The emerging hospitality workforce is—and will continue to be—populated by younger demographic groups with their own unique perspectives and priorities.
Anyone connected with the industry knows how important it is for hospitality brands and businesses to recruit and retain quality personnel.
These days, that necessarily means connecting with and appealing to millennials. Understanding the preferences and priorities of that much-discussed and increasingly influential demographic is viewed by many as a prerequisite for anyone who wants to thrive in an increasingly competitive market for talented professionals.
Despite years of talking about it, however, the reality is that many in the hotel business are still trying to figure out how best to work with millennials. This is a group of people who grew up in a time of relative prosperity, and they have high expectations about workplace environment and work-life balance. Satisfying those expectations sometimes can be challenging. This is, after all, a business where there are some logistical challenges that cannot be avoided. Hotel operations have lots of technically complex tasks and important jobs that can place a significant demand on your schedule and workplace hours. While this is the nature of a 24/7/365 business, that can be a tough sell for millennials.
Complicating the issue is the reality that we, as an industry, haven’t done a really great job of appealing to millennials. There are some extraordinarily rewarding, inspiring and downright fun aspects to hotel management, and it’s incumbent upon existing hotel professionals to do a better job of conveying that excitement and dynamism to potential millennial job candidates.
Here’s the good news, however: The post-millennial generation, Generation Z (“Gen Z”) is on the way. And there’s a lot to like about them. This is a group that has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed by their headline-grabbing millennial predecessors. It might surprise many to find out that Gen Z—defined as those born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s—is actually substantially larger than the millennial generation. Despite the fact that not all Gen Zers are old enough to enter the workforce, the group is already making a dramatic economic impact.
A new study recently released by The Center for Generational Kinetics, “The State of Gen Z: Meet the Throwback Generation,” reveals some fascinating and important insights about a demographic that is surprisingly different from millennials. The study describes Gen Z as a “large, diverse, and digitally entrenched generation” poised to “take the trend-driving mantle from millennials” and replace them as the “focal point of future workforce change.” With that in mind, the hospitality industry needs to be paying very close attention to ensure that they understand this generation and what makes them tick.
One of the findings from the study is that Gen Z is, in many ways, looking like it might be a “throwback” generation, displaying the “attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that combine their tech-saturated world with elements of generations past.” This is a generation that has been through some tough economic times. They’ve seen people—sometimes members of their own families—downsized, they have a healthy fear of unemployment and financial stresses, and, consequently, a correspondingly strong work ethic.
Amazingly, about half of the members of Gen Z are already working in one form or another, and that 77% “earns their own spending money through freelance work, a part-time job, or earned allowance.” As the study points out, this is a similar percentage to surveyed millennials who are fully 10 years older. This work experience cannot help but give members of Gen Z a leg up when they move into more full-time positions in the workforce in a few years.
Gen Z survey respondents listed their top two skills for workplace success as communication and problem-solving. This might not come as a complete surprise, given the extent to which employers have suggested that these are areas where millennials could be stronger. Interestingly, however, members of Gen Z reported similar priorities when it comes to what they most want out of a job—specifically a fun work environment and a flexible work schedule. Given the many other differences in perspectives and priorities between millennials and Gen Z, the similarity in workplace perk preferences is noteworthy.
Shockingly, many members of Gen Z are apparently not only already thinking about retirement, but preparing for it. According to the study, 12% of Gen Z members are already saving for retirement. This might be because “unlike previous generations of parents who did not talk about money or financial topics with their kids, Gen Z’s parents have taken a very different approach.” The study found that “56% of Gen Z have discussed saving money with their parents in the past six months, and 53% have discussed earning money with their parents.”
Gen Z might just now be showing up on our radar, but as our industry’s experiences with millennials show, hospitality professionals need to be proactive if we want to create the “commitment to the mission” that characterizes the best teams and individual employees. To appeal to this demographic, companies must affirm a strong corporate culture, remain visible and active on social media and, of course, stay flexible—which means embracing generational differences. They are our employees of the not-too-distant future, and the time to engage them is now.
Chris Green is the COO of Chesapeake Hospitality. He brings more than a quarter century of successful hospitality operations experience to Chesapeake’s corporate team, including nearly a decade in the field at various Chesapeake-managed properties. For more information, visit https://www.chesapeakehospitality.com/.
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