Dr. Madalyn Scerri is one of our incredible Research Fellow and Senior Lecturers at Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, Torrens University Australia. As a passionate academic, Dr. Madalyn Scerri has devoted her time to many important research areas, including mentoring programs in the hospitality industry.
Learn more about Dr. Madalyn Scerri and her important work in the Q&A below.
Tell us a bit about your academic and professional background.
Academia is something I am passionate about. I studied a Bachelor of Business in Hotel Management at The Hotel School Sydney (Southern Cross University) and worked in hotels and resorts in Australia, such as Hayman Island. When I finished my degree, I was interested in learning more about the process of conducting academic research, and so I went on to complete my honours, while I continued working in hotels. This led me to completing a PhD at Southern Cross University on the topic of service language in five-star hotel service interactions – that is, how service employees use their talk to interact with guests and create high-quality, meaningful service experiences. I started teaching undergraduate hotel management students at this time, initiating the love for teaching I have today.
How did you find yourself at BMIHMS, and why BMIHMS?
BMIHMS was (and is!) well-known as a leader in hotel management higher education. When I finished my PhD, I contacted the dean at the time and enquired about employment. A month later I was honoured to join the team at Town Hall campus.
You recently published a research looking at the application of the mentoring framework to investigate the effectiveness of mentoring programs in the hospitality industry? Tell us a bit more about this. Why did you want to investigate this topic? What did you find? Why is this important?
Mentoring opportunities in hospitality are critical to help entry-level employees and graduates achieve their career goals and stay in the industry. Associate Professor Rajka Presbury, Dr Edmund Goh from Edith Cowen University and I wanted to investigate this topic to understand more about the effectiveness of mentoring in the hospitality industry. The study applied a systematic approach to evaluate the mentoring process, and to assess the effectiveness of different forms of mentorship. We took a close look at mentoring at BMIHMS as it is a long-running, high-quality program. We asked 48 hospitality student mentees and 14 industry mentors about their experiences of the mentoring program, including their motivations for participating in mentoring, their perceived benefits of the program, and their perceptions of what makes a successful mentoring program.
We found that mentees valued mentoring for the contribution it made to their industry knowledge and learning and career progression, including through opportunities for personalized advice and guidance and professional networking. Mentors valued supporting mentees develop in their careers, including offering targeted advice in setting and achieving goals, and technical advice about hospitality skills. Some mentors also emphasized the importance of providing psychological and emotional support to mentees to foster their career development, with this type of support highly appreciated by mentees.
Our findings also suggest it is critical to match mentees and mentors carefully. The quality of relationships between the mentors and mentees is extremely important. This relationship can be affected by many factors, including the individuals’ personalities, their motivations for being part of the program, the mentoring style used by the mentor and the mentoring arrangements they develop together. Like in all relationships, clear and effective two-way communication is important, combined with a commitment to the mentoring process. It was interesting to us that mentees expressed a 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.
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.
It is said that academics see the future through better outcomes through research on the industry and society. There are some interesting research projects taking place at BMIHMS at the moment. Tell us about some and the PhD students behind them.
Research plays a critical role in advancing knowledge. It supports businesses and communities, as well as contributes towards shared, global goals and agendas. With a commitment to research that matters, Torrens University Australia’s research agenda covers four areas: societies in drastic change, people and industry for impact, building health solutions, and security and sustainability.
Because we value the importance of strength in numbers, and a collaborative approach to success, academics at BMIHMS have formed the Customer and Service Experiences research cluster to work on these areas within the Centre for Organisational Change and Agility.
We are a collection of hospitality academics at different stages of our research journey, working on independent and collaborative projects related to contemporary customer and service experiences in hospitality and related service and business industries.
The cluster offers a supportive and productive working environment to facilitate research, learning and professional development. We value industry engagement and are closely linked to the hospitality discipline through BMIHMS. We also value inter-disciplinary research as a shared approach provides new ways of thinking.
Currently we are working on a diverse range of core research themes. The themes each reflect significant and contemporary topics in the tourism and hospitality industry, including:
- Service communication and interaction
- Soft skill development and education
- Tourist experiences, travel motivations and authenticity
- Service robotics and technology
- Disaster management
- Leadership and the hospitality workforce
- Inclusive service; and
- Career mentoring.
By focusing our cluster research on core research themes, we can build a shared approach to research and really maximize collaborations between different researchers and individual projects.
We are proud to have a growing number of talented PhD students as part of the cluster and under the supervision of Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School at Torrens University Australia academics. One example is Tavishi Khanna’s project, which seeks to understand current perceptions of inclusive service held by employees and managers in the hospitality industry. Another example is Anita Manfreda’s project exploring Australian luxury specialist accommodation experiences. These are but a few examples. Each of the PhD students’ projects explore compelling and important topics, and foster a contemporary look into industry, business and society.
Which is the one area you think the industry would benefit from further research in currently?
Tourism and hospitality are operating in a dynamic and changing landscape. As researchers, we have a valuable opportunity to address many of the major challenges and opportunities that face society and industry. For example, technology is advancing at a rapid pace, changing the nature of service delivery through robotics and artificial intelligence. The ways in which tourists engage with digital devices affects their tourism experiences, as found by Dr Cindy Lee’s recent work. The climate change crisis means natural disasters will increase in severity and frequency, in turn affecting tourist destinations and tourism and hospitality providers.
A common thread throughout these changing times is the sustained, and growing, importance of people. Individuals’ skillsets, capabilities, knowledge, experiences and behaviour continue to be critical to the success of the industry.
This prompts future research opportunities that would benefit the industry. For example, employees’ and leaders’ soft skills, including their communication skills and use of empathy, must be improved and supported to enable meaningful encounters, career experiences and interpersonal relationships. We can look to other industries to strengthen this process, such as Dr. Mandi Baker’s work on affective abilities in camps and leisure. The construct of resilience is also critical. PhD student Laura Leigh has commenced important work to understand the role of entrepreneurial resilience for disaster management, placing business leaders’ capabilities at the forefront of disaster response and recovery.
In addition to advancing knowledge, this means our research will continue to address new and emerging topics of importance to the industry.