Generation Z, or Gen Z, is the generation born in the years after 1997. These individuals are entering the workforce with a different set of expectations and aspirations for their careers and work-life balance. They are more inclined to view careers as a series of different jobs and to seek flexible work. According to researchers, they look for meaning and expect managers to be open to listening and implementing their ideas. They rely heavily on technology for socializing and communication. Hospitality executives have found it difficult in recent times to attract and retain Gen Z workers, so how can the talent gap be effectively managed?
With the hospitality industry suffering from a talent shortage due to the pandemic, and with its attractiveness as a career diminishing, General Managers (GMs) need to implement new talent management strategies.
Understanding Generation Z’s hospitality-related concerns, tastes and behaviours
The global nature of the 2021 pandemic has had a lasting impact on Generation Z, who were adults at the time. The highly contagious disease’s rapid spread through major cities resulted in school lockdowns and the closure of many businesses, including hotels and restaurants. Gen Z now views hospitality as potentially risky for future careers, and hotel schools have seen a narrowing of their applicant pool as graduates pursue other industries or take jobs right after graduation.
The hospitality industry faces a perception issue as some Gen Z workers see the industry as rigidly hierarchical and inflexible. Gen Z workers dislike process complexity, prefer flexible and part-time work, and want time for other pursuits. This perception of rigidity and inflexibility of ‘traditional’ rather than ‘flexibly modern’ further contributes to the reduction in the industry’s attractiveness for Gen Zers.
What does it mean to work with Gen Z?
It is important to remember that different cultures, education, religions, and national characteristics as well as individual personality traits influence how people approach and view work and careers.
Taking our feedback and experiences into account, we have identified three dimensions to think about: structural/process, cultural, and recruitment/career. The following actions are listed for general managers to consider implementing or adjusting to their context.
The recent worldwide pandemic has challenged many of our ideas about what work is and where and how we do it. General managers should think creatively about how they can address the work-life balance interests and priorities of Generation Z employees (as well as other staff). The company could introduce alternative working arrangements such as 60–80% contracts, or Monday–Friday rather than weekend contracts. Some people prefer to work only mornings or only nights; this gives them greater control over when they work and the activities they like to take part in outside of work.
Gen Zers are interested in ‘side gigs’—they have a main job that gives them a solid foundation for living on while they work on start-up ideas or turn their hobby/creative passions into revenue-generating businesses. If the general managers offer this type of flexibility, they can change the perception of working in hospitality from an ‘all-hours, always-on’ inhospitable environment to one that offers greater balance.”
As Gen Z enters the hospitality industry, they will be looking for more purpose in their work beyond the established processes. The rigid hierarchy in certain establishments makes it harder to cater to this need. The management should consider reducing silos and vertical hierarchy and moving towards collaborative project-based work.
A career-long learning and development plan
Employees working in various departments can collaborate on a project and learn about other functions in the organization. This may lead to employees wanting to work temporarily or permanently in a different department, either because they found a field of expertise that interests them or because they view it as a way to develop skills in other areas of their jobs.
Organizations should thus improve their job rotation and job enlargement systems to better support the continuous development of employees’ skills. They could use the lowest tourist seasons to offer targeted training courses in various fields of expertise to promising employees. If this is a possible way to make their job offers more attractive for young talents, then organizations in the hospitality sector should strengthen their collaborations with hospitality management schools to design tailor-made training programs. In addition to benefiting from the new knowledge that students have gained, hotel schools would also benefit from understanding what skills young professionals are eager to acquire in order to strengthen their professional profile.
Purpose and meaning are vital to creativity and innovation
From a cultural perspective, the management should consider creating an organizational culture where collaboration is central to how they do business. Generation Z members like to think beyond silos, so this can be an opportunity for GMs to create a talent pool of multi-faceted employees who are agile and responsive to guests’ needs beyond their roles and processes. The upside of achieving a collaborative culture is also that tasks become more meaningful for workers and increase the opportunity for them to be more creative and innovative, looking for solutions.
One aspect of Gen Z individuals is how they rely on social media. They like to document their lives, both outside and in the workplace. In some cases, this can go against guest privacy rules, but hotel managers must consider how they can support Gen Z’s need to document their daily lives. By interacting with social media, such as Instagram, a hotel can build customer loyalty and enhance brand awareness. The Lanesborough Hotel in London has a resident cat named Lilibet who has her own Instagram account with a strong following for daily posts. Encouraging intimacy through Gen Z’s storytelling on social media could be an interesting marketing spin too as part of a hotel’s culture.
3. Recruiting Generation Z
When an industry suffers from a general negative perception, attracting talent and particularly young talent who are influenced by their parents’ perceptions can be difficult. General managers and the hospitality industry, as well as hospitality schools, should work together to sell a ‘different story’ to youngsters by offering more flexibility particularly in operational and management roles, as well as emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing.
We need to address the negative image of the industry in the press by showcasing positive stories around complexities of roles and the possible career paths more creatively around service. Practically, the general managers should consider recruiting for talent in untapped countries/regions by holding recruitment days. Hand in hand with physical presence, there are also opportunities to work with local recruitment agencies to attract talent.
In addition, we suggest that recruitment practices be updated to suit the digital generation by allowing job applicants to apply online via mobile apps and text messages. And GP-Connect, works in this kind of way.
As hospitality industry managers, there is the need to change the thinking about attracting new employees to an industry that has been bruised and battered by the economic downturn. We are not advocating a complete and radical change but instead keeping what works in our industry and discarding those practices that don’t. Generation Z wants to work, and hotels could be an ideal industry to attract young talent while cultivating a generation of future guests at the same time.