), the implications suggested that intrinsic motivation has a positive effect on the intention to use technology. There are few research studies that used both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations as independent variables inuencing the intention to use e-learning, especially in the hospitality industry. For example, Yi and Davis (2003) examined the intrinsic training motivation of university students and found a positive correlation with outcomes of using a computer training program. Meanwhile, Allan and Lewis (2006) found that health care professionals motivations of using a virtual learning community were primarily concerned with extrinsic motivations such as improving workplace practices and career progression. However, based on the implications of relevant previous studies, both motivations are likely to have positive impacts on the intention to use technology. Therefore, this study nds it worthwhile to investigate the impact of both motivations as determinants of the intention to use e-learning: H3. Employees with higher intrinsic motivation to use e-learning will show higher intentions to use e-learning than those with lower motivations. H4. Employees with higher extrinsic motivation to use e-learning will show higher intentions to use e-learning than those with lower motivations. 2.4.4 Age: moderating the impact of self-efcacy on the intention to use e-learning. Bandura (1986) provided a theoretical explanation of the effect of age on perceived self-efcacy by claiming that age becomes a salient dimension for self-evaluation in cultures that revere youth and negatively stereotype older people. Such cultures can exist in environments where the use of high or new technology is required on a daily basis. In such environments, younger employees are stereotypically viewed as more capable in using technology than older employees. This implication was also apparent in the context of self-efcacy in computers and technology according to previous studies. In a study by Suls and Mullen (1982), the results showed that greater age contributed to an under-condence condition in regard to the formation of computer-self-efcacy because the elderly had a tendency to evaluate their performance attainment by comparing themselves to their level of functioning at an earlier age. The results of Burkhardt and Brasss (1990) study also found a signicantly negative relationship between computer-self-efcacy and age. Nevertheless, one should be cautious in interpreting such implications. The negative relationship between age and computer-self-efcacy does not imply deterioration of intellectual abilities with age. Rather, it is suggested that the young surpass the elderly in intellect regarding technology because of differences in experiences across generations (Schaie, 1974). In fact, there are no longitudinal studies revealing general or widespread deterioration in intellectual abilities until very advanced ages (Marakas et al., 1998). Based on the implications of the aforementioned

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studies, this study expects age to play an important role in mediating self-efcacy, which in turn, will inuence the intention to use e-learning systems: H5. Younger employees will have higher self-efcacy in using computers and e-learning system than older employees, which will lead to their higher intentions to use e-learning.


2.4.5 Age: moderating the impact of technology anxiety on the intention to use e-learning. The common generalized impression is older people are more anxious toward the use of technology than younger people. A possible explanation for higher levels of technology anxiety among older adults could partly be that they typically have little computer experience, and they are less likely to receive computer training opportunities (Zoltan and Chapanis, 1982). In fact, Schwartz (1988) reported only 1 percent of adults aged 65 years and older have used computers. Although there is a lack of research that provides a comprehensive explanation on how age inuences technology anxiety, the relationship between age and technology anxiety has been discussed by several studies. For example, a study by Dyck and Smither (1994) illustrated the relationship between age and technology anxiety among senior citizens and undergraduate students. The results of their study showed that technology anxiety was higher among senior citizens than undergraduates. In another empirical study by Laguna and Babcock (1997), the results revealed that older participants reported higher levels of computer anxiety than young participants when they were given a computer-based test. The implications of these studies suggest age is positively correlated with levels of technology anxiety. Based on this studys second hypothesis that employees with higher technology anxiety will show lower intention to use e-learning, this study expects age to moderate the impact of the relationship between technology anxiety and the intention to use e-learning: H6. Younger employees will have lower technology anxiety than older employees, which will lead to their higher intentions to use e-learning. 2.4.6 Age: moderating the impact of motivations on the intention to use e-learning. A previous study suggested that older managers have more unfavorable attitudes towards computers than younger managers (Igbaria and Parasuraman, 1989). Generally people presume that the younger generation (e.g. Generations X and Y) enjoys using technology, and the enjoyment will lead to higher motivations compared to the older generation (e.g. Baby Boomers and the post-World War generation). This phenomenon could be explained in a study by Mahajan et al. (1990) which suggested a potential adopters ability can be improved by the experiences obtained from the use of related products. Younger employees generally have had more chances to use technology related products than older employees. Thus, younger employees frequent experiences with diverse technologies could increase their motivations to use e-learning systems and, in turn, their intention to use e-learning. The impact of age on motivation is also partly explained by contextualism used in Labouvie-Vief and Chandlers (1978) study. The authors suggested that motivation to perform tasks varies with age, and the contextual factors inuencing motivations are prolonged job boredom, meaninglessness of work, and lack of intellectual stimulation. The expectancy theory provided a basis to better explain the inuence of such

