Mobile Device Use Policies and Employee Engagement: Look Out for the Digital Natives!
By Mehmet Erdem Associate Professor of Hotel Operations & Technology, Hotel College, UNLV | January 13, 2013
Co-authored by Danny Crinson, Graduate Student, UNLV Hotel College
The hospitality industry's turnover rate is far above that of the national average which the US Bureau of Labour Statistics states is approximately 32% annually; studies have found variances in the industry between 60 and 300% 1. Even though theories have been put forward to explain this above average turnover rate, the issue seems to not only be a long standing one, but one that has worsened over time 3. There are many negative implications associated with such a high turnover rate. Cost is one of the most prominent with one study finding that the average cost associated with turnover is 1.5 times the replaced employee's annual salary . Since the next generation of hospitality employees - Generation Z - are about to prominently enter the workforce , now would be a logical time to assess any HR policies which may disengage these employees. Since it is known that increasing employee engagement will lead to a reduction in the turnover rate ; now appears to be the time to amend any policies which may reduce engagement in this generation. By acting proactively instead of reactively and amending current HR policies which may be seen by this new generation as "out-dated" the issue can hopefully be reduced before it worsens further, in fact this may be the only route to true HR .
In most work places in which the employee has direct customer contact (such as the hospitality industry) the current HR policy regarding mobile devices in the workplace is a complete ban . It has been found that when devices are allowed that their use is often censored especially with regards to social media; one study found that 54% of workplaces prohibited the use of social media . The reason behind this is often attributed to concerns of RISK, reputational damage and reduced productivity . This may, however, prove to be an issue for the next generation to enter the workforce; Generation Z . This is because they are a generation who have always been connected to the technology we know today .
Although there is no set definition for what makes someone a member of Generation Z typical arguments suggest their birth falls anywhere between 1990  and 2004 . What is agreed upon is that they are digital natives, who have grown up with technology as we know it today, they have never known otherwise and they are connected . In fact they are considered so connected that an employer is no longer recruiting just the Generation Z individual but access to their entire social network . While previous generations saw technology and social media as a tool, this generation see it as a way of life . To the extent that studies have found they show physical signs of discomfort when they are not connected . This constant connectedness has resulted in them developing the expectancy for immediacy, in regards to communication, general life and their careers .
Because they have grown up during an economic crisis they have also developed an entrepreneurial spirit and lack of loyalty . This means if they aren't getting what they want right now from a career; they will leave in search of it. Or try to create it for themselves using their entrepreneurial mindset . With this technological upbringing, social media and computer games have been fundamental. In such activities specific goals are set, whether that be gaining the most followers/networks or completing certain goals before moving to the next level. This has led to heightened goal orientation skills. Because this is simultaneously occurring while a vast amount of information is constantly available to them by internet access "on the go", Generation Z dreams big .
Not only is does Generation Z have high personal ambition but they are also motivated by different factors than previous generations. A high paying salary isn't a sole driver of Generation Z, they want the ability to practice and develop their characteristics that make them unique, their creativity, entrepreneurialism and risk taking behaviour . They understand the importance of self-branding; this includes every aspect of their life from having the right brand phone to be aware of which photographs of themselves are worth "tagging" and which should be "detagged". If they aren't given the opportunity to constantly monitor and maintain their online image or to create the ideal image they see of themselves, they will have no problem going in search of somewhere that will .