Millennials are a focus right now in the workforce, but they’re not everything. Building a diverse team is essential.
As so much attention is directed toward millennials these days, there’s a real danger of losing sight of the fact that this demographic group is more than just a potential source of income or a prominent, influential and expanding part of the national consumer base.
For hotel owners and operators, connecting with millennials is a two-way street that can have significant long-term benefits—not only for your bottom line, but also for the future of your business. Understanding and accommodating millennials in the workplace, and addressing priorities and perspectives that might feel new or unfamiliar, is an important first step in developing a more diverse and dynamic workforce.
After all, the industry and the nation are becoming younger and more diverse. So embracing and empowering a more varied workforce is critically important.
This isn’t theoretical or an abstraction—it is happening now. Millennials already make up nearly a third (50 million plus) of today’s workforce, and that number is expected to spike as high as 75% by 2025. And younger millennials are disproportionately likely to be employed in service industries, making this issue even more relevant (and more urgent) for hoteliers. Millennials are more diverse, and they tend to be excited and inspired by opportunities to work with a like group of fellow professionals.
Gender has been one of the first industry barriers to fall, with growing numbers of women moving into positions of leadership. Cultural diversity is now also on the rise. More companies are consciously building teams with employees from a variety of racial ethnic and religious backgrounds. Organizations that are behind the millennial/diversity curve would be wise to begin working on these issues sooner rather than later.
The benefits of recruiting and employing millennials while building a more diverse team are neither vague nor debatable: they are substantive and potentially profound. A diverse workplace culture is more flexible and adaptable, tends to have a higher morale and is better equipped to deliver a correspondingly diverse set of ideas and perspectives. Those are meaningful assets in an increasingly global, competitive and (not coincidentally) youth-driven marketplace.
Competitive advantages for hotel owners and operators that make substantive efforts to grow their diversity include:
Creating a professional environment where a diverse range of cultural and personal perspectives are heard and valued makes all employees feel validated. A positive atmosphere of inclusion, where new ideas and experiences are treated as opportunities instead of oddities, fosters the kind of optimism and collaborative energy that can be a difference-maker.
New perspectives and possibilities
Becoming an organization that cultivates and celebrates different skillsets and cultural and professional perspectives isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s smart business.
Increased diversity leads to new ideas, creative solutions and inspired innovations—many of which are directly attributable to the different personal and professional backgrounds on your team members.
Not only does this increase your problem-solving potential and create a breeding ground for new ideas, the exposure to those different ways of looking at the same issue can actually help all of your employees learn to look at different circumstances through a new set of eyes. Your team is growing and learning as a unit, becoming a kind of self-sustaining mechanism for professional growth and education.
Enhanced communication and connection
It isn’t just the world that’s becoming more diverse and more connected. In the hospitality industry, where personal engagement plays such an important role in providing high quality customer service, greater cultural (and linguistic) fluency is a real asset. Even for properties that feel like they are competing primarily in a localized market against a set list of competitors, an improved ability to connect with—and subsequently appeal to—a wider range of guests is enormously valuable.
It takes real work to turn around decades of ingrained behavioral patterns and assumptions. But the payoff is well worth the investment.
At FHG, we are making a concerted effort to do just that. As a leader in recruiting, retaining and promoting more women in leadership positions, we have seen for ourselves the benefits of new ideas and perspectives, and we are continuing to double-down on that approach.
In the midst of a seismic shift in the way that we recruit, we’ve assigned a task force to help us devise strategies to recruit a more diverse universe of the best and brightest and to ensure that our commitment to diversity carries over into our everyday operations—and that process is ongoing. In today’s changing workforce, we recognize that to remain the competitive organization that we pride ourselves on being, we need to do more than keep up—we need to lead.
Part of that process, for any hospitality organization, is changing your messaging. But lip service is not enough. Today’s increasingly youthful and diverse workforce is both inspired and empowered—they are capable of contributing more, but they are also well aware of their value, and they have certain professional expectations that need to be met. I’ve written in the past about the degree to which millennials have a keen sense of purpose, value, personal and professional fulfillment, and tend to prioritize a healthy work/life balance over a higher paycheck. Those issues can and must be addressed if you want to recruit and retain great talent from among this youthful and diverse group.
The bottom line is that diversity isn’t just an industry trend, it’s the narrative of the nation. Hospitality organizations that want to write a new chapter in the volumes to come would be wise to keep that in mind.
Robert Habeeb is president and CEO of First Hospitality Group, Inc., a national, experienced, and established hospitality management and development company serving the investment and real estate industries. Since 1985, FHG has been an award-winning pioneer in the hospitality industry. FHG has successfully developed, marketed and managed more than 16 brands and 50 properties throughout the Midwest. Visit www.fhginc.com.
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