Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Generation Y Employees: An Examination of Work Attitude Differences

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

Generation Y Employees: An Examination of Work Attitude Differences

Article excerpt

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.g. Baum, 2010), but is more specifically focused on generational change and the impact on management (e.g., Gursoy, et al., 2008; Solnet & Hood, 2008). As time progresses, the changing proportion of workers available for the traditionally young hospitality industry will have greater and greater impact on the way the industry structures its workforce requirements. These changes, where more young people will be at higher levels of organizations while at the same time, older workers will often fill more front line positions, will have positive (creativity, awareness, diversity) and negative (intolerance, frustration, resentment) impacts on managers.

Generational differences have in the past created an "us vs. them" mentality (Yang & Guy, 2006). The current demographic changes occurring in many countries (Baum, 2010) has the potential to cause great concern for managers. Thus, the hospitality and tourism industries, like many other service sectors, will benefit from an improved understanding of, and capability to plan for, underlying tensions of intergenerational conflict. …

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