If you’ve ever laughed at your parents for not being able to do their food shop online but then had to Google how to clean the oven, chances are you’re a millennial. Born roughly in the years between 1981 and 1996, millennials began entering the workforce in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with studies showing that by 2020 they will comprise half of the American workforce, and 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025.
Regardless of the numbers, much of the rhetoric around millennials in the workplace is negative – a generation often perceived as markedly independent, stubborn and entitled. However according to the team at Luxury Hospitality – experts and trainers in 7-star hospitality for superyacht crew and staff working in elite estates, boutique hotels and resorts - millennials really do want to accomplish great things and make a positive contribution to the organisations they work for. The trick is understanding what makes them tick, and having the skills to train, manage and motivate them, and increasingly this extends to working for a millennial boss as a generation comes of age.
Millennials make up the vast majority of deck and service teams on board, an age range mirrored in around 80% of Luxury Hospitality’s students. “The millennial has been formed by the former generation and has been protected by the people around them. That’s why, to some, they might seem to be centered on themselves,” says Peter Vogel, managing director at Luxury Hospitality. “One thing that we do very differently from other schools is that we work from the belief that someone is already very good at what they do; that they have talent and this talent needs to be unlocked. Through our training, we’re just opening them up to this and helping them to see their potential.”
So how should you adapt your training courses and techniques to cater to this particular group of workers? Head of Leadership Training, Martin Mainey, believes that even for a clearly defined group or cohort, you need to look more closely before adapting your techniques. We use Talent Dynamics to help us get a deeper understanding of our delegates and to help them get a better understanding of themselves.
“It’s not effective teaching to categorise a group of people as not everybody is the same,” he explains. “Even among millennials there will be a whole range of personalities, energies and learning styles so, regardless of the group, we would always differentiate the learning to meet the needs of the individuals. We constantly scan the group looking for engagement indicators and adapt as needed.”
One thing that most millennials do have in common, however, is that they are all very technology-driven; something Martin believes is very important to take advantage of during training. “Through our leadership training, we have a lot of content that’s available online, so I always follow up any face-to-face delivery with this content, be it videos or e-learning activities,” he explains. “I also try to find ways in which students can use their phones – I might ask questions where they respond using their phones and then the answers come up on the screen behind me. Or we might start to generate people’s ideas on Twitter walls. It keeps them motivated and feeling connected.”
Flexibility it also key when it comes to training this generation, as a traditional 9-5 schedule is likely to become a thing of the past. “It’s important to give millennials a great deal of flexibility regards when they learn; I find this is something that motivates them highly,” says Martin. “The 9-5 is something that we’re working hard on moving away from to allow students to fit learning around their own schedules.”
That said, there are a number of unique qualities of young workers that are important to take into account when managing millennials, and addressing them won’t just make the lives of HODs and captains easier, but it will also make the workforce more productive:
“You can’t just say: ‘This is your job, go and do it,’” says Erik Smit, Operations Manager at Luxury Hospitality. “Millennials are in need of a purpose. They need to see the bigger picture. It’s important for a captain to create that bigger picture for their crew in order to evoke a team spirit.”
“With millennials in particular, it’s important to be very clear on the purpose of what you’re delivering, why you’re delivering it and how it’s going to benefit the crew and help them progress in their career,” adds Martin.
Companies with excellent employer brands have a specific mission or vision statement that encompasses the company’s reason for being, as well as the employee’s reason for doing their job (besides being paid). Google, for example, isn’t just a search engine. It’s a company that wants to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” As an employee of Google, you are helping to make this a reality.
Fundamentally, millennials think of jobs as opportunities to learn and grow, and their strong desire for personal development is perhaps the greatest differentiator between them and all generations before them. A recent Gallup report revealed that 93% have left their employer to find new roles when they wanted to progress in their career – an overwhelming majority. “It’s very important for them to have a clear line of sight of where their career is going and have the ability to progress,” explains Martin. “If they are in a position where they don’t see any room for progression, they will move on quickly.”
Another thing that most millennials have in common is that they crave coaching and mentoring, so it’s important that these are made available. “They are a generation who value one-to-one time with their HOD or skipper, and they value collaboration highly,” says Martin. “Training and development are important to millennials, so leaders need to have a keen eye on this. The crew find it important to invest in themselves, so it’s important that HODs invest in them too.”
Being at sea from months on end is sure to have an impact on relationships back home, so it’s important for captains and HODs to foster friendships among crew on board. Indeed, Erik believes that the ability to bond the team together is one of the most important leadership skills for a manager to have.
“Millennials are all about supporting each other and feeling supported,” adds Peter. “One of the big things we introduce on board is the buddy system – introducing each new crew member to a ‘buddy’ for the first month so they have someone to show them the ropes and someone to talk to – and these generally always end in great friendships. These are the sorts of elements you need to put in place to make sure crew feel they have the network around them to succeed.”
Finding harmony so that your work is not negatively impacting your life, relationships and happiness is extremely important when it comes to millennials – something that is easier said than done when working aboard a superyacht. “A work/life balance is important, but this varies from boat to boat and is down to the leader,” explains Martin. “A leader who doesn’t focus on a work/life balance is likely to have retention issues. If your work/life balance is out of kilter, what at first looked like a very sparkly glamorous role won’t be so special in the long run, and it’s likely you’ll start thinking about looking elsewhere.”
Working for Millennials
Millennial superyacht owners are on the rise, and according to new research by shipyard Rossinavi and the International University of Monaco, owners are an average of 10 to 15 years younger compared to 20 years ago. So, will captains and crew need to consciously adapt their approach or does mutual understanding prevail?
“Millennial owners would have a problem dealing with people who want to do their job and then just leave,” explains Erik. “They like to see their own values in the teams that they manage. They want to get the same energy back that they give out.” But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they want millennials working in high-ranking positions. “We have seen that millennial owners enjoy appointing experienced captains,” adds Peter. “They tend to choose respected captains who are well-regarded as they are confident in their ability to perform to the highest standards.”
While millennials aren’t the stubborn, self-entitled workers they are believed to be, they are a different kind of worker with a different kind of needs. Monetary rewards are important to them, but so is feedback, career progression, relationships and a higher sense of purpose in what they are doing. “A good leader on a superyacht is considerate and caring about their team - they are less top-down managers and more truly engaging leaders,” concludes Martin. “You can go on a yacht where a captain says: “Do as I ask or you’re off”. Millennials may endure this environment in the short term because of the money, but they won’t be there for long. Yachts with great leaders who care about crew wellbeing will be much more successful. Be sure to encourage a healthy living environment – this is what millennials are drawn to.”
First published by OnboardOnline on 20th January 2020. Last updated on 15th December 2020.