Millennial Workers: The Best Strategies That We Have Learned

By Miranda Kitterlin, Ph.D. Assoc. Professor, Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, FIU | August 19, 2018

I recently had a conversation with an industry professional regarding millennials, and what management strategies he was finding most effective with this much discussed and debated generation.  His response was, "None!  You can't manage them!"  While my outward response was a polite chuckle, my internal response was, "Well, that's not a very productive attitude."

Unfortunately, this 'millennial bashing' trend does not appear to be fading among the older generations.  It is not uncommon for me to hear that the millennial worker enters with unrealistic expectations, a self-absorbed perspective, and a history of "I tried, so I should be rewarded" (stemming from the "everyone gets a trophy" childhood). 

Generational differences have always caused frustrations, in society as well as the workplace.  This is not novel.  The response to this particular generation by many was originally to try to bend them to our own views and values: tell them the requirements of the job, enforce performance standards and disciplinary actions, tell them they are not special, and fire them if they can't get on board.  Very Theory X, if you ask me (or Douglas McGregor).  What is interesting about this is the idea that we could completely change an entire workforce of over 80 million laborers.

When I began to write this article, I compiled information from management regarding what they feel they have learned about millennial workers from their experience supervising and working with them, and was pleased to hear that not everyone felt this way, and that many professionals are seeing the value in this labor pool.  I also realized that I was looking at the dynamic from just one perspective, and felt that this narrow view may be a disservice to the topic.  So, I reached out to the millennial workers themselves, and asked some very open-ended questions about their workplace and management style preferences. 

The similarities in their responses was uncanny, and offered a very clear message as to what strategies we may implement to capitalize on the strengths of this generation of labor.  There were also some conflicting discoveries in regards to what the millennial worker wants versus what we think they want.  Below I provide these tactics, as well as direct quotes from the millennial workers, which I feel provide a rich context and relatable examples.  


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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.