Hoteliers are taking many initiatives to attract Millennials as guests, but they also need to come to terms with how this younger generation is changing the hospitality workforce.
Last week eHotelier had a very interesting discussion with Guy Bentley, CEO of the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, which is a division of Laureate International Universities. Through his role in educating over 2600 undergraduate and Masters students in hospitality degrees each year, Guy is well positioned to observe how the career paths of Millennials are no longer linear – they will jump up, down, sideways and across brands to get where they want to go.
“Those hiring in the hotel industry need to understand that the expectations of younger potential talent are very different to what they were five years ago,” said Bentley.
New graduates from hotel schools today have their sights set on moving up the career ladder at a much faster pace. Most will change positions every 18 months and they will move in and out of companies to do so.
“If you manage it right, they’ll move within your company,” Bentley said. “If you don’t pay attention, they won’t hesitate to move outside. And often, the most talented can move positions even faster.”
Millennials are not opposed to travel – they expect to work in at least two different countries within five years of graduation and to attain their first senior management role by age 28.
What they want from employers
Newly graduated associates are willing to work hard to achieve these goals. They most desire opportunities to demonstrate their skills and to be supported by their managers to reach their career objectives. They want to be entrusted with responsibility and also be paid according to the responsibility they take on – not, as is more traditional, by their age alone. Fair remuneration is important at this stage, but Millennials believe a path toward career progression is much more important in their decisions on which organisations to join and which roles to pursue.
“I had an extremely talented student who rose to become the youngest-ever Night Manager of a large, prestigious property very quickly after graduation. She was so good, in fact, she was not promoted as the hotel wanted to keep her in that role. By not helping her advance, she left the brand and they lost her considerable skills completely,” said Bentley.
Development cannot be left to HR
With the expectation of rapid advancement in their careers, it is not good enough to leave their career support program in the hands of the HR department for annual reviews. The General Manager overall, and department managers specifically, must take a hands on approach to groom and coach Millennials for advancement in the organisation.
“The key to reducing turnover is all about building trust,” said Bentley (pictured right). “You have to communicate with them well enough to understand how to use their career desires to help grow your business.”
This is the biggest area where managers raised in more traditional times come unstuck – rather than align employee expectations with the organisation’s goals, it is more advantageous to truly understand the employee’s career goals and align the department/business strategy around the talent you have and wish to keep. Is there a logical change of structure that you can make to retain them?
To keep good talent on board, you’ll have to be prepared to move them across departments, and more than likely, across your affiliated properties, brands, and countries – however difficult this may be. Sometimes these conversations may be uncomfortable, but managers will also have to be honest if there simply aren’t enough roles in the organisation to accommodate their wishes. You may have to acknowledge that they will need to leave your organisation, but you hope they return at some future stage. It pays to take a long view of their career development, as many return to their country of origin when their lifestyle and family values change. (And some need to leave to self-discover that what you have to offer is actually very good!)
Bentley stated, “You shouldn’t fear losing staff, but you should fear them leaving on bad terms. Approximately 15 percent of my staff have worked for me previously and returned. You want to be on the short list again when your openings change and they’re ready to step up to more senior roles.”
Taking the time to understand Millennials can be challenging and time consuming, but you can be sure that if you are not assisting with their career progression, your fiercest competition will be. Do not expect a lifetime of brand loyalty from your employees – it simply isn’t there anymore.
Furthermore – one management style does not fit all. Managers must know their staff on an individual level – enough to know their passions, and understand their desires and what motivates each person to achieve. Each may require a different set of skills to manage, but all will respond if you understand their passions and desires and are willing to support them. If you have their best interests at heart, they will in turn commit to the best interests of your business.
Ways to get started
Guy Bentley believes that a good way for hoteliers to gain insights into the millennial workforce is to forge closer ties with hotel schools – not just one day a year, but in an engaging, ongoing way. This may be through a series of guest lectures, seminars or a mentorship program.
“Many of our industry mentors come back to me to say that they’ve learned as much about how to successfully manage Millennials through the program as the real-world knowledge they were able to impart to the mentees. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.”