The first wave of millennials is now well into adulthood and are increasingly taking over the reins of responsibility in business and government.
Indeed, in a few short years, this cohort will be the dominate force in our consumer society.
In recognition of this reality, hotel chains are increasingly turning to millennials for advice and guidance in their strategy and business development.
Accor's 'Shadow Board'
In 2016, Sébastien Bazin, the CEO of Europe's leading hotel group, AccorHotels, launched a shadow Executive Committee (Excom),, which effectively gives millennials a seat in the boardroom.
This “shadow Excom” is composed of 12 people between 25 and 35 years old, which reflects the fact that this is the age category of the founders of new players reshaping the industry, such as Airbnb.
A very diverse group
Besides being young, committee members represent a well-diversified group, consisting of 6 men and 6 women, 7 different nationalities, all with 5 to 12 years of experience in the company and coming from diverse backgrounds in terms of geography and expertise.
Those who have been called to serve on the 'shadow board' include: a GM in Paris; a CFO in the Middle East; an F&B director in Bangkok; a legal coordinator in Latin America; and a corporate director in North America.
Understandably, the names of these individuals have not been revealed, in order to minimise distraction and poaching by head hunters. (Imagine how desirable these young managers, privy to Accor's strategic deliberations, would be for a competitor.)
Shadow ExCom's role
“It’s really pushing the current (executive committee), the big guys, us, to learn how to question and how to challenge”, notes Arantxa Balson, Accor's director of talent and culture.
The ExCom's mission is to work on 'disruptive and innovative' projects, such as Accor's new Jo&Joe brand, a blended co-living concept launched in September 2016.
Photo credit: Accorhotels http://press.accorhotels.group/visuels-jo-joe/
The shadow board meets regularly with Accor's executive committee.
In order to accomplish their mission, these 12 rising stars are given the same level of information as the actual Excom members. They are also given the support of a coach to help them formalise their proposals prior to each Excom meeting.
According to CEO Sébastien Bazin, from now on, no important decision for the company will be taken without listening to and taking into account the ideas and proposals coming from these astute millennials.
In order to ensure as much fresh input and inspiration as possible, the members of this youthful committee have a one-year mandate after which they will be replaced by new Gen Y colleagues chosen by them.
Mövenpick seeks millennial advice too...
In early 2017, Switzerland's biggest hotel chain, Mövenpick, followed Accor's lead and established an ExCom–Y Committee, a group of 10 millennials, six of whom are company employees and the remaining four young business leaders from locations worldwide.
About five times a year, the committee is invited to attend and contribute to executive meetings.
They collaborate with a group of Mövenpick millennials who have been selected from hotels in Dubai, Pattaya (Thailand), Karachi and Switzerland.
“As millennials become a more influential demographic and contribute significantly to our overall guest profile, it is imperative we incorporate their needs and wishes into our hospitality offering.” notes Craig Cochrane, the company’s senior vice president of human resources.
Already more than 30% of Mövenpick's guests are millennials.
These initiatives take inspiration from what is known as 'reverse mentoring', according to which young generations challenge older colleagues on their digital practices or business ideas.
However, this is the first time that they take place on a regular basis at the very top of major companies.
Only time will tell whether they are just an HR marketing initiative or a radical cultural change for these hotel groups….