AMSTERDAM—Millennials. Generation Y. Echo boomers. The fickle hoard of twenty-somethings making waves in the hospitality industry is known by many pseudonyms, perhaps none more so than one unflattering designation: disloyal.
Call it a result of their upbringing, said Ian Miller, lecturer at the Ecole Hoteliere De Lausanne and a member of the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals’ board of directors. After a lifetime of being told they can do anything they set their minds to and shouldn’t settle for anything less, this ambitious young work force doesn’t hesitate to leave one job in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere.
That’s creating headaches for hotel management, which is struggling to rein in these talented leaders of tomorrow by satisfying their often insatiable appetite for self improvement and career advancement, Miller said.
“If we don’t start really looking after them in the workplace, they’re going to go someplace where they can get respected and get a good working environment,” he said.
Does that mean this generation should be coddled—their every demand met? Absolutely not, Miller told attendees during a breakout session at the European Hospitality Technology Education Conference in Amsterdam. What it does mean is hoteliers must examine their outdated management styles to better fit the needs of the MTV generation.
“We need to look at different management styles,” Miller said. “Micromanagement … this generation doesn’t want somebody constantly at their backs. They need room to work. We need to trust them a little bit.”
Here are 10 ways to keep your millennial associates more engaged in your workplace:
1. Keep meetings short and productive. Generation Y grew up with an incredible demand for time management, and there’s nothing more frustrating for them than being cooped up in a room and watching invaluable seconds tick by, Miller said.
2. Flexible hours. Forget about the traditional nine-to-five workday. Today's associates demand more flexibility with their schedules—answering e-mails at night, taking off work early every Friday, putting in extra hours Saturday morning. Miller’s advice: Let them. As long as they’re getting their work done, lengthen the leash. More often than not, these ambitious 20-something-year-olds will likely be putting in more hours anyway.
3. Add assistants. How many hours are wasted each day as millennials file paperwork, stand at the printer or scrounge through the office supply cabinet? Quite a few, Miller said. These workers want to be more productive with their time, so consider hiring an assistant or two—depending on the demands of your work force—to take on some of the more menial aspects of their jobs.
Ian Miller, lecturer, Ecole Hoteliere De Lausanne
4. Redefine retirement. Retirement doesn’t have to begin at age 65. Some companies today are experimenting with year-long sabbaticals for employees in their 30s or 40s—an enticing incentive to keep your younger employees around longer.
5. Trade bosses for mentors. For as independent and ambitious as they might be, millennials also greatly value the experienced guidance of a willing mentor. Take advantage of that need by breaking down some of the traditional boss-employee barriers to help shape your young associate into the employee you want him or her to be, Miller said.
6. Respect HR. Millennials don’t want to be nameless cogs in the machine—and they don’t want their colleagues to be, either. This generation champions the importance and value of people, so shape your management style accordingly.
7. Tap into their EQ. You’ve heard of intelligence quotient? But what about emotional quotient? To keep millennials around longer, get them emotionally invested in your company, Miller said. That should come naturally in the field of hospitality. The industry is more than brick and mortar; it’s a service that intimately touches hundreds of thousands of travelers each day.
8. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Think generation Y only values its own opinions? Think again. This demographic has passionate respect for many people in their lives—their parents, for example. If you show them respect as workers, they’ll likely return the favor.
9. Show them the money. A lot of millennials have paid a lot of money for their four-year degrees, and they expect higher starting salaries in return. Whether the industry is willing to take them up on this offer has yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain: More and more talented college graduates are abandoning hospitality for higher-earning professions.
10. Performance reviews. You check your e-mails every few minutes, review your budget monthly, report earnings quarterly, and revisit your annual plan every half year. But if people truly are your greatest resource, why do you only give performance reviews once a year? Millennials need a lot more feedback, Miller said. Revisit their performance at least on a quarterly basis, if not more, and do so seriously. Then perhaps they’ll seriously consider working hard to advance within your ranks for 20 years, and not just 20 months.