This is the second part of our three-part series on managing Millennials. You can find part one here.
While Millennials are producing a new stream of highly educated and passionate travel advisers, adding them to your travel agency team can produce some unintended consequences, like generational tension.
Travel agency executives and owners who remain vigilant for signs of unease, experts said, can minimize the impact of this tension in the workplace, and still help all of their staff thrive.
“Intergenerational tensions … do appear and can often be explained by a lack of understanding between generations,” Said PricewaterhouseCoopers International found in a report, entitled “Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace.”
Some commentators suggest that a large part of the “antipathy” comes from older generations. One hiring manager’s comments typified this: “This generation has a sense of entitlement. They look for higher starting salaries, flexible work schedules and company-provided iPhones… they want constant praise and promotion almost the minute they join.”
Jennifer Doncsecz, president, VIP Vacations, Bethlehem, PA, says she occasionally feels the difference in age. “You have to be aware of their mindset, their current affairs. They say, ‘I want to work with people who get me.’ If I wasn’t with the times, it could be tough. But I still have those moments when I ask them, “You don’t know what ‘Calgon take me away’ means?”
Seventy six percent of those questioned, told PwC they enjoy working with older senior management and 74% said they were as comfortable working with other generations as with their own. Still, they say they recognize generational tensions; 38% felt that older senior management could not easily relate to younger workers and 34% felt that their personal drive could be intimidating to other generations.
Jay Johnson, president of Coastline Travel Advisors, thinks part of the tension comes from the generations not interacting more, and making assumptions about their peers. Hiring and working closely with millennials for at least ten years, Johnson believes that “Millennials are the most misunderstood generation.”
Good for business
While Johnson thinks there are some generational differences, he believes some of those differences are good for his business. First off, millennials network with and reflect the wants and needs of a good portion of his client base, Johnson said, which comes from his being near Silicon Valley.
“They understand the clients because they are the client. We deal with a lot of tech companies where the travelers are all young – late 20s, 30s. Our advisors understand them, the type of travel they like. They speak their language.”
Doncsecz, whose agency specializes in destination weddings and romance travel, sees her staff bringing a special connection to her clients and potential clients. “We’re in the romance business, and who’s getting married? Millennials.”
The second competitive advantage is the relative openness millennial travel agents have for exploring new ideas and adapting to their employers procedures and rules.
“You can mold them. We want to make sure that our agents are on the same page, how we represent the clients, our image and brand,” Johnson said. “When you have someone who’s worked in the industry for 30 years, it can be harder to get them to follow our way of doing things, delivering on our brand promise.”
And then there is the injection of young enthusiasm millennials naturally bring. “We have free food in the office all the time; more flexible work hours. I like the environment better with them,” Johnson said.
Doncsecz has adapted as well. “This job needs to be fun for them, so we have a company dodge ball team – and I’m there right with them.”
PwC said that business managers need to acknowledge how “Millennials want flexibility. They work well with clear instructions and concrete targets. If you know what you want done by when, why does it matter where and how they complete the task? Give them the freedom to have a flexible work schedule. Does it matter if they work from home or a coffee shop if that’s where they are most productive? Set deadlines and if they meet them, don’t worry so much about their tactics and the time they clock in and out.”
Communications preferences diverge
As the first generation raised almost exclusively in a digital environment, Millennials do tend to have different learning and communications styles, preferring electronic communications more than their older peers. PwC found that 41% of millennials say they prefer to communicate electronically at work than face to face or even over the telephone.
“If somebody has an issue, 90% of the time, they will shoot me an e-mail,” said Doncsecz. “They won’t come into the office. And there are the group texts. Sometimes I’m getting into bed and my phone is going off. The team is chatting at 11 o’clock at night.”
“Every one of my millennials, if I email them on the weekend, they reply back to me the same day,” Johnson said.