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Understanding the new-age workforce: Gen Y

Gen Y is most often misconstrued as a problematic generation. Their attributes like lack of respect towards the superiors, immediate financial gratification, quick appraisals are perceived negatively by most employers. However, in the coming years Gen Y will make up for most of the workforce across industries including hospitality. Neha Pradhan, analyses the strengths of Gen Y as well as the challenges that block the road to development with industry experts

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 12:45 Hrs  [IST]


The workplace scenario in a hospitality sector is no different than a battle ground where day-to-day strategies are penned, superiors provide feedback based on the number of tasks that are skillfully accomplished in a day, a balance sheet of an individual is maintained and necessary altercations are made as per the norms.    Interestingly, the hospitality staff is going through a paradigm shift  with a larger portion of Gen Y employees entering the industry. The pop-culture, technology and marketing skills that Gen Y has grown up in, if nurtured well rather than striking it down as problematic, would improve the work culture in the industry. The challenge that lies ahead with managers and supervisors is adopting to Gen Y’s tools and attitudes towards the work.

kaval_verma.jpgBeing skilled with technology is one of Gen Y’s virtues. They are innovative and possess entrepreneur skills. In today’s digital age, original ideas and creative solutions from Gen Y can translate the hotel business into a profitable offering. By employing people with fresh eyes, few preconceptions, hospitality industry can benefit from them for building relationships between senior management or regular guests. Although, Gen Y comprises a confident workforce, they are highly changeable and capricious with their career choices. Gen Y has a tendency to be impatient which makes them feel as if they are “stuck in the rut” for ages, even after completing a few years at the organisation. Hence, attrition is one of the major challenges faced by Human Resources in the hospitality industry. “Attrition is one of the biggest problems with Gen-Y staff. The generation is highly skilled and tech savvy. At the same time they are very demanding and keep their work life balance on high priority,” said Kaval Verma, Director Human Resources, South West Asia, IHG. This indicates that Gen Y is certainly adept with certain skills, however most certainly their professional aesthetics need to be honed during their stay in the organisation. Hence, an efficient recruiting plan helps in maintaining the ebb and flow of the organisation.

ritu_singh_verma.jpgA large number of candidates that enter the corporate culture are fresher who definitely hold laurels in their hands, however, lack on the savoir-faire of the industry. This huge pool of talent, hence needs to be nurtured by the superiors for the organisation to benefit from their dynamism. “Gen Y prefers to self-manage and they expect managers to play the role of a mentor. So, companies should provide structured autonomy for their Gen Y staff, where supervisors and managers serve as coaches and mentors to constantly nurture the need for learning and growth. At Starwood, we adopt  matrixes rather than a hierarchical organisational structure,” said Ritu Singh Verma- Regional Director, Human Resources, South Asia -Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts Pte. Ltd.

As the hospitality industry is an organisation that thrives on the human resource, one needs to understand and make amends in the company structure to ensure that Gen Y associates aren’t deprived of enough opportunities to evolve and grow in the organisation. “As a global company we should be able to provide a career path to our younger staff from and develop in them what we call “Win with Talent” competencies that will help them on their journey,” opined Ritu Singh Verma.  Allocating the right resources at the opportune juncture of Gen Y’s career development will prove beneficial for the organisation. “At Starwood, we have a program called Starwood Careers that goes beyond talent acquisition to include development and retention. With Starwood Cares as the guiding principle, our Associates are engaged and empowered to go an extra mile, thus building guest loyalty in them. As a global company, we are able to provide opportunities that include international employment and cross exposure,” she added.

zubin_ghiara.jpgFlexible freedom
Freedom of thought and speech at a work-place is an enticing piece of cake that most relish. Nevertheless, an acute pinch in the employee’s idea of a liberal work-place may create a havoc in the organisational structure. Hence, the need of the hour is to manage these expectations while maintaining the discipline of the workplace.  “The flexibility in thought process allows employees to meet their expectations in a manner that may not fit into the traditional norm. For example, a Front Office Manager may seek growth in being appraised as a Food & Beverage Manager, regarding it as a new challenge, and not the norm; a Training Manager may grow by moving into operations at a senior level. These movements can happen only when organisations are willing to think different. Ensuring work life balance comes from being tougher about better time management at every level of the organisation. Productivity increases and in the long term employees are happier,” said Zubin Ghiara, Vice President, Human Resources & Development, Sarovar Hotels Pvt. Ltd.

