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How does the millennial generation fit with the hospitality industry?

Generation Y is also known as the Millennials because they began to enter the professional world at the beginning of the 3rd millennium. This employee age group, now age 20 to 35, presents characteristics that stand out with respect to their predecessors and are sufficiently identifiable so that they change the habits of human resources directors and senior managers in the hotel industry. The latter had to adapt to a generation that they find more difficult to understand in terms of their expectations, as they are both more demanding with regard to available perspectives and less respectful of traditional values. But this does not mean that these future directors are negligent or dilettantes. They may even be fairly resourceful and generally flexible, but they don’t have the same priorities as earlier generations. Globalization, socialization, communication, digital technology are all part of their daily world and have contributed significantly to modeling their behavior.

Millennials, who came of age in the year 2000 and the decade that followed, were, from their tender pre-school years, exposed to successive economic and environmental crises, the disintegration of traditional boundaries, following the Cold War, and the technological acceleration illustrated by Star Wars. Morover, their lives closely paralleled the birth and expansion of Internet in professional and personal lives.

More than any other, it is a generation whose behavior is influenced by global trends and whose values and characteristics are surprisingly frequently, be shared from one continent to the next. They are now so numerous that recruiters and educators now watch these young people set foot in their companies and schools. A recent study estimates that Generation Y constitutes one quarter of the world population, and that its presence is strong in emerging countries: 500 million in India, 250 million in China, 60 million in Brazil, 40 million in Russia … as well as a hundred million in North America and as many in Western Europe, not to mention other rising nations in Latin America and Asia.

Of course the level of education and social comfort is not the same around the world and this one and a half billion young women and men do not constitute a homogeneous block. And yet, it is vital to understand that globalization has an obvious effect on them, as it encourages exchange, the sharing of values and common interests that generally transcend cultural differences. A young Chinese person who experienced the Shanghai World Expo will have many affinities with a young Brazilian of the same age who saw his country transformed by the FiFA World Cup. Their aspirations will have shared sensibilities and it is even more true if they share the same career choice in the hotel industry.

To understand them better, it is interesting to look at the qualities, particularities and behavior that generally characterize them beyond their geographic borders, even if it is necessary to modulate generalizations due to the local cultural influence of education.

A digital generation

To say the Millennials are connected is to put it lightly. They were born with Internet and grew up alongside the technological evolution and absorbed every last stage of it with an unsettling facility with respect to older generations. Not only did young people age 25 to 35 become the masters of manipulating computer and mobile communication devices, but they also rapidly understood the power of being online whether it concerns their private life, through Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, FourSquare, etc., or their professional life with the use of digital marketing through all available channels: Linkedin, Twitter, Dailymotion, Pinterest…

Alongside this mastery that came naturally, the major difficulty for this generation is to define boundaries between their private life and professional lives. By preference and by perceived necessity, young people in this age group have a strong presence on social networks and spend several hours daily feeding their account(s), virtually opening up their lives to dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of friends around the globe.

Their inherent ease with technology makes them ideal candidates for all positions related to digital marketing, multi-channel commercialization, digital customer relations. It also allows them to introduce a degree of openness onto the outside world to other positions they might hold at a company or hotel.
But this is not without consequences for traditional forms of communication with which they may have more difficulties. They can be so used to communicating via SMS, tweets and e-mail, that they are a little uncomfortable in face to face situations which require a real conversation and more elaborate vocabulary. The more jocular expression used on the Web can easily lead to excessive familiarity that is out of place in hierarchical relations, and even less so in professional contacts with clientele at properties. Learning these “behavior codes” is an important part of training for work in hospitality, even if dialogue will also have changed in nature with respect to the Millennials it addresses.

An entrepreneurial generation 

While only few of them will actually join a startup or take business, the corporate reference model for this generation is one of de-structured companies that give greater decision making autonomy to managers and stimulate creativity and innovation. Fascinated by the professional development of the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, young Millennials have personal ambition and an entrepreneurial outlook for their work. They pretty much consider their position as a small business unit that participates in the company’s production of goods and services. This allows them to achieve self-fulfillment both personally and professionally. The training that goes along with the progress of their career is a powerful engine that must not be neglected.

There is nothing more stimulating for being confronted with a concrete problem in a collaborative situation that needs to be resolved quickl. Less restrained by the shackles of tradition and culture, Generation Y has an obvious facility to project themselves into unknown and poorly explored territories. Change has followed them since birth and they have fully integrated the imperatives of flexibility, the need for permanent benchmarking and to frequently question themselves. It is all the easier for them to adopt new management modes: participatory work, the sharing of experiences and good practices come fairly naturally to them. Thus, they are receptive to innovations and will adapt more easily to new concepts, and even participate in their elaboration and evolution.

