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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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.