Millennials in the Convention and Events Space

As an owner of a technology firm that relies on face-to-face meetings and education, we are looking to hire the best and brightest to help grow our company and enhance the services we offer. It is hard to call myself an “old dog” in the Convention space, but time seems to disagree with me.  Ai recently turned 15 years old and I have been in the Hospitality/Convention space for more than 25 years. In dog years, that’s 105 and 175, respectively. 

Today’s staffers are known as Millennials. There about 80 million of them and they are the largest and most diverse generation in our population.  Who are Millennials?  As defined by the Human Resource Management Center, they are “entitled, self-absorbed, lacking commitment/loyalty.” Ouch.  This is unsettling from the perspective of an Owner/Management looking to build and invest in staff and service teams to grow their workforce. How would such a person assume or even be groomed to assume a leadership position? How will a Millennial become the backbone of an organization?

There are common behaviors of Millennials: heavy use of digital technologies, reliance on social media, broadly shared wants and expectations, and expectations of a social and enjoyable work environment, as well as flexible work hours.  But, are Millennials entitled all of these things? Or, is it merely a matter of them wanting more recognition for working beneath their skill and education level? If they are self-centered and lacking commitment, why are 91% of Millennials registered to vote, why do 68% participate in community service and why do 53% consider themselves politically active? 

Lately, much has been said and written about Millennials being the most entrepreneurial generation ever. As a Gen Y, we need to look for ways to take action; show them they matter and their contributions are valued. As Millennials seek support/assurance similar to doting helicopter parents who continually told them they were special, or playing in little leagues where everyone was a winner, we need to develop the safety of their social tribe, encouraging them to voice their opinions and help drive outcomes.   

Leverage the attitude, “I have options and I’m not going to settle,” to work in your favor.  Contrary to the “live to work” mentality, embrace the “work to live” attitude of Millennials and get on board with the fact that work follows lifestyle and friends on the priority list.  Say goodbye to the shirt and tie era and say hello to the shorts and flip flop generation.  Say adios to rigid work hours and say hola to telecommuting.  Say au voir to restaurant work lunches and bonjour to free food in the workplace.  It’s the perfect storm brewing, so find a way to ride the wave.

The key question is:  How can a service company in the Convention Space foster the environment where this type of thinking can grow?  Once you see beyond the stereotypes, and realize the energy and passion Millennials bring to the table, the next step is to consider a system and culture that enables you, not only to identify top Millennials, but more importantly to motivate, engage and retain them.  Find ways to tap into their values and desires.  Find a way to connect to this tech-savvy, multi-tasking, selfie-taking, text-obsessed, only take ‘yes’ for an answer generation.  Up your CultureIQ and find what it takes. To put it in terms a Millennial would respond to, find a way to "excite them."

Published on August 20, 2015. Written by Michael Tydings