Leadership Tips for Managing Gen Y

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson President, Matuson Consulting | December 22, 2013

They have been called a lot of things: Gen Y, Millennials, the What's-in-it-for-Me Generation, and other monikers that we can't put in print. This is the generation that in three years time will represent 50 percent of the workforce. They have been raised by the Baby Boomers, yet they are nothing like their parents.

This generation gave themselves a pretty bad rap right out the gate. Many entered the workforce during the Dot.com days, where young technologically savvy workers ruled the world. They earned more money in their first jobs than their parents earned at the peak of their careers. Talent wars were all the rage. Like Hollywood starlets, their demands kept rising and they experienced short-lived fame. The Dot.com bubble exploded and these workers found themselves back home, unemployed and sleeping in their old bunk beds.

This generation's claim to fame may have ended years ago, but unfortunately for them, their reputation still stands. Gen Y is desperately trying to repair the damage done by their older members.

Meet the Generations

It's no secret that every generation sees the world differently. Their attitudes and expectations are influenced by the events that occurred during their formative years and when they entered the workplace (see Beloit College's Mindset List below). Many of us still hear from the Traditionalists (those born before 1945) about life during the depression. It's as if this period in time never ended. It should come as no surprise that Traditionalists are often described as loyal, hard working, thrifty, and willing to make sacrifices.

Fast forward to the Millennials, who were born in the '80s. Most have lived a very protected life. They were raised by work-obsessed Baby Boomer parents who tried to make up for time spent away. They were awarded trophies for joining the team, taken on expensive vacations (no Motel 6's for this group), and shielded from hard labor (also commonly known as entry-level minimum wage jobs). This group is not accustomed to starting at the bottom and working their way up and they will tell you so in no uncertain terms. They question the status quo, work on their own terms, and want to make an impact on Day 1.

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.