They’re more than 70 million strong, but many food and beverage veterans insist their work habits are weak. Generation Y—otherwise known as Millennials, Echo Boomers, and the iGeneration—is already an integral part of many hotel staffs. Experts can’t agree on a definitive age range for Generation Y, but their birth years are estimated to be between 1980 and 2000. They’re known for not putting work first, and in the 24/7, always-on-call world of hotel F&B, that doesn’t often sit well with management from other generations. Here are a few anonymous comments from supervisors of Gen Y workers:
“This new generation of employees…it seems like everyone has ADD. Their attention spans have withered away, and, as a manager, you have to be more of a psychologist these days.”
“Everything is on their time, and I can’t schedule training classes outside of regular work hours.”
“They’re overly sensitive to criticism. I can’t raise my voice in the kitchen if they do something wrong. They’ll go to HR and complain.”
Are these accurate assessments or out-of-touch observations? We asked three Generation Y hospitality professionals for answers: 28-year-old Banquet Manager Molly Snyder and 24-year-old Banquet Captain Ani Nunn, both of the Meadowbrook Inn, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and 27-year old Executive Chef Jamie Lyda of the Green Park Inn, also in Blowing Rock.
What’s different about Generation Y that older generations don’t understand?
Molly: The workaholic mindset is not for us, and that’s something I don’t think a lot of hotels understand because that’s not the way it’s been in the past. We’ve seen our parents work too hard, and we want to make a life for ourselves outside of work.
Generation Y will work, but you have to take care of them, not just in training but also by giving them time off and working with their personal schedules. The more you work with them, the more they’ll work for you.
How do each of you defy Generation Y stereotypes at your properties?
Molly: I’m working harder and multitasking more than ever. I’m running our bar in addition to our restaurant and all of our banquet functions. That’s easily two positions right there.
Jamie: Multitasking. Everybody has to do everything at Green Park to keep labor costs down. A lot falls on my shoulders, like banquets, laundry, equipment repairs, and housekeeping.
Ani:: My willingness to step in where I’m needed, whether it’s switching hours or picking up another department’s work if they need help.
Is there an opportunity for Generation Y to prove themselves in this economy because they’re being asked to multitask more?
Jamie: They don’t have a choice. If they don’t step up, they’ll be out of a job. A lot of this generation has been provided for by their families, and they weren’t required to learn a skill set to survive. They have to realize they can’t just show up and get a paycheck. They have to do something to earn it.
What do you think about training programs that cater to Generation Y’s media savvy, like using DVDs and web-based programs to teach brand standards and skills?
Molly: I can watch all the videos in the world, but I only learn hands-on. Most of our generation is a hands-on generation, and you’ve got to get hands-on training in this industry. I’ll give you an example. I train my staff on attention to detail by removing a spoon from one table in a completely set-up banquet room and giving them five minutes to find the spoon that’s missing. It builds their focus, and it keeps them thinking.
What kind of work environment does Generation Y need in order to excel?
Molly: It has to be a place where they enjoy going. Otherwise, they’re not going to stick around. Keeping a positive attitude with them is the key. They feed into negativity easily.
Jamie: They can be molded and shaped if you bring them into a positive environment. Give them instructions without criticism and use positive reinforcement.
What are you most committed to at work?
Ani:: Making sure guests have the best experience possible.
Molly: Making the customer happy.
Jamie: Customer satisfaction.
What are your future goals in hospitality?
Ani:: I want to run a banquet staff of my own.
Jamie: I want to own my own restaurant and bar.
Molly: I want to be selling the functions that I currently oversee.
What do you love most right now about working at your properties?
Molly: The customers we serve and my staff.
Ani:: The diversity. It’s not going into an office and doing the same thing every day.
Jamie: I enjoy the challenge. When it’s crunch time for a banquet, there’s nothing I like more than that rush of getting the food out and the setup done 10 minutes before people walk in the door. I think that’s why all three of us excel at our properties. We have to wear many colors and many hats every day, and we’re adaptive.
Michael Costa is industry relations editor for HOTEL F&B. He worked for several years in the kitchen and in F&B purchasing at a large convention hotel in Chicago, as well as having attended culinary school.