A new study from Edith Cowan University (ECU) has asserted that the hospitality industry is headed towards a severe shortage of labour in the medium term, and that operators need to start thinking about ways to make their employment offerings appealing to Gen Z.

The study, ‘A workforce to be reckoned with: the emerging pivotal Generation Z hospitality workforce’ by Edmund Goh and Cindy Lee, suggests that Gen Z – those born between 1995 and 2009 – will make up 20 per cent of the hospitality workforce within the next four years, but indicators suggest that this demographic is shying away from one of the fastest-growing industries in Australia.

While the study has found that already 42 per cent of hospitality businesses are having trouble filling all positions, the situation is likely to worsen if employers don’t rethink their attitudes towards youth employment.

“The industry isn’t doing enough to appeal to Generation Z and too often look at those already in work as cheap labour.”

“Our research explored the motivations of Generation Z workers and found salary is less important as compared to previous generations,” said Dr Goh from ECU’s School of Business and Law.

“They are much more interested in opportunities to work internationally and having a dynamic and enjoyable workplace – which suggests a huge shift in work culture and environment. The industry needs to appeal to these changing expectations.”

Technology and human interaction

As part of the study, Goh and Lee – from the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) – conducted interviews with hospitality students at three different training institutes. The interviews uncovered a longing for face-to-face interactions from a generation typified by its dependence on the internet, smartphones and social media.

The flipside of this discovery was that many of these younger students worry they do not have the social skills needed in hospitality on a daily basis – something that Goh suggests employers will have to include as part of their training.

“They are the first generation to grow up with the internet and have been solving problems online, so they don’t have the same in-person experience. Employers need to allay these fears and offer a new kind of training.”

The study suggests that it is vital that operators begin to think about ways to appeal to this emerging generation of labour, as tourism and hospitality have emerged as key driver industries not just for Australia’s economy, but globally. In 2017 alone, tourism and hospitality contributed US$2.3 trillion and 10.2 per cent of the world’s GDP.

Dr Goh and Lee’s study has been published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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