Are Millennial Employees Different? Travel Agents Speak Out, Part One

by Richard D'Ambrosio

This is the first part of our three-part series on managing Millennials. You can find part two here.

With more Millennials entering into careers in travel, travel agency owners and executives are adapting to some of the unique expectations and needs of this growing generation.

Communication styles, work environments and career expectations are areas of focus, and agency owners are managing training programs and talent development programs to engage and retain Millennials.

“The unique characteristics of Millennials demand a different strategic approach to the recruitment and retention of employees,” PricewaterhouseCoopers International found in a report entitled Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace. “Millennials are looking for more in life than ‘just a job’ or a steady climb up the corporate ranks. They want to do something that feels worthwhile.”

“I’ve always said I would rather get paid less and enjoy going to work every day than being paid more and hating every minute I’m on the clock,” said one Millennial travel agent, Emily Bertsch, team leader and head of office sales at VIP Vacations in Bethlehem, PA. “Being able to travel and see the world is way more satisfying and is worth more than any dollar I could get paid.”

“They like to have an impact and feel valued,” said Jennifer Doncsecz, president, VIP Vacations, where the oldest employee outside of Doncsecz is 32 years old.

At Coastline Travel Advisors in El Dorado Hills, CA, president Jay Johnson made a conscious choice to start targeting his recruiting to Millennials about 10 years ago. Today, about 50% of his staff are in that age group, and he finds them to be well motivated and perfect for a career in travel.

“I’m hiring people who come right out of college, and they are very bright. They've done a lot of traveling growing up. They come to us because they have traveled and they are passionate about travel.”

“The biggest draw for Millennials (52%) is the opportunity for progression, PwC found, followed by competitive wages (44%). About one in three said they are attracted to employers who offer excellent training and development programs.

More than half (56%) of respondents said “they felt they could rise to the top with their current employer,” so supervisors and owners “should be careful to manage expectations and identify and reward the young talent that they are keen to keep and develop.”

“There are challenges that come with hiring Millennials,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing is retention. They're looking to get ahead. Training that helps them go on and do other things helps a lot.”

One-on-one feedback and on-the-job training are first choices
“Millennials expect to keep on learning as they enter the workplace,” PwC said. “In an ideal world, they would like to see their boss as a coach who supports them in their personal development – but also generally prefer to learn by doing rather than by being told what to do. Mentoring programs can be particularly effective and also help to relieve tensions between generations.”

Slightly more than half (51%) of the PwC respondents said “feedback should be given very frequently or continually on the job. The companies that are most successful at managing Millennials are those that understand the importance of setting clear targets and providing regular and structured feedback.”

PwC also advises business executives to “consider allocating projects to talented Millennials which fall outside their day job. Let them connect, collaborate, build their networks – and most of all innovate.”

Johnson tries to create new positions when he sees a millennial employee is ready for a change and jump up in responsibility. “You can see when they are looking for a new challenge. It makes me work harder to be creative. But it's helped us too, having that challenge, because we do things like explore new lines of business, or maybe open a location where a millennial can be the manager.”

In one instance, Johnson created a whole new B2B business, working with tour operators from outside of the United States who want to develop their brands here.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two of this series.

Tip of the Day

“There is no way you can be an expert in all areas, so invest in yourself to know the destinations and products you decide to sell. Find a system that works for you and then duplicate it.” - Lindsay Foerster, Travel Advisor

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