THE long trip to the Swiss Education Group’s International Recruitment Forum in Montreux, Switzerland had finally reached its last leg. As the Swiss Railways train wound its way around Lake Geneva on the one-hour trip to Montreux, a panoramic view of the snow-covered Alps unfolded. Despite the presence of dark menacing clouds signalling the onset of rain, the view remained breathtaking and wanting to be shared. A few snapshots taken with the smartphone, and the photos were immediately shared on social media sites with loved ones back home.
Within a short while, friends and families responded with “likes”, “oohs” and “ahs”. However, either because the pictures were not very good or the postings were poorly done, they did not even reach 50 reactions in total.
Apparently, not being one of the “smartphone generations” can have its limitations. A digital native would probably have done a much better job of capturing those beautiful scenes and maximising their potential reach on social media.
THE SMARTPHONE GENERATION
Born from the mid-90s onwards, at the same time as smartphones and social networks, the smartphone generation, or Generation Z, uses these same tools intuitively and daily from a very early age. These tools and devices have become an extension of Generation Z and the members can no longer conceive of life without them.
Generation Z is now entering higher education and deciding on what they want to do afterwards. Already, three per cent of Generation Z have entered the workforce, and by 2019, the members will represent more than 20 per cent of the world’s total workforce.
Coming to terms with this fact, the Swiss Education Group — an alliance of five separate Swiss Hospitality Schools: the Swiss Hotel Management School, the Hotel Institute Montreux, Cesar Ritz Colleges, Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland and International Hotel and Tourism Training Institute — has proactively embarked on a study to see and respond to how Generation Z impacts the job market and businesses in the hotel and tourism industry.
Led by consumer behaviour expert Dr Alexandra Broennimann, the initial findings were presented at the recent International Recruitment Forum — a twice-yearly event organised by Swiss Education Group to connect students from their hospitality schools with recruiters from the hospitality and tourism industry.
Swiss Education Group chief executive officer Florent Rondez said: “We think we know the expectations and motivations of Generation Z, but this doesn’t always match up with reality. We have noticed that the students are really very different from their elders.
“With the aim of better understanding students’ expectations as well as the concerns of professionals in the sector, the conclusions of the study will allow us, as well as our industry partners, to prepare for the arrivals of this new generation of students and employees.”
Some pertinent questions asked by industry professionals regarding Generation Z are: Are “post-millennials” genuinely ambitious and more individualistic? Is the industry actually feeling the impact of Generation Z at the workplace? And, is there a specific recruitment strategy for this generation?
GENERATION Z AT SCHOOL
The study was conducted through focus group interviews (students, lecturers and professionals from the hospitality industry) and online surveys involving more than 4,500 students.
It established that Generation Z’s profile is shaped by four main factors: its environment, parenting style, its motivations and technology.
Based on the initial findings, Broennimann revealed that the members are far different than the generation before them.
“Where the Gen Ys are idealistic, making them hard to hire, hard to train and hard to manage, those from Gen Z are pragmatic and willing to work hard, work nights and even weekends,” said Broennimann.
More than 80 per cent prefer a perfect job over a perfect relationship.
Dubbed the first Homo Globalis, Generation Z is willing to relocate for a better job opportunity and believes in achieving dream jobs within five to seven years. This factor could be a strong motivator for more and more Generation Z members deciding to pursue a career in the hospitality and tourism sector.
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY
Broennimann said that the most aggressive action towards our brain in the history of mankind is digital transformation. Our body and brain have to adapt much quicker to their new virtual environment than they are used to.
The brain of Generation Z, meanwhile, is being exposed to the exponential growth of information and social media stimuli as it develops. The exposure comes in the form of the “dopamine-triggering” hyperarousal screens and instant gratification on social media to unlimited access to information on the Internet.
Dopamine, crucial for a broad range of brain functions, including attention, motivation, seeking and reward, causes a chemical reliance in Generation Z, making the members addicted to their mobile phone screens and social media.
