It is a common misconception that the hospitality industry is made up of mostly young workers. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 45 and older make up 26% of the workforce in the hospitality industry. It is not uncommon for restaurants, hotels, resorts and other hospitality businesses to have four or more generations of employees working alongside one another. These generations include the so-called traditionalists (also known as the silent generation), baby boomers, generation X, generation Y (also known as millennials) and generation Z.
Understanding generational differences is important because, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, people who are born during certain periods tend to end up sharing certain personality traits and work preferences. This is due to their common “historical, cultural and social experiences and life events.” By understanding these differences, hospitality employers can develop and implement HR strategies and policies that will help to attract and retain good employees (no matter which generation they are from) and create a culture that fosters job satisfaction, motivation and loyalty. And such strategies should have a positive impact on customer service, which is of course a major focus in the hospitality industry.
Here are four specific strategies hospitality employers should implement to get the most from the full generational range of employees.
As detailed in the report “Training a Multigenerational Workforce,” technology and communication are two areas that can create barriers between employees of different generations because of generational differences. Training your workforce on effective interpersonal communication and the use of technology in such communication is therefore recommended in order to ensure everybody is on the same page.
As also noted in the training report referenced above, even training programs should take into account the fact that the various generations tend to learn differently. With this in mind, you might tailor your communications/technology training so that it takes place in a traditional classroom setting (this is preferred by baby boomers), includes experiential training exercises (to appeal to millennials), addresses how these skills help with effective task completion (gen X) and shows how it can result in positive impacts to the bottom line (baby boomers again).
Training to increasing effectiveness in communication, including the use of technology in communication, can decrease conflict among employees. It can also lead to an increase in customer satisfaction as employees are better able to collaborate to solve customer issues.
Creating a culture where employees of all generations feel valued is essential to any business. Employees who feel valued will usually tend to feel more connected to and invested in their employer and their job. The more they feel invested in and care about the business and their job, the more positive their interactions will be with their colleagues and customers.
One way to go about creating such a culture is to be transparent about your organization’s goals. According to the above report, generation X tends to mistrust organizations and millennials may place less value on organizations than previous generations. Therefore, it’s important to be transparent about organizational goals and the ways in which employees, at every level, help to achieve those goals. Providing transparency decreases the mistrust gen X may have while encouraging millennials to take ownership of the work they are doing. For baby boomers, this strategy will foster the already strong connection they are likely to have with your organization.
Employees of any generation who are in good standing with your company and express an interest in some part of the organization outside of their day-to-day duties should be provided with opportunities to stretch their skills. Such opportunities are likely to appeal to all generations, although perhaps for different reasons. According to the above report, millennials tend to focus on themselves. So opportunities for personal growth and development may appeal to them for that reason – and can encourage job-hopping millennials to stick around longer. Generation X might like the additional job security that additional training may provide for them. For baby boomers, the appeal might be in the opportunity simply to do more or it might be in the chance to become mentors or coaches to younger workers. This gives baby boomers an opportunity to transfer their knowledge and skills while showing their value to the organization.
If feasible, those employees interested in their growth and development could be allowed to work in another part of the organization for some amount of time in order to “try out” a job they might be interested in pursuing further. Or you can give them a few additional responsibilities to see how they handle them.
Creating a training ground for your employees often results in not just additional buy-in to your company but also greater organizational effectiveness since cross-trained employees are knowledgeable about other parts of the business. It’s also an investment in developing future leaders.
As discussed in greater depth in a TriNet webinar, employees’ benefits needs and preferences often vary depending on their age. As a large number of millennials are pet owners, pet insurance is a popular benefit for this generation. In light of their relative youth and healthiness, millennials are perhaps more likely to prefer high deductible health plans and health savings accounts over traditional health insurance plans. Gen X employees typically prefer a more traditional health insurance plan, and they are typically interested in a solid and generous retirement plan. The retirement plan is also a highly valued benefit for those in the baby boomer generation.
Other benefits that may be valuable across different generations could be wellness programs, gym discounts, employee assistance programs (EAP), financial services or family care services, and retirement and estate planning--something for everyone!
Regardless of the precise generational makeup of your workforce, it is recommended you seek an HR partner who can help you create and implement these strategies for optimizing a multigenerational workforce.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.
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