Recruiting the Young Generation: Tattoos and Piercings are Part of the Mix

By Robert M. O'Halloran Professor & Director, School of Hospitality Leadership, East Carolina University | February 28, 2016

In a recent conversation at the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) fall meetings in New York, several hotel professionals were discussing the issue of tattoos, body art, piercings, and hiring. The framework for the conversations included company policies, social acceptance, visibility, and appropriateness of tattoos in the hospitality work place. Personal appearance and changing societal norms can cause conflicts for some when recruiting.

As a college professor at a large hospitality program, I have seen an increased number of tattoos, piercings and other personal appearance changes from the younger generation(s), Gen Y or Millennials and perhaps Generation Z. Millennials are defined by most researchers by birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s to identify Gen Y (Wikipedia, 2015) and Generation Z (also iGen or Post-Millennials) are described as a cohort of people born after the Millennial Generation. There is disagreement on the name and exact range of birth dates with some sources start this generation at the mid or late 1990s or from the mid-2000s to the present day (Wikipedia, 2015). These young people in these segments see tattoos, hair styles, piercings et al as socially acceptable personal expressions and therefore an acceptable option in the work place.

A quick overview of many hospitality businesses and or hospitality classrooms would likely note many young men with some facial hair. Facial hair appears to have become more of a style, and much of that “look” might be considered scruffy and or not well groomed by older generations. Additionally, some young employees and students have visible tattoos on their arms, legs, ankles and elsewhere. Additionally there are also various piercings and those with non-natural hair colors, and of course, the expected baseball cap attire (either forward or backward) in the young talent pool. These personal appearance distinctions could be typical sample of what a young talent pool may present in addition to their applications.

Many hospitality businesses have dress codes and personal appearance policies. In college classrooms, most students are allowed to come to class dressed as they like and dress codes do not exist (note there are exceptions). However, most hospitality programs call upon students, to rise to the occasion, and dress professionally for special events (Career Fairs) and visitors or guest speakers. When a business requires professional dress, the question then is “What is professional appearance and or professional dress”?

As a baby boomer, this author is what would be described as “old school” in terms of hotel and restaurant policies for personal appearance. In an old school genre, permissible facial hair might permit a well-trimmed mustache to be okay but beards were often taboo. A discussion of jewelry in general and or earrings specifically typically focused on women and did not consider men. Additionally, earrings meant “posts”, rings meant one ring (a wedding ring typically), and clear nail polish. Hair, if long, needed to be clean and worn up and back, off the neck. Some of these policies are still in place in some companies but for others, times have changed. Everyone has their own personal preferences but we all need to keep up to date and be aware of changing social customs and new standards and or levels of what is acceptable. Employers will certainly need to be aware of these changes and how it influences their pool of potential recruits.

Hospitality Personal Appearance

Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Tony Heung
Bernadette Scott
Joe Bocherer
Nigel Cossey
Shayne Paddock
Robert Allender
Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.