Generational Management Can Help Hoteliers with High Employee Turnover

Article by Roger L. Ridenour

Hello, Hoteliers! I understand you’ve got a serious problem with employee turnover. Various studies agree that hospitality industry employee turnover is typically twice the national average for all industries. A study by the American Motel and Hotel Association found annual turnover in the hotel industry to be on the high side of 60 percent worldwide. The most recent Deloitte Hospitality report offers a more modest 31 percent for the domestic U.S. workforce. Whatever turnover measurement you apply, this is a serious problem. Each loss of an effective, trained employee accrues an advantage to your competitors. Now you need to rehire and retrain. The quality of service declines. Relationships (and sometimes customers) are lost. It’s a tough business.

Workplace Demographics (Pew Research, May 2015)
Generation                  Years of Birth                 % of EEs
Silent Generation       1927-1945                          2%
Baby Boomers            1946-1964                         29%
Generation X              1965-1980                         34%
Gen Y (Millennials) 1 981-2000                          35%

While many aspects of the employment relationship must be aligned to foster employee retention (effective recruiting and onboarding, pay structures, benefits and rewards programs, etc.) this article will review one element of the retention puzzle that is often overlooked: generational management.

Have you thought about the fact that you may have up to four different generations working in your hotel(s), and that each generation of employees tends to bring a different set of values into the workplace? By understanding how the generations differ, and by developing a corporate culture that accommodates each generation’s values, you can improve retention.

To get you started, here is a brief summation of some of the formative experiences informing each generation’s values and their general work traits and preferences. Keep in mind that this information is general in nature and can be helpful, but you should always approach employees as individuals to determine their specific values and preferences.

The Silent Generation
−− Employees 72+ years of age.
−− Began their working years in a prosperous ’50s post-war America that valued conformity. Men went to the office and women maintained the home and raised the children. Divorce and pregnancy out of wedlock were socially unacceptable.
−− Men pledged loyalty to their employer and this loyalty was reciprocated with a lifetime job and a pension.
−− Most people held common values which included discipline, self-sacrifice and a cautious mindset in the face of change.

Work Traits
−− Have a strong sense of duty and are very loyal and reliable.
−− Defer to authority.
−− Maintain a positive view of work and prefer working on teams.
−− May struggle with technology.
Management Tips: This generation will do their best to cooperate in what is asked of them, but remember their hesitation with change and do not implement sudden or frequent alterations in job processes or job duties that affect them. Instead, include them on planning teams. When implementing new technology, special training needs should be anticipated and accommodated.

Baby Boomers
−− Employees age 53-71.
−− Born at a time of record economic prosperity.
−− Viewing economic success as a given if they worked hard and played by the rules, they devoted themselves to their work and climbing the corporate ladder.
−− As relative wages began to decline in the late ’60s, women Boomers increasingly joined their male counterparts in the workplace to help sustain their families’ “successful” lifestyles.
−− The constant work focus took its toll at home and divorce became an acceptable option.
−− The Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War created strong divisions within this generation and a segment turned to experimentation with drugs and “free love”, and some temporarily revolted against Boomer materialism.

Work Traits
−− Self-image strongly tied to work achievement; they are often perceived by others as “workaholics”.
−− Very competitive and believe everyone should have to earn respect and recognition.
−− Motivated by job titles, pay and benefits.
−− Respect authority and prefer a hierarchical reporting structure.
−− Optimistic and team-oriented.
−− Keep pace with technology but still prefer face-to-face communication.
Management Tips: The Boomers have worked long and hard. As they approach retirement, they may wish to cut back on those long hours in exchange for reduced pay. You can work with them on that. Telecommuting can be another good option for helping retain your aging Boomers. If they are not yet approaching their retirement window and have held the same job title for a time, consider giving them a newly created, “enhanced” title and/or role at their next review. (They live for titles and advancement!)

Generation X
−− Employees age 37-52.
−− Their parents worked long hours, often contributing to divorce. Became known as “latchkey kids” because they would come home to an empty house after school.
−− Grew up isolated and therefore developed an individualist mindset.
−− Became cynical of the social institutions they perceived as having failed their parents, resulting in later marriages; frequent, quick divorces, and multiple career changes.
−− Adopted a strong “individual rights” outlook with lessened concern for the common good.
−− Became overly protective “helicopter parents” in reaction to the neglect they experienced, defending any threats or perceived encroachments on their children’s “rights”.
−− Their strong, self-reliant outlook engendered a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit which generated a boom in business start-ups.

Work Traits
−− Prefer to work alone or in a stable, cohesive work group or team.
−− Flexible but do not solicit input from others unless they feel it is needed.
−− Short on loyalty and wary of commitment but eager to learn, explore and contribute.
−− Motivated by a need for security and can form strong team attachments.
−− Comfortable with technology.
Management Tips: As non-conformists, Gen Xers are unimpressed by authority and formalities. They dislike formal performance reviews, for example, in which they may feel judged.Instead, adopt ongoing collaborative exchanges between managers and Xers. Simple positive gestures such as a pat on the back or an informal email of appreciation can boost Xer morale and productivity. Similarly, recurring meetings where nothing much gets done can be especially irritating to Xers. Instead of regular meeting schedules, only call meetings when there is a real need. (These accommodations are good practices anyway!)

Generation Y, or “Millennials”
−− Employees age 17-36.
−− Constantly assured by their hovering parents that they were special, they believe they are special.
−− Grew up feeling tremendous academic pressure.
−− Grew up with expanding social media outlets and in integrated neighborhoods, and thus lessened or discarded many of the biases of previous generations regarding race, gender, etc.
−− Literate and having lived their entire lives in the computer age with unlimited access to information, they developed strong confidence in their knowledge and tend to be assertive with strong views.
−− Extremely socialized and highly value time with family and friends.

Work Traits
−− Are ambitious and confident and believe they deserve respect and deference from Day 1.
−− Expect frequent positive feedback and recognition.
−− Resent hierarchical management structures and any expectation of deference to their seniors; have strong opinions and want to be included in decision making.
−− Prize flexible work schedules more than increased pay.
−− Want to do work they view as having a positive societal impact.
−− Like working on teams with unified goals.
−− Strong multitaskers; demonstrate initiative and do well when allowed to find their own solutions.
Management Tips: Since Millennials don’t work well under direct reporting structures but do work well in teams, consider assigning them to teams that receive assignments and are responsible to work together to produce results. On the other hand, keep in mind that they still desire ongoing affirmation as individuals. Given their strong ambition and their academic focus, one excellent means of recognition is to provide regular training opportunities through which they can increase their knowledge and skills and for which they can receive recognition at the same time.

So, do you have a turnover problem with your hotel staff? If you do, consider sharing this article with your management team. It is a truism that employees leave their managers rather than the company. Why not provide your leadership team with training on generational management? There is a lot more information
available than we have covered in this short article. The key to keeping your employees is to understand and to accommodate their values.

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.