Decoding the Millennials: Tactics That Engage and Retain

By Joyce Gioia CEO, Employer of Choice International, Inc. | June 05, 2011

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

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.