contextual factors. For example, Fossum et al. (1986) stated that older workers have lower motivation to take the initiative to learn skills than younger workers. Older workers generally believe their attainment of new skills is not worth the investment because of a perceived shorter stream of payoffs (Fossum et al., 1986). Unfortunately, there is no up-to-date study that explores age as a mediating variable between motivation and e-learning in the hospitality industry. Although there are some relevant ndings from other studies, not only were their data collected from university students, but also their results are inconsistent. For instance, Tanner et al. (2003) suggested that age does not play a signicant part in undergraduate business students perceptions of online learning. In contrast, age appears to inuence students perceptions of e-learning in other studies (Tanner et al., 2004, 2006). To validate prior research, this study tests whether the positive impact of motivation on intention to use e-learning is more signicant for younger employees than older employees: H7. Younger employees will have higher extrinsic motivations to use an e-learning system (e.g., promotion, incentives) than older employees, which will lead to their higher intentions to use e-learning. H8. Younger employees will have higher intrinsic motivations to use an e-learning system (e.g., enjoyment) than older employees, which will lead to their higher intentions to use e-learning. 3. Methodology The proposed research model for this study is depicted in Figure 1. In order to explore these variables in the proposed model, a self-administrated survey was developed. The sample was randomly selected from the hotel employees working at four- or ve-star international chain hotels in South Korea. The nine hotels that participated in this study are: (1) Walkerhill W Hotel; (2) JW Marriott; (3) Grand Hyatt; (4) Imperial Palace (Summit Hotels & Resort); (5) Millennium Hilton; (6) Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel; (7) Radisson Plaza; (8) Grand Ambassador (Accor Hotels); and (9) Renaissance (Marriott International). These upscale hotels were preferred over other types of hotels due to the expense associated with having an established e-learning training program in place. That is, chain afliated upscale hotels were more likely to use e-learning as a tool for training in comparison to other types of hotels in South Korea. Out of 450 surveys distributed to the hotel employees (50 surveys per hotel), 342 employees agreed to participate in the survey. One screening question was used at the beginning of the survey to select

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participants who were over the age of 18. The 341 completed responses were obtained for data analysis at an effective response rate of 76 percent. All items in the survey were developed based on the established scales used by the aforementioned previous studies. The questions for soft skills were adapted from the skills list provided by the US Department of Labor (1991). To explore other important soft skills for hotel employees, an open-ended question was added to the survey. The next 12 items in the survey were adapted from existing scales in order to measure the four constructs of self-efcacy, technology anxiety, extrinsic motivation, and intrinsic motivation (see Table I). The survey measured the respondents opinions on a ve-point Likert scale. The endpoints for the scales used were: very unlikely to very likely or strongly disagree to strongly agree. The demographic questions were measured on a nominal scale (e.g. age 19-45, age above 45). By pre-testing the survey instrument with 15 participants, the researchers assessed its face validity and content validity. The data were analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM) in order to simultaneously measure impacts of four determinants on the intention to use e-learning for both younger and older employees. 4. Results 4.1 Descriptive statistics A descriptive analysis was performed to understand the sample prole and different levels of agreement on the importance of each soft skill, as well as other variables related to the intention to use e-learning. Of the 341 respondents, 46.3 percent were male, and 53.7 percent were female. Most respondents (92 percent) were between 19 and 45 years old, and the rest were over 45. The majority of the respondents completed their two-year college degrees (27.3 percent) or four-year university degrees (56.6 percent), and 11.4 percent completed graduate or higher degrees. The respondents were working in various departments including room operations (32.3 percent), food and beverage (42.2 percent), sales and marketing (3.8 percent), accounting and nance (7.6 percent), information technology (0.6 percent), entertainment (0.9 percent), and human
Self-efcacy Technology anxiety I feel condent entering and saving data (e.g. words and numbers) into a le I feel condent making selections from an on-screen menu I feel condent using the users guide when help is needed It scares me to think that I could make a mistake when using computers at my job I hesitate to use technology for fear of making mistakes I cannot correct I feel uneasy about using computers Using e-learning will enable me to accomplish training courses more quickly Using e-learning will improve the quality of learning related to my current job I nd that using e-learning will be advantageous in my career (e.g. promotion, certicate) E-learning with many features would be fun to use Learning via an e-learning system would be enjoyable Using e-learning technology would be exciting I would use e-learning to improve soft skills (e.g. personal qualities, thinking and interpersonal skills) in the future.

Extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation Table I. The main constructs of this study Intention to use

resources (7.6 percent). About 50 percent of the respondents were working as line-level employees, 20.2 percent as supervisors, and 18.8 percent as managers or assistant managers. The mean values of the perceived importance of soft skills were sorted from the most important to the least important soft skills. As a result, the following soft skills were considered important for hotel employees (with higher than 4.0 mean values out of 5): . serving customers properly; . working with diverse groups; . responsibility; . sociability; . self-management; . problem solving; . participating as a team member; . self-esteem; . exercising leadership; . decision making; . integrity and honesty; . negotiation skills; and . helping others to learn. In the open-ended question, the following were suggested as vital soft skills for hotel employees: . common sense; . communicative competency; . optimism; . progressiveness; . thoughtfulness; and . politeness. In Table II, the means of perceived importance of each soft skill were compared between younger (Generations X and Y who are younger than 46) and older employees (Baby Boomers and post-World War cohort who are 46 years of age or older) by conducting an independent samples t-test. The results showed that responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, and working with diverse groups were considered more important by younger employees than older employees. The mean values of each variable (i.e. self-efcacy, technology anxiety, extrinsic motivation, and intrinsic motivation) related to the intention to use e-learning were listed in Table III. These variables were used as factors components in the subsequent analysis. Also, the mean differences of each variable between younger and older employees were analyzed by an independent samples t-test. As a result, younger employees showed higher self-efcacy (i.e. entering and saving data and using a users

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Personal quality

Thinking skills

Interpersonal skills

Note: *p , 0:05

Table II. Means of soft skills: comparisons between younger (18-45) and older (45 ) employees Mean (younger) Responsibility Self-esteem Sociability Self-management Integrity and honesty Creative thinking Decision making Problem solving Ability to learn Critical reasoning Participating as a team member Helping others learn Serving customers properly Exercising leadership Negotiation skills Working with diverse groups 4.33 4.24 4.30 4.27 4.12 3.97 4.15 4.26 3.98 3.97 4.25 4.12 4.43 4.20 4.14 4.41 3.72 3.92 3.96 4.00 4.04 4.04 3.92 4.04 4.00 3.72 4.04 3.88 4.36 3.96 3.96 4.00 Mean (older) Mean difference 0.606 0.321 0.344 0.266 0.080 2 0.075 0.232 0.223 2 0.019 0.255 0.210 0.240 0.067 0.236 0.176 0.411 Signicance 0.000 * 0.048 * 0.031 * 0.060 0.542 0.527 0.119 0.149 0.863 0.148 0.200 0.150 0.667 0.135 0.321 0.010 *

Mean Self-efcacy (1): entering and saving data Self-efcacy (2): selecting on-screen menus Self-efcacy (3): using users guide Tech. anxiety (1): scared to make mistakes Tech. anxiety (2): hesitate to use tech Tech. anxiety (3): uneasy about using computers Intrinsic motivation (1): fun to use Intrinsic motivation (2): enjoyable Intrinsic motivation (3): exciting Extrinsic motivation (1): accomplish training quickly Extrinsic motivation (2): quality of learning related to current job Extrinsic motivation (3): advantageous in career Intention to use e-learning for soft skills training 3.80 3.92 3.74 2.79 2.60 2.49 3.44 3.45 3.47 3.44 3.54 3.49 3.35

SD 0.962 0.850 0.945 1.142 1.089 1.127 0.919 0.945 0.946 0.975 0.973 1.035 0.978

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Table III. Means and standard deviations of the determinants of intention to use e-learning