anil_mohana.jpgAdditionally, “An industry where creative solutions and problem solving skills are to be exercised daily, Gen Y can translate their innovative ideas into applicable skills by adopting new management styles to lead others in new ways. This can be achieved by involving the Gen Y in differentiating the hotel’s offering from competitors, thinking up new strategies for hotel marketing and sales, creating innovation in hotel interior design, contemporary eco development planning, conceptualising new website design, mind mapping of holiday and business travel package ideas and developing innovative new methodologies,” explained Anil Mohan , Sr Vice President, Human Resources, Jaypee Hotels.

ranju_alex.jpgAnother interesting way to nurture Gen Y’s liberal ideas is allowing Gen Y to choose for themselves by making available exclusive opportunities. “IHG has one of the best training modules in the industry which leads to retaining of our colleagues in hotels. Other than training modules our Management Trainee programme specifically designed for Gen Y is an 18 months fast track programme which allows them to have a flavour of all the core departments of a hotel in first six months post which they can decide which department they would like to specialise in. This programme has been a huge success for us as it gives the flexibility to Gen Y in terms of deciding their own career,” said Kaval Verma. More over, “Marriott ‘Open Door Policy’ which has existed in the company for close to 86 years encouraged associates to voice their opinions. Marriott also has many ‘Associate Relations’ activities and believes in ‘Fun at Work.’ A number of CSR activities are also conducted and associates can volunteer for them. As a company we are constantly upgrading our technology. Today, our associates can use a Marriott App which gives them information on the best practices from Marriott hotels across the world on customer service,” answered Ranju Alex, General Manager, Goa Marriott Resort & Spa.

gen_y_3.jpgEmpowering the organisation
Most Gen Y employees arrive at the organisation’s doorstep with acquired set of skills. Many will assert that they have to ‘unlearn’ to ‘relearn’. It is hence, in the company’s best interests to advocate and utilise Gen Y’s talent to empower the functioning of the organisation. “With their knowledge of technology and immense capacity of inter personal skills Gen Y Associates can enhance and build on a guest experience and make the business grow its pool of loyal guests,” said Alex.

Born to be known as the tech-savvy generation, Gen Y’s core skills are based on operations and creative solutions. “On technology, hoteliers must realise that being tech-savvy is a natural core strength of Gen Y employees. These employees would be most happy when every process in the operations is attuned to their strength. Be it reservations, sales & marketing, communication, performance management or training. Hoteliers, who don’t adapt to using the latest in technology, would not be able to build loyalty among their employees,” suggested Ghiara.

“The key lies in harnessing their energy and positive traits and giving them a direction wherein they could optimise their talent and their potential for personal and professional growth,” Ritu Singh Verma advocated.

gen_y_4.jpgPositive reinforcement
It is essential to understand today’s young employees in order to create and implement work-place strategies. Organisations that look into employee engagement and go an extra mile to retain the staff fosters a healthy environment. While there is no one way to improve employee productivity, experts suggest a 360 degree engagement strategy for employee development in the hotel industry. “Social networks are a way of life for Gen Y employees and they want to be always connected to their friends and family, even during work hours. Since, employees are answering e-mails and having calls outside of work hours, they should be able to be more social at work. There needs to be a new employment contract that allows for more flexibility, where work is more focused on results rather than time spent in the office,” replied Mohan.

Today, HR programs at most of the luxury hotels have embraced personalised employee engagement strategies. “At Starwood Asia Pacific, we conscientiously build up a Culture of Care. ‘Starwood Care’ embraces Care for Associates, Care for Guests, Care for Business & Care for Community. Our goal is to empower our employees across functions, levels and geographies to meaningfully engage with one another, our guests, our business and our community, thus creating meaningful and unparalleled experiences for all. At Starwood we follow a multi-pronged strategy for recruitment which is a part of our overall HR Strategy of Attract, Develop, Retain (ATR),” said Ritu Singh Verma. “Associates at Marriott are given a sense of belonging to the company, all parameters of the business, be it financial or guest related are shared with the staff on regular basis. The workforce is motivated to contribute and own the results of the company. There are several activities planned for associates on a weekly basis to break the monotony of work,” Alex explained.

In the end, fostering the right environment for Gen Y would heap huge return on investment. After all, the Millennials are the brand ambassadors of the organisation, hence providing them “continuous training and development initiatives at the unit and corporate level, structured tailor-made growth plans, regular employee engagement activities, open and transparent functioning at all levels and investment in technology development” will  create an innovative and modern workplace atmosphere.

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