Millennials: The Flex Generation

With millennials now representing 1 in 3 workers in the United States, the conventional rules of employment are changing, driven by the new majority generation’s demand for greater flexibility in how and when they work. The old rules of employment—where one works, who one works for—are shifting, spurred by millennials’ desire for flexibility, and enabled by mobile workforce management technology. This presents an opportunity to change the way hoteliers schedule labor, specifically a move toward more flexible shifts and even a flex workforce. Flex systems allow hoteliers to fill shifts based on projected and actual demand while empowering their workers to structure their time to better meet personal as well as business needs.

Short-interval scheduling technology provides hotel managers with the ability to create flexible shifts, increasing or decreasing labor by the hour, half-hour, or even quarter-hour, according to when their guests want to be served. It also remedies unexpected labor gaps caused by no-shows and call-outs. Using a mobile app to instantly broadcast an alert to an available pool of employees who have the right skill set for that particular job, the manager can fill shifts to meet demand quickly and easily.

There’s a significant point of difference between a flex system and the controversial on-call employment practices favored by some sectors, like retail. On-call workers are required to keep themselves available for a particular shift but only report to work—and get paid—if they’re needed, restricting the employee’s personal life while running the risk of losing income when demand is low. The flex model, instead, gives workers the power to structure their time as they choose, whether they actively check for available shifts, or simply accept and decline requests sent to their mobile devices. This makes it attractive for workers who want to set their own hours and vary them from week to week, as well as those who need to supplement their existing income. The flex model has the added advantage of increasing available employees, helping to ensure shifts are covered.


To have a successful flex team, you have to know what your labor needs are going to be. This requires a reliable forecast system coupled with scheduling technology that converts expected business volume to labor requirements by time of day. Additionally, a good forecasting process contains short-term updating capabilities that allow managers to track actual transactions in a given time period and compare against forecasts. Variance from the projections enables managers to trigger call-ins early enough to meet increased demand, reducing the probability of disgruntled guests due to lack of service staff. The opposite can also be true with respect to call-offs if demand is not materializing.

Savvy managers are finding that the key to keeping a millennial workforce motivated and engaged is to tap into the same impetuses that drive their lifestyle choices: more transitory, less long-term commitment. They are waiting longer than previous generations to settle down and start a family. Fewer own, or aspire to own, cars or homes. And to get the work-life balance they value so highly, 65 percent are willing to forgo promotions, 44 percent would accept pay cuts, and as many as 77 percent would change jobs, according to Ernst & Young Global Generations Research. In fact, millennials anticipate that they will change their job every few years.

Millennials are drawn to live in urban centers that facilitate their lifestyle of choice. These urban environments have a density of hotels and other service-type businesses. If multiple hotel employers in such a market were to use a flex-based scheduling system, workers in that area, armed with mobile, could piece together enough hours to meet their financial needs by working shifts for several employers. This kind of open-shift bidding could help a significant part of the market that either doesn’t need or want to work the standard 40-hour week.

In this new millennial-majority world, the rules of employment are destined to change.

About the Author
Mark Heymann is a founding partner and chairman and CEO of UniFocus (, a workforce performance firm. Mark can be reached at and 972-512-5105.