Ms. Gioia

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Decoding the Millennials: Tactics That Engage and Retain

By Joyce Gioia, CEO, Employer of Choice, Inc

For some hotel professionals, the Millennials, also known as Generation-Y, are an anathema; for others, they are simply a challenge to be met. However, whichever way you look at them, this generation is certainly different from all others. If you know which buttons to push, they can be extraordinary assets to your teams. Ignore them and they will leave. This article first explores the values and attitudes of these young workers, scans recent research detailing what they're looking for, then offers some practical, low- and no-cost solutions to help you truly capitalize on these talented employees.

"They require so much attention", my client said to me. "Our partners are going crazy, because they can't get their work done." My client was the office manager of a medium-size accounting firm, struggling with her fresh graduates who had never worked full-time in the profession.

Yes, the fact is, the Millennials do require more structure and supervision, but that's just because they don't want to make mistakes. Like most of us, "looking good" is very important to them. In addition, that value is just one of the things that are important to this youngest generation of workers. When we want to engage and retain a segment of the working population, we first look at their values and attitudes―because people make decisions based on these aspects of who they are.

Values and attitudes make a big difference

Values and attitudes are aspects that of our personalities which we hold most dear. Values are those things that are most important to us and attitudes are conditioned responses we have been reinforcing for years. This generation, in particular, has a unique set of values and attitudes. Work with them and you have very loyal and hard-working employees; ignore them and people will characterize them as "lazy" and "irresponsible".

Millennials feel a high sense of "civic duty". They want to "do the right thing" for their families and their communities. In fact, more Millennials have volunteered with their local non-profits than Generation Xers, the generation immediately before. With this value comes their placing a high value on both "morality" and especially, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Millennials will make decisions about which employers they will join, based on their belief that their prospective employer is a good corporate citizen that will support them in "making a difference" in the world. The global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte and Touche is able to recruit the best and the brightest, in part because of its attitudes on CSR. Want proof? Take a look at their video at

Second, they value being connected 24/7. They want to be linked with their colleagues all the time and are frustrated when that is not possible. That's because they are very social, but not in the same way other generations are. They do not want to be with others physically, but rather digitally. This same construct applies to their working together in teams as well. These young workers will be highly effective team members, if allowed to participate electronically, so consider using them on teams where physical meetings are minimized.

Not surprisingly high technology is also very important to them they value having the best computer with the most "bells and whistles", including the most advanced graphics card and the fastest processor. The older generations have a lot more patience with slow computers, so keep in mind, they will be less sensitive to this issue.

Because the digital age has allowed this generation to be exposed to the world (good and bad), they are a lot more "street smart" than their other-generational counterparts are. They value diversity and inclusion and will question "why" if your workforce lacks diversity.

Finally, because they are accustomed to receiving "attaboys", whether they deserved them or not, "achievement" is also important to The Millennials. They will expect to receive constant acknowledgment, so that they know where they stand and how to correct their course, so that they earn your favor. In the frenzy to serve guests in a timely manner and get all of the work done, sometimes hotel professionals forget to stop and acknowledge their front-line staff. Then they wonder why their people leave.

I ran into an example of this recently with a restaurant client. This firm with a variety of different types of restaurant properties recently lost a long-tenured young person, who had been a real asset to their organization in both their catering and restaurant operations. Rarely had anyone ever stopped to say "thank you" to this young man. When he had an opportunity elsewhere, he left. The company lost a very valuable employee at a time when it could ill afford to do so.

Research confirms what works

Older research from The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicated that 81 percent of Gen Nexters (roughly translated as The Millennials) aspire to "Get Rich".

More recent research from Deloitte and Touche reinforces that finding. When asked, "Which of the following action items should your employer do to retain you?", 61.6 percent of The Millennials replied, "increase [my] salary and/or bonus". 53.7 percent responded, "provide opportunities for advancement" and almost 30 percent (29.8 percent) said, "provide appropriate recognition of contributions". Moreover, 23.3 percent were looking for "flexible work hours" and 22.9 of the respondents sought "a variety of career paths".

Best practices that work with The Millennials

Responding to the need for supervision and structure. Robert Solórzano, the young director of operations for the Bosque de Mar, a small property beach-front located in Playa de Hermosa, Costa Rica, is the epitome of what we call a "Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves Leader". With a young staff of 42 people, many of whom are Millennials and most have been there for less than 18 months, he alternately describes himself as "someone who is there when things get hectic" and "someone who is there to teach". Originally hired as a front desk manager, his greatest challenge is hiring and training front desk people. They call those folks "receptionists" and due to the high percentage of North Americans visiting the country. Solórzano recognizes the importance of providing structure and supervision for his new recruits.

He knows that his best bet is to watch their guest interactions from a distance. He wants to give his people the opportunity to handle the circumstance on their own. When he's needed, he eases himself into the conversation to assist in handling the situation.

Solórzano also did something different with his housekeeping staff during the renovation. He drafted them to paint the facility. At first, they objected, but he explained he would rather give them jobs than some contracted painters who may not have needed the jobs as much. After training, some of the room attendants began to enjoy it. However, the real payoff came later once the job was finished, when they felt the pride of ownership of having completed an excellent job. To this day, these young people feel a sense of ownership of the particular rooms they painted.

Engage them early on

Paul Hutton, the award-winning General Manager of the Hilton Sydney in Australia has a simple philosophy of leadership:" Get the right people on-board, win their hearts and minds, and the results will follow." Paul begins early─in the interviewing process─to "win their hearts and minds". The team members themselves provide the welcome and orientation into the organization.

On "welcome day", they all go to lunch together in the hotel restaurant─not the staff canteen. The group includes the newly hired and three to four senior managers. The senior leaders discuss their dreams, their career journeys, and how they got to where they are today. This unexpected lunch with the senior executives is very engaging for the new people, who are often in a state of shock about joining a big hotel with 600+ staff. This extra attention given to front line staff pays off handsomely for Hutton and for Hilton, whose employee turnover is very low.

The ROI is exceptional

You will be very surprised that your Return on Investment (ROI) for your support of your Millennials will be excellent. When you understand what causes them to be motivated and give them what they need to succeed, not only will they stay, but they will also respond with their best effort. Take care of your Millennials and they will take excellent care of your guests.

Joyce Gioia is a workforce futurist concentrating on relationship aspects of the future. This arena includes workforce and workplace trends, as well as consumer, education, and business-to-business trends. Ms. Gioia is also CEO of Employer of Choice, Inc, a distinction earned only by companies whose leadership, culture, and best practices attract, optimize, and hold top talent. Employers of Choice® enjoy "a higher level of performance, greater workforce stability, and the level of continuity that assures preservation of the knowledge base, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and stronger profits". Ms. Gioia can be contacted at 336-210-3548 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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