Though millennials have changed how the hospitality industry presents the guest stay experience and workplace culture, what they want is also rooted in something familiar.
Millennials travel more than any other generation (82% when compared to 75% of all other generations), and they spend more when they do. Capturing the business of this generation as it ages and transitions into becoming the largest customer segment in U.S. history has been our fascination for more than a decade. So with 2020 now underway, it is a good time to reflect on how successful we have been.
We, as an industry, tried to anticipate their needs and invest in properties that would be attractive to the millennial mindset. So how did we do? On the consumer side, we predicted millennials would be minimalists who valued exploration, activities and engagement more than large guestrooms and luxury stylings. The generation was framed as adventurers who valued good meals and comfortable beds, but not necessarily all of the other frills associated with travel. While the former is true, and has led to the rise of experiential travel, millennials are not the minimalists we thought they were.
When we envisioned the ideal millennial guestroom, we saw a small space that made room for larger, more functional public areas for guests and visitors to work or socialize “together, alone.” In reality, these travelers have the same expectations of luxury as anyone else. They were seeking a travel experience with a greater emphasis on entertainment, but not at the expense of a high-quality guestroom. Rather, the rise of the micro-guestroom was not a generational trend, but an entirely new sub-segment of traveler, something born from economics and not related to any specific age group. As a result, some brands are still sending mixed messages to their guests through their design choices.
Millennials’ impact on the workforce has been just as profound. This generation of workers has driven a shift in traditional work/life balance that has not been seen before in the hospitality industry. This is a motivated group of workers who are well aware of the opportunities to grow within hospitality, but they are not content working without feeling they are part of a larger culture. They want to be a part of the decision-making process, and they want to see that their input has results.
This is a necessary change for an industry which has a tradition of forgoing work-life balance in favor of success at all costs. In an era with high competition for skilled workers and low unemployment, the hospitality industry cannot afford to let experienced, motivated employees pass it by—or worse, provide priceless training to rising stars only to lose them to other sectors. We must now create a culture that values hotel workers and reflect that through our actions, and millennials were the ones that sparked this change within the workforce.
In essence, these are five top cultural trends impacting the millennial employee.
- A genuine attitude and need for flexibility: Life has a tendency to throw curveballs at us, and millennials are tired of working around rigid, narrow-minded expectations in the workplace.
- Celebrations of diversity: The hospitality industry in particular has been built on the backs of people from every walk of life, particularly immigrants and women. Their efforts need to be recognized, and millennials are keeping score.
- Consistent work-life balance: Millennials want to succeed at work, but they have aspirations beyond their 9-to-5 jobs. In addition, better work-life balance is associated with higher work satisfaction, company loyalty and career longevity.
- Sharing in the mission, not just the tasks: Today’s workers want to be part of a greater whole, and they want to understand their impact within your organization. With this understanding comes greater competency, lending you a competitive edge as well.
- A definable culture that includes social awareness: A strong employee culture can help combat turnover and increase productivity. Above all, this culture must be genuine because millennials can spot a phony tradition a mile away.
Millennials have the same wants and needs as other generations, but they want them in a different package. They prize unique experiences, and they want to interact with your business on their terms. Hoteliers are in a unique position, because we are able to interact directly with travelers and form a relationship with them every time they stay with us. Just because a traveler may avoid the front desk doesn’t mean they are avoiding all interactions. If you go the extra mile to speak with these travelers they will open up to you, and you will form a real connection with them, not just their data.
Bob Habeeb is Founder and CEO of Maverick Hotels and Restaurants. Over his 25 year career in the industry Bob has served in various leadership roles and successfully owned and operated hospitality businesses in virtually every aspect of the industry including luxury, select service, resort hotels, restaurants and golf and ski operations in every setting imaginable.
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