guide) and higher extrinsic motivations (i.e. improving quality of learning related to their current jobs and being advantageous in their careers) than older employees. Younger employees also showed higher intentions to use e-learning to improve their soft skills than older employees. 4.2 Structural equation modeling (SEM) An examination of the proposed model was conducted using structural equation modeling (SEM) in the EQS statistical package. SEM has been found superior to other techniques including multiple regression analysis and is also used to test whether the proposed model successfully accounts for the actual relationships observed in the sample (Kline, 2006). The proposed model was examined for overall goodness-of-t and the individual causal links (paths) to test the studys hypotheses. Commonly reported t indices and their recommended values are: . chi-square with p . 0:05; . non-normalized t index (NNFI) . 0.90; . comparative t index (CFI) . 0.90; . standardized RMR , 0.10; and . RMSEA (root mean square error of approximation) , 0.10 (Byrne, 2006). Among these indices, Bentler (1990) suggested that CFI (comparative t index) should be the index of choice. Three structural models were tested in this study, i.e. the rst structural model with the entire sample to test H1-H4, and the other two structural models with the data from each of the subsamples (i.e. younger and the older employees studied separately) to test H5-H8. The results of each model tested are explained in the following section. 4.2.1 Structural equation modeling with entire sample. The conrmatory factor analysis (CFA) measurement model specied four factors: (1) self-efcacy; (2) technology anxiety;

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(3) intrinsic motivation; and (4) extrinsic motivation. The degrees of agreement on the statements listed in Table I were used as indicators of each factor. In this model, each indicator was constrained to load only on the factor it was designated to measure, the residual terms for all indicators were xed to be uncorrelated, no equality constraints on the factor loadings were imposed, and the factor covariances were free to be estimated. Variances (R 2) in the indicators accounted for by their corresponding construct were all signicantly large, ranging from 0.53 to 0.83. All factor loadings were relatively large, ranging from 0.69 to 0.91, and statistically signicant. The initially hypothesized structural model represented a moderate t to the current data: x 2 (60, n 341 193:13, p , 0:01, CFI 0:94, IFI 0:94, RMSEA 0:081 (CI 0:07 2 0:09). Three structural regression coefcients out of four presented in the nal model were statistically signicant (Table IV). Signicant direct effects of self-efcacy, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation were observed. The results indicate that employees who have higher extrinsic motivations in using e-learning will likely have higher intentions to use e-learning to improve soft skills (e.g. personal qualities, thinking and interpersonal skills) in the future. Interestingly, computer self-efcacy and intrinsic motivation were negatively related to the intention to use e-learning. That is, employees who felt more condent in using computers and had higher intrinsic motivation for e-learning did not show higher intentions to use e-learning to improve their soft skills. On the other hand, technology anxiety had no direct effect on the intention to use e-learning. In sum, 68.7 percent of variance in the intention to use e-learning was explained by the four factors in the proposed model (Table IV). 4.2.2 Structural equation modeling: younger vs. older employees. To conduct multi-group analysis, the data were separated into two groups: the younger group consisting of Generation Y group (age younger than 32 in 2009) and Generation X group (age 33-44 in 2009), and the older group including Baby Boomers (age 45-61 in 2009) and the post-World War cohort (age 62-79 in 2009). Because of the small sample size and violation of normality in the older group data, the robust maximum likelihood analysis method was applied (Byrne, 2006). Four constraints were set up to test the differences between the younger and older groups. The multi-group analysis assumed that the level of signicance in the relationship between each factor and the intention to


On intention to use . . . Table IV. The salience of self-efcacy, technology anxiety, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation in determining behavioral intention to use e-learning . . . of self-efcacy . . . of technology anxiety . . . of intrinsic motivation . . . of extrinsic motivation R2 Note: *p , 0:05

Entire group (n 341) Younger group (n 316) Older group (n 25) 2 0.095 * 0.005 2 0.201 * 0.970 * 0.687 20.095 * 0.003 20.218 * 0.970 * 0.672 20.101 * 0.003 20.163 * 1.045 * 0.810

use e-learning would be the same across both groups. If there was any difference, the Lagrange multiplier (LM) test suggests releasing the constraints (Byrne, 2006). The congured model ts the data well: x 2 (156, n 341 1; 933, p , 0:01, CFI 0:93, IFI 0:93, and RMSEA 0:07 (CI 0:06 2 0:08). Table IV presents the path coefcients for each of the subsamples so that the magnitude of any differences between younger employees and older employees across each of the constructs can be shown. Although the coefcients were slightly different, the LM test did not suggest releasing any constraints. Thus, it was found that there is no signicant age difference in the salience of self-efcacy, technology anxiety, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation on the intention to use e-learning. These results indicate that both younger and older employees who have higher extrinsic motivations in using e-learning will likely have higher intentions to use e-learning to improve soft skills (e.g. personal qualities, thinking and interpersonal skills) in the future (Table IV). In both groups, computer self-efcacy and intrinsic motivation were negatively related to intention to use e-learning. On the other hand, technology anxiety had no direct effect on the intention to use e-learning. In summary, in the younger employees model, 67.2 percent of variances (R 2) in their intentions to use e-learning were attributed to self-efcacy, technology anxiety, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation. In the older employees model, 81 percent of variances (R 2) in their intentions to use e-learning were explained by self-efcacy, technology anxiety, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation (Table IV). 5. Discussions and implications This study has addressed several pressing questions regarding the use of e-learning for soft skills training, with a focus on hotel employees. The sample of this study consists of hotel employees in diverse positions: line-level employees (49.6 percent), supervisors (20.2 percent), managers or assistant managers (18.8 percent), and others (e.g. directors, GMs) (11.4 percent). The analysis revealed that employees perceived a large majority of known soft skills to be important for being successful at the hotel workplace. These skills included: . serving customers properly; . working with diverse groups; . responsibility; . sociability; . self-management; . problem solving; . participating as a team member; . self-esteem; . exercising leadership; . decision making; . integrity and honesty; . negotiation skills; and . helping others.

