Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Can We Attract Millennials to Tourism Jobs?


Can we attract these youths to tourism and hospitality jobs? (courtesy of Singapore International Foundation)

Hilton, we've got a problem.

On one hand, the travel and hospitality industry is desperately in need of workers. Labour-intensive and high-touch, tourism sector jobs in hotels, retail outlets, visitor attractions, F&B, and transport are always available.

On the other hand, the Millennials (defined as those between 18 to 24 years of age) are avoiding the sector like the plague. In their opinion, travel and hospitality jobs do not pay well, does not need smart nor talented people, offer work that is mostly of low status, does not communicate a professional image, and does not value education and skills.

Man! No wonder we find it difficult to attract younger front-line staff these days!

Also known as Gen Ys, the above views of Millennials were uncovered in a study by Duxton Consulting. Comprising 20 in-depth, 90-minute interviews aimed at determining the work-related goals and psychological drivers of 18-24 year olds, the study is supplemented by data from more than 200 quantitative surveys.

These findings were presented at the recent Web in Travel (WIT) conference held at the Marina Bay Sands hotel.

According to the study, a couple of things define who the Millennials are:

1) They inhabit their own "communal cocoon", sharing opinions, standards and perspectives on music, games, sports, celebrities and anything else revolving around their lives.

2) They create their own world - aided by online networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter - and dictate the population of that world, what is right (and wrong), govern the news, and provide the entertainment.

3) They want to build their own brand through projecting an image of themselves both virtual and physical.

4) They see themselves as being different from the norm, and are confident and "empowered" individuals operating in an intensely communal environment.

With their "can do" spirit, Millennials believe the old ways are inefficient and outdated. They prefer forming their own solutions and making their own decisions. Their expectations are also higher than their parents, seeking a better job, nicer things (to wear and own), more vacations, and a better home.

Wait, there's more.

Millennials need to have a sense of momentum. They crave instant progress and instant success, focusing on immediate results as opposed to long-term concerns. Meaning and passion also takes precedence in whatever work they do.

What's more, Millenials need to feel significant soon after they start work. They are obsessed about upgrading and levelling up both skill and pay wise.

Phew! That's a tall order to fill.  

Is there a way forward then? 

Laurenz Koehler, managing director of Duxton Consulting, thinks there is. In an interview with Cooler Insights, Laurenz shared that tourism companies should explore the following strategies:

1) Position and brand jobs appropriately, ensuring that they are meaningful. Address the "Whys" rather than just the "Whats" and "Hows". This can be done by shaping such jobs to be...

- Worthwhile (doing something that makes a difference);
- Challenging (learning and achieving new skills);
- Progressive (offers a clear path for personal development and greater income); and
- Recognised (status titles with constant performance feedback).

2) Encourage Millennials to take ownership of their own jobs so that they can find meaning and passion. This entails guiding and inspiring them to make their own decisions.

3) Train, equip and empower them with the right skills and resources. Thereafter, to leave them to use their judgement at work while establishing clear boundaries. 

4) Refrain from adopting command-and-control management methods. These simply will not work with Millennials.

5) Provide clear feedback mechanisms so that they understand where their limitations are.

6) Ensure that there is forward "momentum" in their jobs and careers, incentivising them through appropriate progression pathways as well as compensation packages.

Personally, I feel that it will be challenging trying to match the realities of customer facing jobs with the expectations of Millennials in Singapore. While employers can repackage the jobs to offer more empowerment and upgrading opportunities, hygiene factors such as the "retail" hours and manual nature of the work cannot be "strategised" away.

Somehow or other, we need to balance between the rising expectations of guests, spiraling labour and land costs, and growing demands of a younger workforce.

Do you agree with the findings of the study? How else can we attract more Millennials to the Tourism sector? 

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