The Employee Experience: Common opportunities across generations

By Heather Jacobs VP Human Resources Europe/Middle East/ Africa, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts | March 24, 2013

Much has been written about the existence of the multi-generational workforce and the inherent impact on all aspects of human resources, from selection to retention to learning to development. I would suggest that the hospitality industry is well suited to take advantage and leverage the fact that operating hotels requires a diverse and heterogeneous population. While to some the challenges presented in a labor intensive, seasonal and modest pay scale environment may present an obstacle, I would posit that the influx of the Millennial Generation into the workforce creates an exciting and dynamic time for the industry to revisit the employee experience so that as a service industry we can better respond to the evolving and equally generationally diverse guest needs.

The most recent entrant of the Millennials to the workforce is large (expected to surpass the Baby boomers by 2020) and they bring with them a set of characteristics that is positively disruptive. I say this as the general trends to describe this population in many ways are not drastically different than how any other "generation" or individual wishes to be treated. That is, Gen Y tends to:

  • Have a desire for fairness, tolerance and equity;
  • Look for involvement in the workplace;
  • Have a concern for employee welfare;
  • Desire training & personal development.

The difference is that this generation has found a means via both social media and a reliance on technology to express their needs, wants, and desires. If as an industry we respond to and are able to harness the enthusiasm brought by this new entrant to the workplace, I would suggest that in general, the experiences we can provide to our employees of any generation will only enhance the employee experience but equally important, improve the service levels that ultimately we can provide to the guests.

Attracting, selecting, retaining and developing the best talent are not new issues to face the hospitality and tourism sector. In fact, in an industry that typically hovers at an average turnover rate of 50% per annum for Employees and 25% for Managers , the perpetual cycle of recruiting and hiring are par for the course for HR professionals in the hospitality industry. What is relevant today however is the fact that our industry needs to adapt and evolve perhaps more rapidly than other industries. Why? First – the hotel industry has always been largely reliant on an agile and nimble workforce who can endure the long and at times anti-social hours. Second – the pace of change at which the client base uses technology to make informed decisions fuels the need to ensure employees are "fluent" in the same language as the clients.

Just as with every piece of technology, in order to get the most out of the system, you need to apply updates to the operating system. In order to attract and retain talent for the future, so too should the Human Resources function upgrade its own operating system to one that is adaptive to the multigenerational and incorporates an equal balance of technology infused with the human touch. Three key touch points for consideration are outlined below:

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.