Millennial Workers: Expectation Versus Reality

By Miranda Kitterlin, Ph.D. Assoc. Professor, Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, FIU | November 04, 2018

A disconnect in expectation and reality is not uncommon in today's society, especially in an time where social media and photo shop allow us to portray ourselves and our lifestyles in ways that may not be entirely forthcoming. Our industry is certainly not immune to this phenomenon; reality shows like Vanderpump Rules and Below Deck often offer a glamorized version of how the hospitality industry is to our millennial labor force. Upon entering the industry, our millennials are often met with one or more disappointing truths to contend with.

In preparing to write this article, I thought it best to address the millennial workers themselves, and asked them about their expectations of the hospitality industry workplace as compared to the realities they faced upon employment. As a professor at a large public institution, I have access to a large number of millennial hospitality workers. The similarities in their responses were stark. Below, I provide a summary, as well as direct quotes from the millennial workers, which provide a multidimensional context and representative examples of each key point.

They Expected Their Education to Mean More

The millennial generation is the most educated (i.e. most formal education, degrees, etc.) to date. They were raised to excel in school, and often encouraged to seek not just a four-year degree, but to go on to graduate school. This accounts for thousands of hours, thousands of dollars, and thousands of academic blood-sweat-and-tears. Naturally, the millennial worker would want to see a return on this investment upon entering the workplace. Their expected ROI is not necessarily equating to the reality. As two students told me:

"I did consider that because I hold a Bachelor's degree and I am a current Master's degree student, I was going to be able to find a job such as manager or supervisor. Reality is we have to start at entry-level positions; therefore, it does not matter how much someone has studied or has prepared."

"The salaries offered are not what I expected, especially after doing an investment [such as a Master's degree]. My biggest shock without a doubt is realizing that it is not necessary to have a degree to do my job, and definitely not necessary to have a Master's degree."

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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.