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By conrming the perceived importance of soft skills by employees and identifying the specic skills deemed to be critical at the workplace, the study provides a road map for hotel trainers and managers. This information will be of practical use when selecting an e-learning program or when developing the contents for the program. As discrepancies exist between what customers expect and what management perceives they expect, hotel managers need to understand what employees want or expect in terms of training (Chiang et al., 2005). This is of critical importance since decisions to identify training needs for organizational learning have often been considered as important strategic investment decisions (Adams and Waddle, 2002). The soft skills suggested by the labor department in 1991 might lag behind the current required soft skills in the industry. It should be noted that almost 70 percent of the respondents were not in management, but they acknowledged the value of having these soft skills at the workplace, which should be good news for hotel trainers. The implication of this nding is that hotel managers should react quickly to changing circumstances and update important soft skills based on the employees expectations. The analysis in this study also sought to identify differences in perceived importance among different generations of employees. Four of the soft skills (i.e. responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, and working with diverse groups) were perceived to be more important by younger employees (i.e. Generations X and Y). This nding could have implications in terms of how training sessions are promoted across generations and how learning objectives are introduced to different age groups. For instance, if a company encourages diversity as the companys philosophy, the training department will need to provide proper training for older employees (i.e. Baby Boomers and older) who may have underestimated or not realized the importance of working with diverse groups. This study also proposed a model to explore the potential impact of employees individual characteristics on their intentions to use e-learning across different age groups of learners. Although age did not have a moderating effect between motivations and the intention to use e-learning, this result is consistent with ndings of a study conducted by Tanner et al. (2003) with undergraduate business students. One of the reasons why intrinsic motivation did not play a signicant moderating role between age and the intention to use e-learning could be explained by the following nding in Chatterjees (2010) study: the general assumption that only young people need to be entertained while they are being trained may be wrong. Meanwhile, the results of this study indicate that employees who have higher extrinsic motivations in using e-learning will have higher intentions to use e-learning to improve their soft skills. This nding is practical for trainers and management because they can focus on external rewards (e.g. faster and high-quality training, benets to learners career) rather than internal rewards (e.g. exciting and fun training). The trainers must communicate well with learners about incentives, and other advantageous aspects for their careers. For instance, a hotel company can require their employees to complete online soft skills training courses before they apply for managerial positions. An interesting nding was that employees who felt more condent in using computers (i.e. computer self-efcacy) and had higher intrinsic motivations of e-learning did not show higher intentions to use e-learning to improve their soft skills. This nding is in contradiction with previous studies where having condence in or

