Whilst eating breakfast in a very busy remote UK hotel recently, we noticed something we hadn’t noticed elsewhere before - the workforce in the breakfast room of a large hotel was made up of 2 distinct generations, close to or past retirement age Baby Boomers and much younger generation Y/Z team members. Generation X was completely missing!
But this wasn’t the end of our observations – it appeared that all the work, the running around, food serving, coffee/tea providing, table clearing, dealing with customer questions etc was completely being covered by the older generation, the young ones seemed to be standing around staring into space and looking completely bored.
When you asked the younger crew any questions – such as “are there any more pastries available?” the young lass standing behind the counter with her arms crossed literally in front of the empty basket of pastries looked confused at the question, looked oddly at the empty basket (which she hadn’t noticed was empty) and didn’t know the answer.
Suddenly, out of nowhere a near to retirement highly energised lady came along balancing many plates in one hand, “no problem, they are more just out the back, let me get them for you and bring them over to your table” – out the back, next to where the young lass was standing and she didn’t know that! It would be easy to confuse the issue with the much discussed laid back attitude of the younger generation – but I don’t think this was what was happening.
The hotel has recently had a huge upgrade having added 2 new buildings to the cluster of 3 resulting in many more guest rooms being added. The guest rooms were all open, apparently occupied and we were all sitting in the temporary dining room where all guests were asked to eat while the other meal areas were under renovation. They had obviously had a large recruitment drive recently, hence the younger generation who were new to the Company
What the hotel chain appeared to have forgotten to do was train the new team members. The hotel obviously has a great retention of team members, the older crew looked and acted like they had been working at the hotel for many, many years and knew their role inside and out, however had yet to train the new team members on the day to day jobs they must do.
As businesses grow and expand, sometimes in large bursts, training becomes more and more important. The younger generation learn in different ways, they do not enjoy the more formal method of training, such as class room training. Formal learning doesn't contribute much to their substantial retention and they expect more informal, just-in-time learning sources to acquire and assimilate knowledge.
For them, context is more important than content. Training on the job, working alongside a very experienced member of staff would be a great way to keep training interesting and contextual.
But this wasn’t happening. Rather than disseminate understanding, the older crew did all the work without explaining what they were doing or why.
Some of the blame will lie with the older team members that may well be protecting their jobs by not passing on their knowledge to the younger crew who will eventually replace them, however how will anyone learn?
The Management of the hotel are probably more concerned with the renovation and expansion project, however if they fail to train the newer and younger generation, they may well have a second issue to deal with - high attrition of Employees in a remote area of England where there are not that many residents so a small number of potential recruits. Time to concentrate on training and retention.
If you need some help with the generation gap in your business to increase productivity, engagement and alignment, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org