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Young and in charge

By Ryal Curtis, rcurtis@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-6491

The next time you find yourself inside a hotel or private club, take a moment to look around. Not at the décor. Not at the fancy touch screen TVs. Not at the signature, state-of-the-art lounge. Instead, look at the staff -- the front desk assistants, the concierge, the porters, the housekeeping and kitchen staffs. Check out the general manager. Notice anything unusual? There’s a very good chance that you’re looking at a general manager in his 20s or early 30s, who is probably a lot younger than the rest of the hotel staff.

 What you are witnessing is a growing trend in the highly competitive hospitality industry--a management youth boom, fueled by millennials’ interest in moving up the career fast track in the high-growth, multi-billion dollar service industry. A study conducted by The Learning Café, a think tank that studies the changing workforce, shows that by 2014 half of the workforce will have been born after 1980.


“These millennials -- people born in the 80s and early 90s -- are tech savvy, highly educated and adaptable to today’s ever–changing hospitality industry,” says Tommy Beyer, 26, and a millennial himself. “These individuals are racing up the corporate ladder. And what they’re finding at the top, in many cases and especially as hoteliers, is a staff older than they are.”

That’s what Beyer noticed while working his way up the hotel industry ladder. The hospitality management major was named an assistant general manager for a new Hilton Garden Inn in Columbia, his junior year at the University of South Carolina. After graduating summa cum laude in 2008, Beyer was promoted to general manager at the Hampton Inn Savannah North in Savannah, Ga. He managed a staff of 26 employees, many much older than he.

“I had to overcome a number of challenges early on as a general manager,” Beyer says. “Leading a highly qualified yet older set of staff was near the top of my list. I had to navigate through unfamiliar waters and learn on-the-go how to manage a team of older professionals. I had to develop my own personal leadership style while at the same time successfully leading the hotel.”

In 2012, Beyer wrote a guide instructing other young managers on how to lead an older staff, offering these dips for younger bosses managing older employees:

  • give respect
  • take advantage of employee experience
  • be inclusive
  • encourage older employee to share knowledge

Beyer says the worst mistake a young manager can make when leading a team of older professionals -- a mistake that virtually guarantees the team will be more difficult to lead -- is to not give them enough respect. “And by respect, I mean respecting their age, their years of experience and their ideas. Respect needs to be a priority, it needs to be earned, and it should be mutually received,” Beyer says.

Beyer says he learned his leadership style from professors in USC’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

“I can honestly say that the vast majority of my professors taught me things that have been instrumental in getting me to the level that I am at my age,” Beyer says.

Beyer’s white paper titled “4 Best Practices to Help Younger Leaders Bridge The Generation Gap At Work,” is available online at the Hospitality Net website.

In 2012, the American Hospitality & Lodging Association named Beyer the “Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year.” This award honors an exemplary lodging employee under age 30 who has demonstrated superior professional dedication, leadership and a fresh perspective to their job at an AH&LA member company.Beyer is the general manager  of  the Hilton Garden Inn in Savannah, Ga.

Posted: 02/08/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 02/08/13 @ 3:37 PM | Permalink

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