It comes as no surprise that new kinds of accommodations are rising forth from the work of this generation that is ready to shackle old models and not just make them evolve progressively. This penchant for innovation is sometimes overwhelming and not always compatible with the profitability ratios of established economic models. Channeling available energy is not the easiest thing to do, but preventing it from being expressed can only lead to frustration and a lack of commitment to a company.

An impatient generation


Faced with the constant reactivity of the digital world within which they evolves, the Millennials have trouble incorporating the verb “wait” in their lives. Speed is an imperative that mobilizes all their attention, whether it is to answer an e-mail or to launch a computer program, the time to eat or make their career progress. They are impatient by nature, and just a bit too ready to skip over steps in the process in order to model themselves on these success stories. While the hotel industry encourages the social ladder that allows the most deserving and most determined to rise up to a successful professional career, Millennials would like to rev things up and take a high-speed elevator instead that would lead them straight to higher levels. 

This impatience goes hand in hand with fairly strong confidence in their personal values and ability to assimilate the experience and knowledge necessary for new jobs. Career beginnings will look like a kind of corporate tourism, in which internships and experiences are multiplied in order to accumulate basic professional savoir-faire, even if this knowledge remains superficial because not enough time is spent in the position. Without falling into caricature extremes, the rise to positions involving responsibility may be compared to climbing from branch to branch, going from one tree to the next depending on opportunities, salaries, working conditions. Millennials will have more difficulty in stressful or uncomfortable situations, which are inherent to corporate life, and will prefer diversity over loyalty.

Millennials are sensitive to “perks”, material or immaterial benefits that are emblematic of one’s level in a company, and more generally to the working environment, that is preferably similar to the community life they are used to in their personal lives, relationships, entertainment. Future managers who graduating from hotel schools are aware of the formidable international development of the hospitality industry. The multiplication of hotels around the world opens new opportunities for them, and this growth is even stronger in emerging countries that are catching up in terms of hotel equipment. Their qualifications, while incomplete, even insufficient, incontestably arm them for meeting recruiters who must fill up the organization charts for middle-management. And these young graduates know that they are the target for Human Resources marketers who are making hotel groups “sell” themselves as well as possible on school campuses.

A generation that questions the legitimacy of hierarchy

Accustomed to quick responses and unbridled exploration of information resources, Generation Y does not necessarily consider superior position to be a given fact or a definitive answer. It is necessary to accept their questioning and verification of the pertinence of instructions that have been given to them. One does not acquire their respect just through a position within a corporate structure; it is also necessary for one’s superior to be recognized for his skills and experience. The notion of superiority is questioned in light of changes that companies, concepts, relationships are all undergoing. Young people age 25 to 35 consider, often rightly so, that what they bring to a company and its transformation is just as vital as what was contributed by previous generations who are now in charge. Discussion, exchange and explanation are essential to receive acceptance so the “mission” entrusted to young employees is executed. The model of professional relations is influenced by how start-ups operate in their vast open space where the “boss” uses the same tools and the same coffee machine.

Hospitality training is certainly a difficult period that is not easy to get through unless there is a glimmer of a goal, unless the justification is understood. Managers in the industry may be a bit surprised by the need for transparency about information concerning the reality of trainees’ immediate and future career. Unkept promises, vague perspectives, with no identifiable developmental stages, are irremediable triggers that can ead to frustration and resignations.

The development of “mentor/mentee” pairs can only function if it is based on the transmission of knowledge and not authority alone. In this relationship, young employees have high demands for knowledge, but have difficulty accepting that their points of view are not necessarily taken into consideration.

A generation hungry for recognition and responsiveness


A career is a path strewn with different stages that symbolically and/or concretely mark accomplishments. It is much easier and/or accelerated if there is constant support from a company that looks out for its employees. Generation Y has no objection to regular training in new techniques, new approaches, new concepts. “Lifelong learning”, a more modern expression for continuing education, is a strong argument for companies that offer it. It makes it possible to climb the ladder and earn one’s stripes, symbols of appreciation for performance. In this regard all the tools for distance training have made things much easier for small and large companies alike as they offer access to online modules, certificate programs, and even access to MBAs from online management schools. The Millennial Generation is an ideal public for MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, which are open classes offered via Internet by the most important universities and some hotel schools.

Lack of responsiveness from by companies is quickly sanctioned by progressive demotivation and job searches. when the market is open. It is important to grow accustomed to the idea that loyalty to a company is earned daily and is not acquired based on reputation alone, and even less so on promises.

An ego-centric generation

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