A Generational View


By Phil Bruno

Because of the affinity to travel and personal experiences, the U.S .Bureau of Labor statistics reports that Leisure/Hospitality and Accommodations/Food Preparation is projected to grow the fastest among all sectors.  This estimate spans over the 2021–31 decade at an annual rate of 1.3 percent, reflecting cyclical recovery. Seven of the top 20 fastest growing industries are in the Leisure and Hospitality sector. Additionally, the Food Services and Drinking Places industry is expected to have the largest employment increase of any industry, adding about 1.3 million jobs over 2021–31.

Fun Fact: Cooks are projected to have 480,600 openings each year, on average, from 2021 to 2031. This is the most of any occupation. This is the future.

The Current Labor Force

DMOs that went down to skeletal staffs in 2020-21 have regrouped and included more community engagement as a strategy. As they restructured, they have included more diversity of skills and types of employees. And now everyone is up to their chins in work. Destination Management Companies are as busy as they have ever been, and Convention Centers are booking better than 2019 levels.

So, who’s going to be doing all this work? Late Boomers 60 – 67 years of age remain in the full-time workforce but are retiring or “being retired.” Many older Boomers ages 65 to 80 have joined the ranks of the wonderful volunteers we all count on for events and festivals. I’ve even Ubered in Grandpa’s van once in North Carolina.

Gen-X (who became of age during the 1980’s) has been taking over leadership reigns for the last several years and have engaged GenY/Millennials (children of the 1990’s and 2000’s) with more success than Boomers had engaging them. The big Boomer quote for the late 1990’s through 2010 was, “If you thought Gen-X was difficult, Gen-Y is like Gen-X on steroids”

Gen-Z On The Rise

Gen-Z is only 6% of the workforce now, and their numbers will grow very quickly as they find employers sensitive to their needs. One thing I learned in a Fortune 500 career was that the market will go to the innovator. The first group that figures out what buttons needed to be pushed will win the day.
Looking at Gen-Z as an employment customer might just be the way to go. It’s true that none of our meeting attendees, hotels guests or restaurant customers will be treated any better than our internal employment customers feel they are being treated. You have stars who can consistently pull it off, but we’ve found out in the last two years that even those stars fade.

Our Leisure/Hospitality and Accommodation/Food Services / quit rate is above all other industry figures. Always was, but not to this degree and there is no change in sight from the actuals through September 2022.
We can find them; we just can’t keep them.

Researchers and Generational Gurus

My favorite Generational guru is Bruce Tulgan of Rainmaker Thinking. I first met Bruce in 1991 at the brand new Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, MO at his lunch presentation on Generation X. He was in his early 20’s (Gen-X) and I was 33 (Boomer) supervising several new Gen-X employees who blind-sided me with their apathy for the company and the products we made and marketed. We were the global industry leader, but they did not care. So, when I heard about the speech, I had to go.

When Bruce started telling over 300 of us how we all needed to change and meet the needs of Gen-X, I thought for sure someone was going to throw their silverware at him. I mean, there were some visceral reactions like moaning, booing and extremely negative body language toward the speaker. The audience was all Boomers with the same frustrations I had and more. But Bruce had his research done, stuck to his guns, and got through it. So, I tried some of his suggestions and things got better. That’s why when I started my own speaking/training business in 2000, I made sure Generational diversity was in my core curriculum.
I really don’t think we will ever see a Gen-Z speaker appear and stand in front of hostile audiences like that and still deliver. I also didn’t think Gen-Z members would want to participate in any exercises exploring generational diversity like I facilitated until 2020.

So, I just checked in with Bruce who has had a brilliant career in workplace leadership. He believes that we all just went through 25 years of change in 2 years’ time. And that If you thought Gen-X was difficult and Gen-Y is like Gen-X on steroids, then Gen-Z is a new species from another planet!

Gen-Z in the Employment Environment

Gen-Z are those that were born since 1997 they’ve lived through 9/11 the immediate recession after, Desert Storm, the 2008 Great Recession, the Afghanistan War, domestic terrorism, environmental collapse, mass shootings then Covid. They are hard to surprise with anything. Our new employment environment fits their needs to add value by working from their own nest, invent innovative solutions to new problems by using new technologies.

Managers, supervisors, and leaders:

  • Need to adapt and be flexible
  • Constantly audit workplace culture and management practices
  • Redesign recruiting and onboarding
  • Teach how to communicate daily

The number one thing leaders, managers and supervisors should be doing is guiding, directing, supporting and coaching in high structure meetings and high structure one-on-ones. Yes, this probably means personal change for many of us. And change is hard. But don’t throw the silverware; we’ll get through this like all the generations before us have handed it off to us.

Generational Jokes

Recently, my wife attended her industry’s national convention in San Diego and I piggybacked a post convention visit through the weekend. We returned to Lambert International late Monday evening. After gathering luggage we searched out the parking shuttle and boarded with a boisterous gang of baggage handlers. We were their last flight for the night. One worker said that today was his last day of probationary period, with much pride. The rest were all newer than that. They laughed about ridiculous it was that no one had more time there. They also said the term new guy is out of date. They use another term now – New-new guy. Get used to it. This is going to take awhile… keep your humor about you.

I‘ll be around waiting and watching, learning and sharing. If you have had success with attracting and retaining workers during this challenging period and would like to share, please contact me.


To book Phil Bruno for this and other topics including The Great Employment Re-Start – A 50-minute keynote, contact phil@treatemright.com. More articles available at www.treatemright.com/news.


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