Attracting generation Y and Z to the hotel industry
a well-versed hotelier has a plan
‘We need to change’
Klaus Michael Schindlmeier is a trained chef and worked in the hotel industry for over 50 years. His career took him from Germany to Austria, then Switzerland, then back to Germany. From chef to hotel manager to talent coach – at the age of 67, Schindlmeier's thinking is just as fresh as it was when he first started out. And the industry is going to know all about it.
The ‘younger generation’ encompasses generation Y, born in the 1980s and 90s, and anyone who is under 23, i.e. generation Z. These two are different from earlier generations. When the baby boomers started working, good jobs were scarce and output really mattered. If you wanted to progress, you had to work overtime. These days, there is a shortage of specialist staff – including in the hotel industry.
Times have changed and these days, a young person looking for training can be choosy. ‘In three to five years, we will be conducting job interviews very differently. The applicant will dominate the conversation and bring in a list of demands that the employer has to fulfil. To a certain extent, that's what we're already seeing,’ explains Schindlmeier. Yet he does not think this situation is a reason for hotel managers to despair. They have to adapt.
Young people value fulfilment in life, and leisure time is as much a part of that as their career. This experienced hotelier argues that young talent should be allowed this freedom. Managers should give them the time to engage with other pursuits outside of work so that they can dedicate themselves to work as well, happy and balanced. He also gives them responsibilities early on, leaving projects in their hands all the way from beginning to end so they have to work through the whole thing and can grow from it. That builds confidence and helps them to mature into leaders.
‘The hotel industry is the future’
Schindlmeier cares so deeply about the future of the hotel industry that he founded an initiative called Hotalents, designed to break down outdated structures and mental barriers, and to encourage dialogue between trainees and hotel managers. Once again, the concept is that everyone can learn from one another. Presentations and workshops address the issues of attracting, managing and motivating staff. The 2019 event saw a boxing ring symbolise the supposed clash of the generations, with the theme, ‘how do we walk into the future?’
If you listen carefully, you'll realise that there is a common thread. The veterans and whipper snappers both want to achieve something – for themselves, for the industry and for their guests. Schindlmeier finds no place for the old way of thinking that was used to spur him to high levels of output back when he was training: ‘It's not easy at the bottom,’ they said. Schindlmeier simply does not agree. On the other hand, he does believe that, ‘Success is envy, frustration, hard work and goals.’ And he knows that young talents are willing to deal with these challenges and difficulties in order to be successful in their work – provided they have freedom and are treated respectfully.
Significant milestones in Michael Schindlmeier's career
- Aged 15, trained as a chef at Hotel Binoth in Lörrach, Germany, before learning to work creatively at Restaurant Pfeffermühle and then cooking for Empress Zita of Austria, among others, and building resilience at luxury restaurant Erbprinz
- Aged 22, opened his own restaurant, including a hall to seat 500 diners
- Head chef at speciality restaurant ‘Distel’ at Rhönklinikum hospital consortium
- Aged 32, General Manager of the Aparthotel in Mittelberg, Kleinwalsertal, Austria.
- CEO of Dutch company Bunkerpart, the first to let apartments like hotel rooms. This role involved a lot of time on the road, solving problems all over Germany.
- Aged 40, professional qualification in Hospitality and Business Administration
- Founded Hotalents with Lisa Aenis
Exchange at eye level: Hotalents
Hotalents is an initiative which aims to give a voice to the younger generation in the hotel and food service industries, fostering inter-generational dialogue in the industry.
The Hotalents Conference is the ideal platform for this dialogue. The event was first held in 2018. It is a place for young talents in the hotel industry to work with the experienced generation on shaping the changing image of the industry and forming ideas for sustainable collaboration.
The industry suffers from high staff turnover and a lack of specialists. Despite that, it is not doing enough to attract trainees. The younger generation demands more flexible working hours, to be treated as equals and a culture of open feedback. These issues are not only addressed in presentations – different opinions are heard from the podium and dialogue is driven. Workshops act as forums for topics such as what good management looks like, how employees can and want to be motivated.
Hotalents even offers a training course for managers. Here, young managers in the hotel and conferencing industries learn how to develop and consolidate their management skills. It is aimed at young professionals with a little management experience, deputy general managers and heads of department.