Generation Y Employees: An Examination of Work Attitude Differences

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

The service sector confronts a plethora of demographic realities. This paper hones in on one of these, that of generational challenges, to inform owners and managers of approaches to improve the attraction, motivation and retention of Gen Y employees. This paper provides an introductory overview of a large-scale study into generational differences in employee attitudes and reports on the preliminary data analysis of a survey of over 900 hospitality employees in Australia. A thorough literature review informed a survey which sought employee opinions on a range of attitudinal measures. A key finding from the data analysis is that Gen Y employees score lower on those measures where higher scores are seen more favorably (e.g., job satisfaction, engagement, commitment), while conversely, Gen Y employees display higher scores on the constructs that an organization would hope would be lower (e.g., turnover intentions). The paper concludes with eight specific workplace practice suggestions to managers regarding Gen Y and suggestions for future research.

Introduction

It is well accepted that the service sector - in terms of both economic productivity and employment - is the fastest growing and largest economic sector in most developed and developing countries, accounting for up to three-quarters of GDP and employment in many countries (Davis & Berdrow, 2008; Ford & Bowen, 2008). Within the broad service economy lie the significant areas of tourism and hospitality. Rather than entering into a discussion about a definition of tourism, we adopt the view that tourism is not an industry, but a series of integrated industries (Leiper, 2008), and that the terms hospitality and tourism can be used interchangeably for the purpose of research contextualized to this broad area (Davidson, McPhail, & Barry, 2011).

Hospitality and tourism are habitually referred to as 'people' industries, heavily reliant on employees to serve a firm's customers. In fact it is often suggested that employees are the firm in the eyes of many service customers (Kandampully, 2006; Solnet, Kandampully, & Kralj, 2010). Accordingly, issues related to the workforce and the management of human resources persist at the top of the list of significant challenges facing the broader tourism sector. A recent survey of general managers across hotels in 60 countries found that human capital and related matters were by far the greatest issue of concern, regardless of country or region (others included issues related to the economy, environment, understanding customers, rising costs, strategy and competition). The human capital issue was so dominant that "all other issues combined paled by comparison" (Enz, 2009b, p. 8). Further analysis of the factors underlying the human capital problem rated these specific issues as the most pressing (in order): attracting quality candidates, employee retention, training and development, morale, perceived career opportunities, skills and labor shortages and increasing labor costs (Enz, 2009a).

The hospitality and tourism workforce in particular is beset by a number of challenges, with frequent dialogue at industry, government and academic levels concerning a wide range of these. Some of the more commonly recurring themes include demographic changes (Gursoy, Maier, & Chi, 2008; Baum, 2010; Lucas & Deery, 2004; Lucas & Jeffries, 1991), cultural diversity (Baum, Dutton, Karimi, Kokkranikal, Devine, & Hearns, 2007), part-time work and outsourcing (Davidson, et al., 201 1), changes to industrial legislation (O'Brien, Valadkhani, Waring, & Denniss, 2007), the role of government (Baum & Szivas, 2008), the poor image, transient and short-lived nature of jobs (Jiang & Tribe, 2009), and the importance (and challenge) of engaged employees (Schneider, Macey, Barbera, & Martin, 2009; Slâtten & Mehmetoglu, 201 1), to name just a few.

This paper is grounded in the demographic changes confronting the hospitality workforce (e. …