Mr. Kelleher

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

"Generation Y – Our Communication Rules Have Changed"

By Bob Kelleher , President and Founder, The Employee Engagement Group

Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation (Millennials) is the generation following Generation X. Although there is no clear consensus when the Millennial generation starts and ends, most agree that it applies to those born between the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s. Many of them are children of Boomers (those born between the mid 1940’s to mid 1960’s). For purpose of this article, our focus will be on Generation Yers who originate or reside in the US or other western nations.

“We were the same way when we were their age.”

Which is partially true. There are overlapping traits that all generations shared during similar points in time. In watching my three Gen-Y children, I often see myself when I was their age (upper teens and mid 20’s). However, the demographic experts agree today’s Gen-Yers are unique in three very distinct ways: they’re more global than any previous generation, they’re more technically dependent, and they’re the wealthiest generation EVER.

6 Communication Essentials:

1. Leverage Technology

Where Generation X is technologically savvy, Generation Y is technologically dependent. This became obvious to me a few weeks back at my son’s college graduation. Sitting in the large auditorium and looking down proudly on my recent graduate sitting with his 3,000 college graduates, I noticed small glimmers of light on the laps of each graduate. I remarked to my wife how my son’s university was quite thoughtful in providing each graduate a flashlight to look at the program. She laughingly replied, “they’re not using flashlights, they’re texting!”

Although Gen-Y is technically dependent, I continue to be amazed at how few hotels or businesses have social media policies in order to leverage technology (less than 50% according to most studies). And those that do, often focus their policies on what you can’t do. If you’re one of the hotels that prohibit your employees from using social media or make it difficult for your guests to access in-room technology, you are losing out on a huge communication and branding tool. Worse, you will implicitly be encouraging your Gen-Y employees to sneak away from their jobs to text, catch a YouTube video, Google, or tweet, and will also be encouraging your guests to seek alternative hotels in the future.

If you don’t know where your hotel stands in embracing technology, I have a simple question: If you still place Gideon’s Bibles in nightstands but lack wireless internet access, you’re already behind.

2. Communicate Frequently

Communication experts often said that people needed to see or hear things 7 times before they actually “hear” it. With today’s information overload, today’s communication experts now agree that people only “hear” a message after receiving it 13 times. Hotel leaders need to make sure they leverage paper, email, texting, and in-person communication venues in communicating with their employees and guests. Alignment occurs when employees are all on the same page. If you think you’re adequately aligning your Gen-Y employees by solely sending out written communications, you’re missing out on an opportunity. Remember, this generation does not read newspapers. Your messaging to Gen-Y needs to be frequent, brief, and be communicated via technology.

3. Communicate Recognition

Many hotel leaders are Baby Boomers, who by nature are uncomfortable giving or receiving recognition. Unfortunately, this is counter to the needs of Generation Y, who some experts claim need to be recognized 8 times a day! Although Boomers are uncomfortable giving or receiving praise, they have showered their children with praise and “at-a-boys.” Remember, this is the generation where the losing soccer team received trophies! Hotels must add ways to provide on-going feedback to staff. They should look for ways to “catch someone doing something right” and offer recognition. They should include mid year or quarterly performance feedback ( annual performance reviews are “so yesterday”). They should include 360 feedback opportunities where employees have an opportunity to receive feedback from their managers as well as their subordinates, peers, and even guests.

4. Seek Their Input on Branding

Your Generation Y employees have great ideas, think differently than you, and can provide great input on how to leverage your hotel’s brand. Don’t forget that there are 84 million current and future hotel guests that are Gen-Yers. Your Gen-Y employees know how to market to this group, they understand their lodging needs, and can help you position yourself in ways that was not possible a few years back. Establish a cross sectional task team with a goal of leveraging your hotel’s brand. Ask your Gen-Yers to help you come up with a plan to promote your hotel via blogging and tweeting. Instead of communicating your hotel’s objectives, vision, or mission via a static written communication, provide Flip video cameras to your Gen-Y employees and ask them to film your hotel’s values or vision. Include guest commentary, make it fun, offer prizes for the best video, and quickly you’ll have an engaging video to post on your website.

5. Provide Structure

Unlike prior generations, Generation Y has been raised in a highly structured and disciplined environment. Sporting events are highly structured; after school formal programs are the norm; scheduled summer camps ranging from arts to sports are now commonplace; tutors are hired even for the intellectually gifted. Is it any wonder why so many Generation Yers struggle when they enter the workplace and are given tasks without opportunities for frequent feedback? Managers need to recognize that many Gen-Yers will struggle unless additional structure is provided. Weekly (if not daily check ins) will enable you to provide structure while also providing for opportunities to give recognition (remember, they need to be recognized 8 times a day).

6. Communicate Development Opportunities

Studies support that Generation Y is more interested in career opportunities than any previous generation. One recent study reported that Generation Y is 3 times more interested in personal development than money! Hotels should create clear development paths (“line of sight”) to help employees understand where they are, where they can go, and what they need to do to get there. Although the average tenure of US based employees is 3.5 years, it is projected that the average tenure of Generation Y is 20 months! You must communicate and structure career opportunities for this generation. They get bored easy, and need to understand “whats next for me”. Instituting job rotation at your hotel will be a necessary retention tool.

Today’s Generation Yers have amazing skills to offer. They can be technological mentors to the rest of us. They understand how to communicate and attract a global clientele. They are adventurous. They are purpose driven. They exude positive energy that is contagious. And contrary to the perception of some, they are not lazy (as I’ve heard some boomers claim). They work differently than prior generations. Their clock does not stop. They check email on weekends, They live in a blended world of work, friends, and family. Experts agree that all generations share three traits. We’re all driven by achievement. We’re all social. We’re all driven by a sense of fairness.

Mr. Kelleher, President and Founder of The Employee Engagement Group is a best-selling author, international keynote speaker, and consultant and travels the globe sharing his insights on employee engagement, leadership, and workforce trends. Bob is the author of the best selling book, "LOUDER THAN WORDS: 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps That Drive Results", "CREATIVESHIP, A Novel for Evolving Leaders" and the just released "EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT for Dummies". Having been an internal practitioner for many years, Mr. Kelleher weaves together proven best practices, current case studies, and supporting research to make a compelling business case. His enthusiastic and passionate delivery have proven to be a winning formula for audiences throughout the world – with recent talks in Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Warsaw, Belfast, Paris, Kiev, Dubai, and Mexico. Mr. Kelleher can be contacted at 781-281-7259 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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