Focusing on the future

Attracting & retaining talent in the hospitality sector:
The expectations of youth



Focusing on FutureProudly sponsored by American Express Gift Card, EP hosted a round table conversation with a selection of professional hospitality operators in Central London this morning.

While it is generally agreed that the hospitality sector, across all divisions, is well-versed and adept at attracting younger talent to work in the various departments of business, there is a consensus that there is a missing link in retaining those employees after relatively short periods.

Beginning with an over-view of the sector, the conversation at the round-table event was varied, insightful, thought-provoking and interesting.

A CFO to his CEO asks “What if we invest in our people and they leave?” to which the CEO responds “What if we don’t and they stay?”

When the economic downturn first began, one of the first things to be reduced or cut entirely were the Learning & Development budgets – a strategy which affected businesses and sectors far beyond just that of hospitality. What this means for many Generation Y workers is that they have experienced no other work environment other than one with no support, little formal training and a lack of mentorship and career progression. Such a combination cannot ever create an environment in which young people find inspiration or aspiration. What does this mean for the workforce?

• Worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged at work, that is, they are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day.

State of the Global Workforce, Gallup, 2013

• Overall, among the 142 countries, 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs, while 63% are not engaged and 24% are actively disengaged.

State of the Global Workforce, Gallup, 2013

• “If employees feel that their organization takes a real interest in their development and offers frequent praise and recognition, they are likely to be engaged.”

Jim Clifton, Chairman & CEO, Gallup

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Setting the scene – Who is Generation Y?

Born between 1981 and 2000, the term Gen Y encompasses very young junior teenage employees experiencing their first taste of “the real world” through to professionals in their early 30’s committed to their careers and looking to the industry for inspiration, development opportunities and improved salaries and benefits packages.

Generally speaking, Generation Y people are:

  • Better at multi-tasking, responding quickly to visual stimulation, filtering out distractions and adept at finding information on the internet
  • They operate in a 24/7 virtual world and are accustomed to answering emails or work-related issues when out of the office/on leave/away from the business through mobile connections and access to unlimited data
  • Looking for greater flexibility in work, seeking that illusive work-life balance
  • Looking for work that “really matters” to them personally which affords the opportunity to impact on the community and wider world in a positive manner and as part of a legacy (responsibly-sourced foodstuffs, eco-friendly products etc.)

So what does Generation Y contribute to the hospitality sector?

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48% of the hospitality workforce is under 29 years of age compared to 18% of the UK as a whole

First impressions count

As a sector, hospitality businesses rely greatly on the younger labour market, with the vast majority of receptionists, waiters/waitresses, bar-tenders, housekeepers, concierge, bell-hops being aged under 30. As the first point of contact for almost any customer, it goes without saying that these departments are essential to the success of any business – why then are they being relegated to the position of last-consideration?

  • “Customer Interaction” and “Service Delivery” are easily two of the main differentiators which hospitality businesses endeavour to deliver over & above that of their competitors. As the main provider of these deliverables, Generation Y are integral to the success of these
  • As a general overview, Generation Y desire inclusivity, participation, empowerment and career progression – all issues which business leaders in the sector can easily provide, once a strategy and plan are in place and have the buy-in of department heads other business managers.
  • Many Generation Y workers feel underappreciated and frustrated by the lack of recognition afforded them at or through their work
  • As a general observation, Generation Y are impatient for success and want/expect promotion quickly. They want access to continuous learning & development, reward & recognition for the individual and to feel part of a community

An interesting piece of information which came to the front is that Generation Y often clash with managers and business leaders in the importance of social media and the internet in business.

In the course of the forum, there was an interesting observation made on the difference between older generations and business leaders compared to their younger counterparts in the sector. The observation was made that while some established players continue to be protective of their business strategies and future plans, many younger leaders are happy to share their knowledge and to mentor those below them in their careers and ambitions.

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Many questions were raised in the course of the forum, which are certainly important considerations

  • How are businesses in the sector actively attempting to adjust to the needs, wants and expectations of Generation Y?
  • Do businesses need to get more involved with Generation Y education through apprenticeship schemes or are these plans not working?

There were many points, questions, observations and suggestions made throughout the course of the forum, many of which were valid points of opinion and recommendations on how businesses can adjust their thinking.

For more information on the facts and information included in this report, along with details of any other events & initiatives being hosted by EP and partners, please contact Arlene McCaffrey

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