Hoteliers on millennial employees, revenue management
Hoteliers on millennial employees, revenue management
19 OCTOBER 2016 8:37 AM

Hoteliers at The Lodging Conference discussed how hoteliers can communicate with millennial employees, and how technology is changing revenue management.

PHOENIX—Hoteliers, like many employers, sometimes have a hard time communicating with millennials in the workforce, as those employees’ expectations significantly differ from many of their predecessors.

That topic was discussed during the “Revitalize your operations, decrease costs and drive revenue” panel at the 2016 Lodging Conference, along with tips on how to handle revenue management technology.

“Essentially, the communication gap is rooted in the millennial’s perception that they are only going to give their effort to something they believe in,” Geoffrey Toffetti, president and CMO at Frontline Performance Group said. “Now, that sounds very obvious, but most of us in Gen X or older, we came up thinking we’re going to work really hard and pay our dues, regardless of what it is, and then we’re going to earn opportunities, and we’ll suffer through that until we get to where we think we want to be.”

Dealing with the millennial communication gap
As more and more millennials enter the workforce, hoteliers are trying to figure out how to gauge the interest of those workers and keep the best ones on board. To that end, Toffetti said hoteliers should start by bridging the communication gap between millennials and other generations within the workforce.

Blindly working for a company is something millennials will not do, he said.

“They will take half the pay that they could make to be in a job that they enjoy with the schedule they like,” he said. “They’re not comfortable working in an environment where they don’t understand the purpose of what they’re doing. You’re not going to give them a job description and say sit here and do this without them understanding why. They’ll just quit. They don’t care about the job, they care about what they’re doing to improve the world or at least contribute to a higher purpose.

“So the communication gap often occurs because for, call it 100 years, management told employees what to do and expected them to do it to the best of their abilities, and in exchange, they gave them a paycheck.”

Tim Benolken, SVP of hotel operations in Western North America at Hilton Worldwide Holdings, said his company educates managers and communicates with the millennials on staff to keep people on board.

“I think first you size the opportunity. … We right now have confirmed 25-plus millennials in our workforce. We project within five to eight years, we’ll be over 75%, approaching 80%,” he said. “So, you know, a staggering number. And when you look at how you manage that relationship, you have to look at two different areas. You have to look at the millennials, but you also have to look at the middle managers and the managers who are managing them because you have to educate them as well as you have to communicate to the millennials.”

Benolken said Hilton maintains communications with millennials, and all of its employees, by hosting town hall meetings to see how everyone’s doing and learn more about the staff.

“Through these town halls, one of the things we always thought the millennials absolutely wouldn’t do is relocate and would want to stay at home. … and that turned out not to be the case,” he said. “They recognize they’re young; they’re mobile now. They have opportunities. They want to take advantage of those opportunities, and what is really important for us is to give them a plan.

“We call it a PIP, a personal improvement plan, that they then can follow in order to get themselves to the next level, and then the support of the Hilton Worldwide University gives them (online) opportunities to better themselves and build their own internal value so that they can be best positioned for, in a proactive way, for that next move.”

Revenue management is evolving
Revenue management is changing with continued advances in technology, which has led to hotels needing specialized professionals to ensure revenue management software is working the way it should, Fred Grapstein, SVP at Vornado Hotels, said.

“There’s a huge tug of war in hotels between technology and hospitality, and trying to find where those two meld together is a difficult task,” he said. “Revenue management technology is taking a place of what was revenue management only a few years ago, which didn’t exist a few years before that.

“What you’re finding is a lot of, for lack of a better term, grunt work is being done now by your software packages that are provided by your management company, or if you’re an independent hotel, sourced from (a provider.) What you find is instead of lower-level technology folks, you now need analytical, strategic thinkers to make sure that information is handled appropriately.”

Grapstein said there are still a lot of things revenue management software can’t do.

“It doesn’t really focus on the cost of your customer to see which of your channels provide you with the greatest bottom-line profit, and as an owner, I like to see the bottom-line profit, not just, did I get the highest revenue, but what drives that revenue down,” he said.

When asked about revenue management tips, Grapstein said hoteliers should focus on the bottom line and having good asset managers.

“Continuing on with focusing on the bottom line, obviously, property tax appeals would be a wonderful place to start,” he said. “There are a lot of things. …One of the things you should look at first is possibly spending money, which is, you have a good hotel asset manager, someone between the owner, management company and the franchise. Someone who is an expert who knows where savings can be cleaned, what revenue factors you should be looking at, that’s a really good place to start. … Sort of like going to a great car mechanic; they know what to look for, what to do, and that could save you a lot of money.”

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