Thoughts for Leaders on Gaining and Retaining Millennials

Over the past few weeks I have attended various conferences in our industry and the topic of ‘hiring Millennials’’ has been ever present in sessions and passing conversations alike. It seems that the general consensus from industry’s top leaders is that Millennials are a challenging generation to gain and retain in the workforce. Of course, the paradox is that everyone recognizes that eventually they will constitute the bulk of the work force and lead the industry. The Millennials are here, and it’s our responsibility to understand this generation, not just as consumers but also as employees, in order to adapt to their needs as much as we expect them to adapt to ours. My personal experience as a consultant echoes the findings from many academic studies that Millennials have a higher regard for quality of life, and this entails a stronger work-life balance. This goes against the grain of Generation X who regard working hard as the precursor for the luxury of playing hard. Simply put, Generation X is motivated to work 60+ hours a week because of a firmly held belief that “more work equals more pay.” However, Millennials have grown up in a world more fluid and fast-paced than Generation X. Technological advances that provide everything at the click of a button and allow Millennials to thrive in this new era have also birthed the new principle of “instant gratification.” Arguably, one of the net effects is that old beliefs about work ethic have given way to new attitudes of entitlement that foster very self-centred ways of thinking, working and living. Social media platforms have undoubtedly affected this generation’s way of interacting and even thinking. Continued social interactions throughout the day are a top priority for Millennials. The bottom-line is that Millennials are easily bored if not intellectually or socially stimulated the right ways. This is a significant and potentially costly challenge for businesses as they strive to curb turnover of employees with lower engagement, loyalty to company and a threshold for job-hopping. So what is the solution? Personally I feel we need to embrace this next generation of hospitality leaders. As cliché as it may sound they are the future and it is our responsibility to mentor and mould them in their leadership potential. Accordingly, it is our job to adapt to them as much as they are to adapt to us. The hospitality industry has done an admirable job in adapting to Millennial consumers by integrating technology into many aspects of our industry, but now we need to find ways to adapt to them as employers – all within reason, of course. Now it is time for us to engage them on a more personal level by addressing their need for social interaction. This industry is perfect for it! We must continue to give them new and stimulating tasks, so they remain engaged from the onset, have a sense of ownership in completing tasks and goals and thereby feel a shared loyalty with their prospective employer. It is also important for us to create an open, honest and transparent environment as soon as the hiring process begins and throughout the entire on-boarding process. The idea is for businesses to showcase their company cultures and demonstrate that the expectations align with everyone’s work, cultural, and lifestyle needs. We must continue to embrace technology and understand that it can leverage their skills. And most importantly, we must consider ways to move beyond the outdated 9-5 mentality as much as possible so that Millennials gain greater control over their work-life balance and are incentivized on productively not a time sheet. The bottom-line is that Millennials are unbelievable game-changers. The winners in the hospitality industry will be those companies with the right mind-set to balance the new generation’s work ideals with their own. Those who resist the expectations of the new generation will only face a dwindling workforce unprepared to succeed in dynamic, highly competitive markets.