Ms. Matuson

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Making Dollars and Sense Out of Gen Y: Y Sized Strategies to Fuel Business Growth

By Roberta Matuson, President, Matuson Consulting

They've been called a lot of names including Gen Y, Millennials, Echo Boomers and some that aren't very flattering. But make no mistake. This group of people will change everything you think you know about doing business. Gen Y, those born after 1978, has already overtaken Baby Boomers in sheer numbers and is on the brink to do the same with its incomes by 2017. If you are looking to grow your brand, look no further. This generation is over 70 million strong. And that's just here in the US. Demographics are shifting, and the younger generation is entering the hotel world and they're looking for a completely different experience than their Boomer parents. Here's why.

Getting to know Gen Y

Gen Y is the most transparent generations of all times. Thanks to social media, we know exactly what they are thinking at any given time. Or at least we think we do. To better understand Gen Y, we need to take a look at the events and circumstances that have had a powerful influence over this generation.

Technology. Technology has made the world a much smaller place and no one knows this better than Gen Y. The 9-11 terrorist attack that took place on US soil was played and replayed in front of their eyes, 24/7. This was a moment in time when many realized how life could change on a dime.

Hovering Parents. Those "Helicopter Parents," who swooped down to handle everything on their children's behalf, have raised a generation that relies heavily on the advice of their parents, even though many are now parents themselves. Parents are still an influencing force of Gen Y workers and consumers, as many consider them to be their best friends.

Trophies for all. The trophy business spiked in the eighties and nineties as every child received a trophy for every event, even when they were the only ones registered in a particular category. This desire for "special" treatment continues to play out in businesses around the globe.

Making Sense of Gen Y workers

Businesses used to complain that Gen Y workers were entitled, lazy, in need of continuous oversight and unwilling to let work interfere with their personal lives. That was then, but much has changed as a result of one of the worst recessions in history. Today's Gen Y worker has experienced first hand the challenges of finding work in a tough economy. Most are grateful to be employed. Their demands have diminished as their abilities have accelerated.

Some of the many positive attributes of Gen Y

Strong collaborators. Gen Y workers are accustomed to working in groups and having their voices heard. They blossom in environments where collaboration is the rule, rather than the exception. This is a group that plays well with others, particularly when the team is working towards a common goal. Keep this in mind as you look at ways to best reach this generation of consumers, as your own Gen Y employees may have the answers you seek.

Technology Whizzes. This generation was born with technology in their hands. Their ability to swiftly maneuver around new software and hardware is simply amazing. As a group, they are open to teaching those less skilled how to utilize technology. Consider this before outsourcing technical support for your guests or hiring outside firms to create social media campaigns for your brand. Most likely you have a team of technical and social media experts waiting for you to call.

Questions the status quo. If you've worked with Gen Y, you may already be accustomed to hearing, "Why are things done this way?" a lot. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not if you are interested in improving your organization. This generation is constantly challenging the status quo. Encourage them to continue to challenge how things get done, and change the way you do things when a good idea is presented.

Civic Minded. Green is more than peas in a vegetable medley to this generation. Gen Y is saving the world, one recycled box at a time. Organizations whose missions include making the world a better place have no problems attracting and retaining this sector of the workforce. "Green" is definitely the color of choice of Gen Y workers and consumers. Solicit this group's input as you look at ways to "green" up your hotels.

How Gen Y Decides

If you are spending a fortune renovating guest rooms and upgrading pillows, then you may want to think again. Gen Y is most interested in hanging out in cool lobby's, chatting with their real and virtual friends, while munching on complimentary hors d'oeuvres and sipping on beverages.

Gen Y does their homework. Prior to spending money, they research products and services online to ensure they are getting exactly what they are looking for at the best price possible. Look at your website closely to ensure that it's easy to navigate, as no doubt Gen Y will be touring around your site before selecting the "book now" button. It's also important to make sure you have a team of people monitoring the Internet taking care of any customer problems that may arise. This will help prevent situations from going viral.

High need for approval. Gen Y doesn't buy without the approval of their friends. It's important that your website contain the necessary social media buttons (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to allow Gen Y buyers to share their findings with their social network.

Be their friend. Gen Y has been marketed to since they were able to sit up and watch Baby Einstein on their own. At this point, marketing is merely noise. Don't waste your time and resources marketing directly to this generation. Your efforts will yield more results if you simply hang out with them.

Luxury brands like Mercedes have figured out that the way to Gen Y's wallet is through their sense of belonging. Gen Y takes pride in being involved in building something really cool. Mercedes invited Gen Y buyers into their organization to help design the next generation of cars. Other automobile manufacturers have provided Gen Y consumers with new cars (and video cameras) with the hopes that they will post videos of their experiences driving the next coolest brand. This strategy works like a charm. Hotel operators can apply similar practices to their own organizations. Ask Gen Y consumers to help you design your next brand of hotels and hold complimentary events to help spread the word.

Green is the new gold. Members of Gen Y incorporate eco-friendliness into every aspect of their lives, as they see "going green" falling under the umbrella of "social responsibility". This group will choose "green" over "gold" standards whenever they travel.

In a study conducted by Deloitte, Gen Y was the group most to pay more to stay at a green hotel: 65% would pay more, compared to 35% of Boomers. And, they were the most likely to have already, researched environmentally friendly lodging, done volunteer travel, and gone on an eco-tour. Hotels are taking notice of this and are making a point to highlight their sustainability initiatives to their clientele to improve the branding message around their corporate responsibility. Shouldn't you be doing the same?

Making guests feel "special." Gen Y has been pampered, nurtured and programmed with activities since they were infants, meaning they have high expectations. They also believe in their own worth. Those hotels that make Gen Y guests feel more inspired; excited, and special will be the ones who will win their business and their loyalty.

The hotel industry is fortunate to have an abundance of Gen Y workers in their workforce. As you look to build your brand with this next generation of travelers, be sure to tap into the expertise that resides inside your own organization. Your Gen Y employees of today are the same demographic you are seeking to capture as guests. Unleash their potential, involve them in your branding and encourage them to Tweet all day long about the lifestyle your brand represents and it won't be long before your hotels reach capacity.

For more than 25 years, Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies, including Best Buy, New Balance, The Boston Beer Company and small to medium-size businesses, achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is 
known world-wide as “The Talent Maximizer.” Ms. Matuson, a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty, is the author of the top-selling book, Suddenly In Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, 2011), a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book For Leaders. Her new book, Talent Magnetism: How to build a workplace that attracts the best—and gets them to stick around (Nicholas Brealey) will be released in September of 2013. Ms. Matuson can be contacted at 413-582-1840 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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