Hospitality Across Generations: Move Over Black Tie, Hello Blue Jeans!
By Rob Rush CEO, LRA Worldwide | April 08, 2011
The first sign of the times, you ask? Perhaps it was back in 2006 when Ritz-Carlton looked in the mirror and realized that "Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen" didn't exactly apply to a 32-year-old CEO in jeans and a t-shirt. In a nod to the changing demographics of those who consumed "luxury," Ritz loosened up a bit, recognizing the need for a generational component to its time-honored and revered operational and guest service standards.
That shifting mindset has only grown in our industry, as virtually every facet of a hotel operation has needed to step back and take a look at how it does business based on ever-widening generational needs. A byproduct of this trend, of course, has been the proliferation of brands aspiring to a laser-like focus on the language and needs of one specific generation; however, those who can rely on that true niche strategy are few and far between. Most of us need all the bodies we can get, whether they use Western Union or Wi-Fi.
Full disclosure here for a moment - take my credentials on this subject with a grain of salt. I don't tweet, I don't "friend," and I'm barely Linked In. But I have a fairly keen sense of what impacts the customer and employee experience. For the first time ever, four generations are actively represented in the workforce, and given that "65 is the new 55" and that 401Ks have withered in the last 18 months, a fifth generation is certainly still a consideration as both employee and certainly as a vigorous and active consumer. For the record, the generations in question are:
- Traditionalists (1915-1945)
- Baby Boomers (1946-1955)
- Trailing Edge Baby Boomers (1956-1964)
- Gen-Xers (1965-1981)
- Millenials (1982-2001) (1)
Without a doubt, this changes the way we market, sell, operate and train, forcing everyone to realize that there may be no "best" way to do things that we had previously taken for granted. Instead, we must collectively come to grips with the realization that there are multiple constructions of what is "best," depending on the activity and the audience.
Sales & Marketing
Be careful of what you think you know and how you might have stereotyped the generations outlined above. While it is clear that Gen-Xers and especially Millenials (or "Gen-Y") consume their information via a range of media , with few limitations on when or where that digestion takes place, it would be foolhardy to assume that the old guard is still tethered to the newspaper and a landline. Most studies place internet usage – in its varied forms – for Traditionalists at 33-percent; that number rises above 50-percent if you just look at the younger end (62-71) (2) of that spectrum. In keeping with that thought, this older group is no longer looking to be tucked away someplace to play shuffleboard; once again, with "65 as the new 55," these folks are looking to be challenged and expand their horizons via travel and hospitality and should be marketed accordingly. Likewise, it would be unwise to assume that this group is retired, as "semi-retirement" is becoming a more realistic state of being given the desire of this generation to stay engaged in some form of work... and quite possibly the need to do so based on the current economic landscape.