As a result, Generation Z is in danger of impaired social and cognitive skills, and mental well-being.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
With the initial findings from the study, Broennimann said that the Swiss Education Group will be looking into the core of digital technology impact and using technology to address technology-related issues.
Not only do they find it crucial to correct maladaptive use of technology in Generation Z, they also feel it is important to inculcate virtual hygiene in their students.
Broennimann said the aim is for students to have a good balance of 30:70 per cent of cyber technology use in their private life and their learning environment.
Finally, she adds that although Generation Z members are considered digital natives as they speak the language of technology as their mother tongue, they were never taught the grammar and rules of it. However, they are the ones who everyone falls back on when it comes to technology use.
She recommends that educators accept that digital technology has already begun to re-model students’ brains. While they need to embrace technology so as to not limit students’ growth, they must also promote virtual hygiene rules to students.
Learning strategies can also be optimised to integrate cyber technology. Online information can be turned into offline knowledge by letting students research online but think on paper. The practice can provide transferability of their learned skills, such as knowing which information they need to memorise rather than store in the Cloud.
“Attention and memory are the brain’s two most precious resources that if not used may cause impairment to the brain over time. It is therefore important that the use of these skills be incorporated into lessons,” she added.
A CAREER WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
THE hospitality industry and tourism are said to have originated in Switzerland when the first palace-style hotels were built more than 150 years ago.
The mild climate in the southwestern part of Switzerland made it ideal for viticulture and for tourists to come and enjoy the stunning Alpine scenery, crystal clear lakes and pure mountain air. Due to the increasing number of tourists visiting Switzerland, hotels and big resorts were
built to cover the needs of their special guests.
Till today, Swiss hoteliers take pride in providing great hospitality to guests so that they want to come back again and again.
Hospitality, which comes from the Latin “hospes” meaning host, guest or stranger refers to the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of these people.
Since the start of civilisation itself, many cultures and sub-cultures around the world offer a similar concept of hospitality — for the host to graciously provide a guest with everything possible to make the guest’s stay pleasant and enjoyable.
Also known as the service industry, the hospitality industry includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line and additional fields within the tourism industry.
In 1982, the Swiss Education Group was founded to support the rapid growth in the hospitality industry.
To date, the group has five schools in seven campuses across Switzerland with a total of 6,500 students from 111 countries. Only 10 per cent of their students are local, which makes studying at one of Swiss Education Group’s hospitality schools a highly immersive international experience.
International Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (ITTHI) academic director Jaco Von Wielligh said: “At our hospitality school, students develop the mindset of a career without boundaries, they enjoy travelling and meeting people from different countries all over the world.
“Our students aim to work for a great company and build a fantastic network in five to 10 years after they have graduated from our school.”
Malaysian student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in International Hospitality and Design Management at ITTHI, Valavil Nikhil Chandra, 19, said: “Once I graduate from IHTTI, I’d like to kick off my career by pursuing management training in either Melbourne or Sydney in Australia.
“I’ll then aim to climb up the hierarchy at a large chain hotel for a few years to gain experience in this industry.
“Then I’ll begin to pursue my dream and goal in life of owning a chain of ultra-luxury boutique hotels on remote islands around the world.
“In hospitality, I believe the network that you build plays a vital role in being successful in this industry.”
Valavil , who hails from Rawang, Selangor is an only child. His father is a doctor and his mother a home-maker.
When asked how his parents felt about him pursuing a career in hospitality, he said that it was his father who suggested it to him and he was encouraged to do so looking at how successful one of his uncles is as an hotelier.
Students at all Swiss Education Group hospitality schools learn a range of soft skills that are applicable in other industries
as well, such as management and banking.
All students are also required to go through two six-month internships of their choice in the course of their studies.
The medium of instruction at all the schools is English but students are required to also take up a second language such as French, German or Spanish.
Students are charged an all-inclusive fee of between 80,000 and 150,000 Swiss Francs for different Swiss Education Group schools and different courses.