I had the privilege this week of sitting down for an hour with five NYU hospitality school students just before the start of the school’s investment conference in New York City. They were incredibly impressive with the way they viewed the state of the hotel industry, especially considering all the disruption it faces. I was even more surprised at the depth of their emotional IQs and business savvy.
HOTELS will publish highlights from the conversation in the near term, but I wanted to share with you today how they responded when I asked them how important it was for them to work for a values-based hospitality firm. I view this as a key takeaway for employers who tell me how much they struggle with retention.
The bottom line is that these mostly 20-somethings are paying close attention to how you act as corporate citizens and will call out your B.S. in a heartbeat.
Harper Lan from Guangzhou, China, said that before she conducts any job interviews she will look up a potential employer’s reputational score on Glassdoor, where current and former employees anonymously review companies and their management. She said a company’s values and beliefs are critical to her because if she isn’t happy in her environment she won’t be as efficient as possible.
Eng Sou Ea, a student from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, cited equality, opportunity and nurturing – both inside the organization and in the surrounding community – “because it is honorable.”
Tristan Jordan from New Jersey said that because of the imbedded personal and emotional nature of hospitality, more empathy matters, along with an open culture and dialogue. “Promoting an environment of empowerment” matters most to him.
Anna Montgomery, a mom from New York in the NYU graduate program, wants to see more emphasis on sustainability because she worries about the consequences her children will face. “The way we live is not sustainable,” she said. “This industry has a big environmental footprint and the employer I would be impressed with would have a clear strategy and vision. I’m attracted to 1 Hotels because they are responding to the impact they have on their community.”
Naturally, the conversation shifted to the #MeToo movement. Hailey Yuan from Shantou, China, expressed how grateful she was to find in New York City a nurturing group focused on women in hospitality. “Women are naturally nurturing and bring this strength to business,” she said. “The industry should empower these women.”
Pay attention, hoteliers. As much as you lament staffing issues, these young men and women told me that today they are more likely to be attracted to disruptor companies because those companies more naturally display next-gen values, and I am sure they are not alone in that point of view. I just question how well hotel companies, investment firms and consultancies serving the industry are able to shift their cultures in a timely manner. I welcome your thoughts.