Training for Generation X

Developing a team of well-trained professionals adept at delighting guests is already a challenge. But with an increasing number of guests and employees hailing from Generation X, it's even more difficult. As Baby Boomers give way to travelers and staff members born between 1965 and 1980, hotel operators must change the way they train — and what they train — to cater to the unique needs of this generation.

Who is Gen X?

These 25- to 40-year- old professionals are now asserting their buying power. Many Gen Xers are waiting longer to start families and spend more money on leisure activities such as travel than their parents, so they're spending enough time and money in hotels to deserve your attention. As both consumers and employees, they're markedly different from the Boomers you've been training and serving for the last 40 years.

When traveling, Gen Xers often take more spontaneous trips and mix business with pleasure more often than Boomers. When selecting accommodations, they look for real value, not necessarily a brand name. They prefer functional, high-tech accommodations in an urban environment.

Gen X employees are typically less driven than Boomers. They're less likely to stay with one employer and are motivated more by personal satisfaction than by pay or promotions.

These workers are results-oriented, independent and creative. They love to learn because they want to grow in their jobs and acquire new skills.

Teaching the wow

Focusing intently on the needs of each customer is the key to delighting more guests, selling more rooms and having an impact on the bottom line. When virtually every hotel guest and meeting planner was a Boomer, it was easier to satisfy the average customer by defaulting to standard procedures. Unfortunately, this has resulted in many hotel staffers seemingly on autopilot — going through the motions. That won't impress Gen Xers.

The first message to send your staff? Turn off the autopilot. Treat everyone you interact with as an individual. Pay careful attention to their words and actions. Use the information you collect to deliver value that speaks to that guest, not the average guest. Avoid making firm assumptions about needs — even when it's clear you're working with a Gen Xer. Because they're commonly more skeptical than Boomers, basing your approach on faulty assumptions will ruin even the best experience.

Knowing more about the typical needs of Gen Xers can help your team focus on meaningful benefits, amenities and activities. For example, a front desk agent might be much more likely to explain high-speed Internet access or in-room video games to a Gen X guest.

But Gen Xers' personal time is valuable, so every interaction should be brief and to the point. If your team rattles off a list of generic features because it's part of your script, you've lost them.

Training Gen X employees

Gen Xers like to learn and grow as individuals, but they're also skeptical and impatient. Introduce training as an opportunity for self-development. Help them understand the big picture and the importance of their role. Gen Xers are generally unimpressed by both authority and hype, so it's important to be efficient and focused, and to refrain from grandstanding. Cover lots of subjects in a shorter period of time, and be quick and to the point. Boomers want you to know they are valuable; Gen Xers want you to know their time is valuable.

For more than 20 years, Signature's been teaching hoteliers and their employees to focus on the unique needs of every guest. That maxim may have been complicated by the growing impact of Generation X, but it hasn't been altered. To succeed with this and every generation, view every guest and employee as an individual.

Teach your team to be knowledgeable, professional and efficient. And above all, make sure they discover what's important to your guests, and to meet and exceed their needs. By doing so, you and your team will leave a lasting impression every time.


Mike Paton leads the sales efforts at Signature Worldwide, a business solutions and training company. You can contact Mike at 800-398-0518 or mikepaton@signatureworldwide.com. Learn more about Signature Worldwide at www.signatureworldwide.com.

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