Magazine article Journal of Services Research

An Empirical Study of the Work Attitudes of Generation Y College Students in the Usa: The Case of Hospitality and Merchandising Undergraduate Majors

Magazine article Journal of Services Research

An Empirical Study of the Work Attitudes of Generation Y College Students in the Usa: The Case of Hospitality and Merchandising Undergraduate Majors

Article excerpt


In a study by Flynn (1994), a majority of human resource managers reported the significance of attitude in the choice of qualified candidates. At the entry level particularly, the refrain often heard is "We can teach people skills; but we cannot teach them the right attitudes." Employee attitudes are an indicative factor as to whether an organization will succeed in the future (Alas, 2005; Hurst, 1995). In the workplace then, attitudes towards work and the job at hand are of obvious importance. However, the literature has placed greater emphasis on job satisfaction and related issues, where attitudes are the outcome of work. It could be argued that attitudes to work, before entering a job, are perhaps more important, as they are antecedents and precursors to workplace performance and job satisfaction. This study aims to address this gap by studying the attitudes to work of college students in career oriented fields, particularly Hospitality Management and Merchandising Management.

The fields of hospitality and merchandising are different, yet similar. There is an increasing trend to convergence in these two sub-fields of the broader service sector. Kim, et. al., (2007), have pointed that "more than ever before, consumers are seeking hedonic and utilitarian benefits in their shopping and consumption experiences? the marketplace we witness multiple businesses merging to deliver products and services. This is illustrated by retail establishments such as restaurants and soft-goods retailers for which both food and gifts/apparel have become an integral part of the product mix? shopping malls and tourist attractions, fashion, food and fun have become key components in creating the optimal consumer experience."

The main challenge of both hospitality and merchandising industries is to attract and retain qualified and motivated employees. In a decentralized structure, managerial skills and responsibilities have expanded in scope. Both industries are catering to the needs of the consumer, whether it is of service or product orientation. Hence, this study has chosen to use these two student groups as their sample to identify the attitudes to work of career-oriented GEN Y college students in the USA.

Generation Y

Research has found considerable differences between the Generation X (GEN X) and Generation Y (GEN Y) work attitudes. Members of Generation X were born from 70's to 80's. It is observed that Gen Y now consist of 42% of the work force while 31% are baby boomers and only 27% belong to the Gen X category (Clark, 2008).

Generation Xs were considered being lazy and cynical (Filipczak, 1994). He showed some characteristics of GEN Y in U.S.A. More collaborative, less hierarchical, more altruistic, more comfortable with female bosses, more skilled in management, more tech-savvy, balanced, candid in their communications, and self -reliant. GEN Y is just entering the work place. They think visually, want immediate gratification, and emphasize fun and excitement. GEN Y'ers are not shy to tell others what they want. They have had better education, are more technosavvy, and value personal creativity. GEN Y'ers have been treated more as individuals than any other generation. Some studies have also identified Generation Y'ers to have a aggressive approach towards pay packages, expectations of a work/family life balance, quick rise up the corporate ladder, and lack of employer loyalty (Conference and Incentive Travel, 2008). Another survey studying GEN Y characteristics found that not only will the graduates belonging to this group bring with them prior work experience, but this generation will also have expectations of enjoying their job, fairness, equal opportunities and tolerance (Boadbridge, et. al., 2007).

The area of retail employment in relation to generation Y is an under researched topic. This study however is of prime importance as GEN Y enters the retail workforce (Hospitality & Merchandising) in huge numbers (Boadbridge, et. …

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