If Millennials are the Life-Blood of the Industry, Why Do We Hemorrhage Generation Y Talent?

By Bernadette Scott Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Business Management, Glasgow School for Business & Society/Glasgow Caledonian University | March 20, 2016

In-line with other global sectors, the International Hospitality Industry (IHI) is witnessing a growing surge of Millennials joining the workforce. These Generation Y employees (born between 1979 and 1999) have great potential to fulfil in terms of contribution to organisational success, which in turn impacts on sector performance as a whole. Research shows (CIPD, 2015) that organisations still have problems defining and implementing approaches to talent and consequently, there can never emerge a strategy to effectively attract and retain the human resources for future needs and to fill emerging skills gaps. So, the key question is if Millennials are the life-blood of the IHI industry – why do we hemorrhage Generation- Y talent?

Why Millennials are Important to the IHI

A generational perspective to workplace planning means that human resource managers can appreciate that life events (social, economic, political, technological and lifestyle), have helped to define a particular group of employees during crucial developmental phases of their emergence. This means that they share experiences, values and traits which they have honed as an essential part of the socialisation process and can perceive themselves to be or be perceived as a collective whole. Employer recognition of the differences between the generational qualities and limitations their employees may possess will allow greater insight into motivational factors to help facilitate performance and retention management.

Millennials are now taking their natural place in the global workplace, with the CMI (2014) highlighting that they will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, bringing with them sweeping demands for changes to the status quo and making us think of new ways to work. The challenges are omni-present and we must consider how, as employers we manage a group who reportedly want more autonomy at work, but also like structure and support? Or cope with employees who celebrate the notion of work-life balance, but embrace a 24/7 lifestyle, where the constant use of digital technology fuzzes the boundaries between personal and working agendas? Or motivate a group who reportedly want to be individual and independent, but need continual feedback on performance and who live as hugely social entities, openly displaying personal and professional details on digital platforms and engaging in networking activities like no generation previously? Many organisations have been preparing for the changes that the Millennial influx into the workplace will bring and have consciously considered how this new type of employee will impact on HRM policies and practice. Whilst others have chosen to ignore the implications of not understanding how best to engage, motivate and retain this new wave of talent which will unavoidably dominate organisational success criteria over the next few decades.

The business case for strategic engagement of these young employees is already generally accepted and understood, with a forecast of 13.5 million vacancies to be filled up to 2020 in the UK alone (UKCES, 2010). Non-engagement of young workers means no workers and ineffective engagement of young workers still means no workers. Millennials will not hesitate to leave organisations through perceptions of lack of investment in them as individuals and this ‘fresh-blood’ talent drain can result in lasting damage to customer experience, quality of service and brand image. In the IHI, the business case accent will be predominantly on cost efficiencies, although the CIPD (2012) has highlighted that other business related benefits of the employment of young people are:

  • Growing talent and workforce planning potential;
  • Young people’s unique skills, attitudes and motivation;
  • Workforce diversity; and
  • Employer brand considerations.

The decision to place more emphasis on addressing the needs of this new workforce generation is often a game-changer for organisations because a) they cannot realistically be ignored in terms of future organisational survival in some of the hardest operational environments ever known in the sector – these employees represent the future and b) they are also the consumers of our products if not today, then tomorrow and our understanding of what it takes to make them grow can only benefit our consumer experience, brand image and affiliations.

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