Carol Verret Consulting 
and Training
Training Seminars

Generation Y: 
Motivating and Training a 
New Generation of Employees

Carol Verret / November 2000
Generation Y is usually described as that generation that comes after the Generation called X.  The troubling thing is that after the next generation, presumably, Generation Z, do we go back to A or will we have to become more imaginative in our labeling of age groups.  To define them a bit further, Generation Y is composed of 14 to 24 year olds.  

As the labor pool becomes tighter, the hospitality industry is dipping deeper into this age group for line employees and lamenting the fact that turnover is high and service levels are low.  We often have the specter of employees being driven to work by parents because they don’t yet have a driver’s license. The fact of the matter is that this age group is very different from even their predecessors, Gen X and even more removed from whatever the generation was before Gen X.

I have spoken to many hotel managers who feel resentment that these new employees are totally unresponsive to ‘or else’ motivational tactics and will leave them if they become disgruntled for the same money or another fifty cents an hour.  Managers lament the lack of loyalty and unwillingness for go the extra mile for the ‘team’.   When confronted with a performance issue, the employee will sometimes just stare at the manager as though he or she is from another planet – in a way, the manager is from another planet if he or she is over thirty.   

What’s even more frustrating to some hotel managers is Generation Y’s total disinterest in ‘sucking up’ and tendency to bluntly tell the manger and other employees exactly what they think of a situation.  They don’t even care if you fire them – although they will seldom give a manager the opportunity to terminate them, they just leave!    

Generation Why

Well, get used to it and learn how to deal with them because they are the future and the manager that learns how to motivate them and train them will earn their undying loyalty.  That is the message of Eric Chester, an author and speaker who coined the term Generation Why.  At a recent speaking engagement at the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association convention, he outlined the events that have influenced this group of employees and how to manage, motivate and retain them.

Eric speaks at schools and works closely with young people.  He is also the author of four books targeted to teens and parents.  This is a generation who watched adults get a way with murder, literally, (remember the impact of the O.J. Simpson trial and the JonBenet Ramsey case) and who have noticed that hard work and character aren’t the quickest routes to fame and fortune (think the lottery and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, not to mention Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?).

Eric postulates that because their earliest influences have been television and Nintendo, they are “stimulus junkies”, easily bored. They are skeptical with well-developed garbage detectors and desensitized, which means that respect isn’t yours by virtue of your title.  Eric says, “They crave the limelight, having noticed that fame comes to many for simply being in the right place at the right time and they are blunt and expressive.  The good news is that all of this stimulus has made them adept at multi-tasking, fast thinking, passionately tolerant in terms of diversity and astoundingly creative.”    

Eric went on to outline eight strategies for managing and motivating Generation Why:

  1. Let them know that what they do matters.
  2. Tell them the truth – don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes (to put it politely)
  3. In order to get ‘buy in’, explain the ‘why’ of what you re asking them to do and tell them what’s in it for them.
  4. Learn their language – communicate in terms they understand.
  5. Be on the lookout for “rewarding opportunities”
  6. Praise them in public – make them a ‘star’
  7. Make the workplace fun 
  8. Model behavior – don’t expect one thing out of them that you don’t and won’t deliver yourself, be the example.      
Implications for the Hospitality Industry       

While Generation Y may come from a different place, influenced by factors that are unique to them, managing them does not sound all that difficult.  As a matter of fact, the eight strategies above are what good managers do and have always done.  These strategies work equally well for every generation, in every organization at any time.

Managers who have succeeded to this point in managing by intimidation and threats won’t make it with this generation.  This is a generation that has never known unemployment.  Work is there for them if they want it.  They are in the driver’s seat – they choose you.  Money isn’t the prime motivator – they can get that anywhere.  Unlike previous generations that would grumble at being poorly treated but stay for the sake of a paycheck, these workers won’t put up with it.  Why should they?  The onus is on us to make the workplace make sense to them, to keep it interesting and fun.      
The smart companies do this.  Others have been so overwhelmed by the robust economy, that they have not taken the time to pay attention to these basic principles of good management or they never knew them in first place.  In the new economy where managers are struggling to maintain basic levels of customer service with fewer employees, it is difficult to gain a perspective that allows them to plan and execute good recruitment and retention policies, much less a customer service training program that gives them an edge.  The consumer is unfortunately beginning to accept mediocre customer service as superior because basic levels of customer service are becoming increasingly rare.    

Our employees not our customers are now forcing us to return to these basic and good management principles.  Our employees are forcing us to recognize their status as our internal customers and to service them if we have any hope of motivating them to provide decent customer service to our guests.

Motivating and Training Gen Y (or Gen X or Z)

The above two concepts are inseparable, when you give someone the tools to do the job and make the expectations clear, they become more motivated.  In reading and studying CRM (customer relationship management if you’ve been in a cave or working the front desk) notice that it is predicated upon accumulating guest history and preferences and solidifying the loyalty of that customer.  This is based upon the premise that a retained customer is less expensive than obtaining a new customer.  

While the above is a marketing truism, what the whole concept assumes is that we are providing the customer service to A) obtain correct information (garbage in – garbage out) and B) that the customer is experiencing a sufficient level of satisfaction to return.  Both of these speak to the issue of customer service training.  We assume that if we hire the right people, they will treat the guest well.  The paradox of the present is that we may hire the right people but if we don’t treat them well, they won’t stay long enough to allow us to deliver a consistent level of customer service to the guest.

Let’s re-visit Eric Chester’s principles and add one more:

  1. Let them know that what they do matters.  When was the last time that you shared your guest service scores with your employees or read the good comment cards at a meeting of your employees? (When was the last time you had all-employee or departmental meetings?)
  2. Tell them the truth.  When did you last indicate exactly what was going on – as in we have half the house checking out today, it is going to be stressful but we can do it.
  3. Explain why you are asking them to do it.  When did you last explain to your employees that an athletic group might be difficult to serve but that it is a slow period and they account for revenue that helps the hotel achieve its budget?
  4. Learn their language.  When was the last time that you took the time to sit down and communicate to your employees, one on one, about what they did on their day off – the things they like to do?
  5. Be on the look out for rewarding opportunities.  When did you last hear or see an employee providing good customer service and praise them on the spot for a situation well handled?
  6. Praise them in public.  How often do you use an employee meeting to praise a housekeeper on bringing a lost item to your attention so you could contact the guest?
  7. Make the workplace fun.  Have you ever brought bubbles bottles to work and taken them to housekeeping just to be silly and play before they pick up their carts?  This works with any generation in any language.      
  8. Model behavior.  When did you last work the desk during a difficult check-in and show your associates the correct way to handle a difficult guest?  Do you say negative things about guests within earshot of your employees?
  9. Give them the tools to do the job.  Why is it that our front desk, housekeeping and maintenance training is focused upon technical skills but includes virtually no training on the soft skills of customer service?  Don’t assume that they have empathy for the guest, know how to handle a difficult customer situation or understand what you expect in terms of servicing the guest if you don’t communicate the expectations and give them concrete skills to turn basic customer service into good or exceptional customer service.
Understand and appreciate the challenges of Generation Y (Why) in order to recruit and retain this new wave of potential employees, but apply the principals to all of you employees.  It’s ‘best practice’ management and it works with all employees.

Eric Chester can be reached through his web site at or via email at

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers training and consulting services to the hospitality industry in the areas of sales and customer service.  Carol’s latest training product is a comprehensive customer service system, ResultsWOW?.  For a complete description of her services, log onto her web site at  For a complete description of their services, log onto the web site at

© 2000 all rights reserved 

Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site:
Also See: Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000

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