How to Engage Gen Y? Speak Their Language
It’s no secret that the younger generations of today march to the beat of their own drum; they are blazing their own trail, and are completely comfortable doing so. Over the decades, each generation has become known for having their own unique traits and convictions, and as they have matured those traits and convictions have contributed to changing and shaping the world in which we live. Never has this been truer than of Generation Y ( Gen Y), whose defiance to conform to a social or cultural mold has impacted almost every area of life, from business, to travel, to entertainment and leisure.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GEN Y
Having grown up during the explosion of the internet and related technologies, and having never experienced life without what we call ‘ modern technology.’ they are known for being sophisticated, tech savvy, global centric, and flexible. They embrace advancements in technology and are comfortable adapting and changing as they grow. As Patrick L. Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Land Institute, commented: “Gen Yers have grown up with information technology, and they are accustomed to stimulation in the form of music, light, color and action.”
We need to look no further than the rapid expansion of social media to see how this group welcomes new things. Although social media is a relatively new trend, it is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, and one that is here to stay. To Gen Yers, social media is not just a new development to be explored and used, or a passing trend, it is a part of their lives, their identity, and the way in which they function. It is their presence and their voice, it is their handle on the world, it is their source of information, and their platform for expression. It plays a role in every area of their lives. In other words, in order to effectively tap into this huge group of talent, we need to speak their language. With Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Linkedin among the top 15 busiest websites in the world, this is the language of this dynamic generation.
But what does all of this mean for the business world, and for attracting and retaining individuals from this group? Being born between 1982 and 1993 and having the largest population of any generation outside of the baby boomers, Gen Y currently makes up 60 percent of the workforce, and by 2025 that number is expected to be 75 percent according to Forbes. Due to the availability of information, they are also the most educated workforce that the world has ever seen, meaning that they carry with them an immeasurable amount of potential. Another defining factor for this generation has been the increased attention to coverage of world events, making them global centric and aware. This has created a previously unseen level of desire to help their fellow man.
In his book, Fast Future, author David Burstein describes Gen Y’s approach to social change as “pragmatic idealism,” a deep desire to make the world a better place combined with an understanding that doing so requires building new institutions while working inside and outside existing institutions. All of these factors have had an undeniable influence on the way in which Gen Yers think and view the world, and on what they respond to and are drawn to.
RECRUITING GEN Y
So how does all of this affect the way in which we approach our recruitment at Minor Hotel Group? We are proud of the fact that we are a rapidly growing and very dynamic company. We work in a fast- paced environment in a very exciting and competitive industry, which presents some challenging recruitment needs, and as such we have to be always looking forward, anticipating and navigating changes in order to stay ahead. As our founder and Chairman William E. Heinecke has said: “Our real value lies in our intellectual property… We care for our employees and develop them as our greatest asset.” This requires a very specific approach and we are very deliberate about the individuals and groups that we target.
Like all other businesses we have identified Gen Y as our biggest target group, and have tailored certain aspects of our strategy to reach this dynamic demographic. We believe it is all about perspective and understanding your audience – to attract a certain group you must speak in the language that they speak. We have a story to tell, and we want to tell it in a way that speaks to the interests and values of our listeners.
We believe in storytelling – this is reflected in our aim to create stories for each of our guests – and we rely on storytelling to reflect the culture of our Group as we are not as well known as some of the bigger hotel chains. So in order to tell our story we have increased our footprint on Facebook and Linkedin, and use these platforms to show off our company culture and portray what it is like to work with us. We have amazing team members all over the world who work in beautiful properties in exotic and exciting locations and we let them tell their own stories. These are the stories that inspire us, and these are the stories that testify to our global culture to a generation who is globally- minded.
GEN Y AND CSR
Something that is core to our MHG culture and has become a big part of our operations is to give back and enhance the communities where we are present. Every year to celebrate Mr. Heinecke’s birthday and as a reminder of where our values lie, we put aside all business objectives for one day, and the entire company around the globe gets involved in activities to
benefit and give back to our communities. We aim to be net investors in the people and environments where our properties are located. This was so wonderfully illustrated this year when our team at Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa committed to join forces with the National Park research team to help restore the natural environment of the endangered dugong population native to the Trang area. Not only did the team commit to this long- term project, but they opened it up to guests who wanted to help out by planting seagrass, the natural food for these beautiful animals. These are the stories that we are proud to tell and we use social media platforms to talk about our CSR work in a way that speaks to the values of Gen Y who desire to work within institutions to make the world a better place.
Another way in which we give back to the community and build the talent pool in the Maldives and Thailand is through our Explorer program. Under our philosophy that “brands don’t build people, people build brands,” this is a program aimed at enhancing the skills and development of high school graduates by giving them the opportunity to work and learn at the same time. As we said earlier, Gen Y is the most educated workforce the world has ever seen, and education is a value they hold dear. Nelson Mandela famously said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” With this in mind our Explorer program offers students the opportunity to change their lives as they learn and earn by working full time and gaining a vocational qualification as they do. Explorer is a one- year program which is accredited with an international certification from Australia that is aligned with the vocational standards of both countries.
TARGETING GEN Y
A few years ago we launched an exciting graduate development program aimed at tapping into and developing the wealth of knowledge and potential that Gen Y possesses. Their level of education provides an extremely solid base and goes a long way in accelerating their ability to learn, but it is the 18 months of extensive hands- on experience that our Ascent program offers that has shown it be a powerful initiative. We recognized that Gen Y need to be engaged early in the recruitment process, and so as part of the application process for this program we ask applicants to make a video introduction of themselves, and share it with us through Youtube. This approach gives them an opportunity to express themselves on a platform that they can really identify with and that has become synonymous with Gen Y. The participants continue to use this media throughout their journey as a way of documenting and sharing their stories. The feedback that we received from the successful applicants was very encouraging with the following comments summing up their experience:
“I thought that it was an interesting process … I thought of it as challenging.”
“It was fun to be making the video … My perception is that MHG is a very fast growing company, also the brands seem fun and has an indigenous look.”
“It made me think that MHG stood out because no other companies I knew were asking for a video application. It really is about pioneering and being different, which is a strong point for candidates considering the company.”
A sign that something is alive, whether plant, animal, or an organization is that it is always growing and changing. This is a truth that we at MHG hold to be very valuable. Even though change is not always comfortable, it is usually exciting. We know that Gen Y is not only our future, but also our present. They are the fresh- eyed team members who are here to make a difference and to drive our success now and in the future. To engage them we need to speak their language, and to develop them they must be engaged. This is a process that has already started for us at MHG because we know that to be the best we have to have the best people. We are excited to see how we grow and develop as a company, and what role our Gen Yers will play in building that. The sky is the limit.
Tracey Lloyd is Group Director of Talent and Andrew Pennels is Recruitment Manager at Minor Hotel Group. They can be contacted: at tlloyd@ minor. com and apennels@ minor. com.