The Torch is Passed to the Millennial Generation

By Michael Schubach Strategic Deployments / Program Management Director, Infor Hospitality | May 28, 2017

There was a time during the tumultuous 60s and 70s that the younger generation was admonished to "never trust anyone over thirty." You may have heard that quote - it was made a cultural touchstone by the likes of luminaries such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Beatles. (Note: members of the younger generation who don't understand those references should consult the Internet and the iTunes store.)

Today, members of the older generation seem to apply the opposite perspective - it's hard to trust anyone under thirty. Employers talk about a new generation of workers with a "me first" mentality who place more value on their own entertainment than on company loyalty and work output. They value travel experiences and cultural interaction, and want to see and meet the world on their own terms, by non-conventional methods and alternative choices.

The Millennial generation has been raised like no other before it. Its membership has been electronically educated, babysat, monitored, befriended and networked, with all the inherent advantages and drawbacks that represents. It's how they read, think and interact - or not, as the case may be. They place more value on a 'like' from their tribe (48%) than from Madison Avenue hype (17%). If you can't cater to, entertain or amuse them, you ought not to count on their patronage. They are contradictory, but they have our complete attention. And there are many good reasons for that - they are set to rule the world.

But before we leap to a conclusion, let's start with an introduction. To me, the foundational question is not so much what a millennial is, but rather how we define "generation." The simplistic answer, of course, is that a generation is the reproductive cycle that separates you from your parents, and them from theirs, et cetera, et cetera; then, now and forever, world without end. However, historians, sociologists and statisticians - those who divide us into categories and give us our pithy nomenclature - look for more tangible definitions.

Historians define a generation as a span of thirty years, since that's the approximate time it takes an average person to pass from birth to adulthood and generate children of their own. Sociologists want to link people together who live through common cultural experiences, such as the "Pepsi Generation," or those who still recall where they were the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. Statisticians tend to look at key performance indicators (to borrow a phrase from the software industry) such as per capita birthrates, in order to detect ebb and flow and to aggregate us into the demographic groups that separate the clusters from the outliers.

Favoring the historian's perspective is a bit of a challenge. Even if we accept the arbitrary thirty-year duration, we still struggle with appropriate keystone starting dates. Every so often the world provides us with some convenient coincidences that serve as memorable lines of demarcation. Take, for example, the end of the last world war and the population surge resulting from… well, let's call it the "process of reunification." Presto: Baby Boomers. 1945 is a relatively clear line in the sand that intersects nicely with the coincidental overlay of the introduction of large-scale computing in big business sectors, heralding the early dawn of the Information Age. In that case, we hit the trifecta: an historical date of widespread renown, significant social trends and impacts, and more statistical data than we could handle.

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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.