getting excited about using technology was shown to increase a learners intention to use new technology (e.g. Hill et al., 1986; Lam et al., 2007; Yi and Davis, 2003; Yi and Hwang, 2003). The insignicant inuence of computer self-efcacy could be due to the high computer self-efcacy level of hotel employees in South Korea (i.e. the mean values of indicators for self-efcacy were all higher than 3.7 out of 5). The implication is that some employees feel condent about using a computer, but they might not be willing to use e-learning. Some previous studies could explain the insignicant impact of intrinsic motivation on the intention to use e-learning. For example, Ruiz-Molina and Cuadrado-Garcia (2008) proved that even though there were no extrinsic rewards for students, the students actively participated in their activities because of their perceived excitement about an e-learning course. In contrast, a study with health care professionals found a signicant direct effect of extrinsic motivation on their intentions to use e-learning (Allan and Lewis, 2006). Whereas, Lee et al. (2009) conducted an e-learning adoption study with university students in South Korea and found both perceived playfulness (i.e. intrinsic motivation) and perceived usefulness (i.e. extrinsic motivation) had positive effects on the students intentions to use e-learning. The authors pointed out the need for future research to analyze different perceptions between students at universities and employees at corporations. Therefore, the contradiction between ndings of this study and the previous studies could be caused by the different sample characteristics and learning environments (students at school versus employees at work). Another interesting nding of this study was that technology anxiety had no direct effect on the intention to use e-learning. This result is also in contradiction with many previous studies which showed the negative impact of computer anxiety on e-learning. However, some studies (Ball and Levy, 2008; Venkatesh, 2000) revealed that computer anxiety did not have a direct inuence on technology acceptance. Venkatesh (2000) also suggested computer anxiety acts as an antecedent of the perceived ease of use factor rather than a direct determinant of the technology acceptance level. Thus, this contradictory result could be explained by the fact that the respondents of this study had higher education levels compared to those of the general population: 68 percent had Bachelors degrees or higher. Furthermore, the respondents could have had more chances to utilize computers and other technologies (e.g. smart phones, iPhones, online shopping, etc.) in their daily lives, compared to those in previous studies. Especially in Korea, 85 percent of 201 universities and colleges have implemented e-learning systems and are equipped with technical infrastructure and operational supports (Leem and Lim, 2007). Based on this result from the current study and support from the aforementioned previous studies, hotel managers or investors should not be too concerned about employees technology anxiety in international chain hotels in Korea. Instead, hotel managers or owners should initiate an effective reward program to increase employees e-learning adoption. It is also critical to note that the sample of this study was collected from nine international chain hotels located in South Korea. Considering the fact that these hotels require employees to speak English or other foreign languages, the prole of Korean hotel employees tend to be younger (younger than 46, i.e. Generations X and Y) and have higher education levels (college graduate or higher) than the general population of hotel employees. Thus, the sample of this study possibly better represents hotel

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employees working at international chain hotels in Korea or in other non-English speaking countries. The information acquired from this study could help international chain hotel managers develop customized instructional contents and better ways to motivate employees to take e-learning courses. Trompenaars (1995) noted that many studies have been conducted by individuals from the Anglo-Saxon world, potentially laden with cultural assumptions. This limitation also applies to training research and is highly relevant to the international hotel sector. Human capital development is a key to successful hotel operations. Being able to understand the target audience and delivering the valued skills in effective ways is crucial in the competitive international hotel business environment. 6. Limitations and future research The analysis did not support most of the hypotheses that were based on a thorough review of the related literature. However, previous studies on technology adoption models using self-efcacy, social cognitive theory, motivation theory, and technology anxiety were conducted in Western countries, and some research results were mixed as discussed in the previous section. For example, some studies found technology anxiety has a signicant direct impact on technology acceptance, but some did not. Therefore, the discrepancy found in this study indicates the need for testing these theories across different ethnic groups as well as at different settings (e.g. many studies have been conducted in academic settings, and not in workplaces). Furthermore, individuals technology adoption behaviors could have changed quickly over the last couple of years with the introduction of new technologies in their daily lives. For example, the insignicant impacts of computer self-efcacy and technology anxiety on the e-learning acceptance level could be inuenced by more opportunities to interact with technology at home, school, or work compared to the past. Thus, the results of this study inspire scholars to continue testing this type of model to better understand employees technology acceptance behaviors. Generalizing the results of this study to other contexts should be cautious since the participating sample was composed solely of hotel employees in South Korea. More in-depth studies are needed to rmly establish and validate the proposed model using larger and more diverse samples. A future study could use this proposed model to measure Western hotel employees intention to use e-learning and compare whether or not the results vary across cultures. Ignoring such cultural factors may lead to frustrating and ineffective learning experiences (Dunn and Marinetti, 2004). The researchers intentionally excluded mid-range and economy hotels since few hotels in these segments in South Korea have implemented e-learning systems. Thus, future studies may expand to include other hotel segments and explore whether there are any differences across segments of hotels. This will enhance a variety of responses and increase applicability of this study. The nal limitation is related to the self-administered survey method used in this study. Future research could be conducted with in-depth interviews or other similar qualitative approaches in order to reveal underlying factors inuencing learners perceptions of and intentions to use e-learning. Particularly, extrinsic motivation was the only signicant determinant of the intention to use. Thus, it will be critical for future studies to explore the antecedents of extrinsic motivation, such as need for interaction and previous experiences (Meuter et al., 2005).

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Soft skills via e-learning


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