Have you caught yourself saying it yet? Those words that made you cringe when your parents or grandparents used to say them to you? “I just don’t understand kids these days! When I was your age, I…” I’m sure you can finish that sentence. As the generations below us keep getting younger, we’ll likely catch ourselves saying those words that we dreaded hearing as a youngster, if you haven’t already.
In the restaurant industry, owners are experiencing a similar situation. They are trying to make sense of the generation that is now taking over the workforce as well as preparing for the generation that is currently and will soon be making their entrance. We’re referring to Generation Y, also known as the millennials, and the new and upcoming Generation Z.
Despite the comments that you may have caught yourself saying about these two generations already, they are both intriguing groups of people who have so much to offer the restaurant industry. They may have a different focus, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make great employees. Let’s explore the characteristics of these two generations followed by some tips that you can use when employing these young workers in your restaurant.
Generation Y or “Millennials”
Born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, millennials are the most diverse generation ever. Generalizations surrounding this group typically include terms like entitled, optimistic, hungry, digital, social, global, and inpatient. They are tech savvy achievers labeled as wanting to be their own boss, have flexible schedules, but most importantly, doing work that matters. They are known as the most likely generation to volunteer and give back specifically for personal growth. They are engaged when allowed to work independently, when their creative input is valued, and when their thoughts and ideas are heard. Millennials are motivated when they see advancement in their positions as well as when they are given opportunities to earn more money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is expected that by 2020, millennials will make up almost 50 percent of the US workforce.
Tips for employing Millennials
With their presence in our industry now, here are some tips that restaurant owners can use when employing millennials:
- Best practices in hiring: tell your story about who you are and what’s important to your company, emphasize the culture within your restaurant, and maintain a strong presence on the internet as well as on social media. All of these practices will pull this generation in to want to work for you because of the connection that you have created with them.
- Offer applications online. These tech savvy individuals prefer to do everything online, even completing an application. Have a form they can complete and submit anytime from anywhere. Paired with this, be sure to offer a notification within 24 hours that you have received their materials. You can even ask the interviewee to submit a video application with specific questions they would need to answer like “why do you want to work for our restaurant” or “what makes you stand out.”
- Interviews should stress what it takes for them to be successful in the position that they are interviewing for. If there is room for advancement, it is important to mention that. It would be helpful to use several decision makers during this process with open ended questions that offer the interviewee the opportunity to be heard by many.
- When training, it’s important to know that in general, everyone learns differently. Embrace this idea, but make it interactive using creative avenues to appeal to this group. Ideas include using photo and video for training from your website, pairing the trainee with a trainer for mentoring, and/or demonstrating a task followed by the employee doing the task for the most impact.
- Tips to help them succeed once they work for you:
- Always encourage employee engagement and feedback. Millennials want to be heard and for you to really hear and understand what they have to say. Engage in conversations surrounding these topics in addition to giving them constructive feedback so that they can be successful in their position.
- Offer flexibility with scheduling. You likely have a set schedule that you need employee coverage. Consider offering split shifts or alternate schedules to appeal to this crew.
- Give employees more varied job responsibilities. Hiring an employee for a set position that you need to fill ensures that those tasks are covered. But, how about flipping around roles or changing things up? Can you distribute tasks in a different way to offer more variety on the job? Consider these things only if it does not complicate the routine and flow of your business.
- Embrace social causes. This is the generation that cares for others. If you support any charities or give to any causes, communicate that. Not only to your employees, but also to your customer base.
- Discuss short and long term goals. Millennials want to do well in the jobs they are working in now. But, they are also interested in the future. Be clear about any advancement opportunities and what it will take to reach those positions.
Generation Z or “iGens”
Generation Z is also known as “iGens”, a name they have gained through alignment with Apple products. Since this group hasn’t known anything other than a world with technology, their nickname seems appropriate. Born between the mid or late 1990s or from the mid 2000s to the present day, Generation Z is often labeled with terms like high maintenance, realistic, loyal, energetic, creative, curious, global, entrepreneurial, and technologically proficient. They are also seen as highly connected because they are the generation raised early on with smart phones, touchscreens, and tablets. They create the trends and share it on all of their social media accounts while loving that they have information at their fingertips. Because of this, instant gratification is extremely important.
Tips for employing iGens
Since Generation Z is the future of your restaurant, here are some tips that you can use when employing these young workers:
- Best practices in hiring: incorporate technology, embrace a mentoring program, be quick to respond to their needs, and listen to their ideas. All of these practices will pull this generation in to work for you because of the importance these play in their lives.
- Go mobile. This group likely has a phone attached to their hip for instant…anything. If they can go to your website and find out what you’re all about from their phone, they will. If they can find an application on your website from their phone, they will. If they can pull up that application and submit it to your restaurant from their phone, they will. Anything and everything can be done from a phone so it’s important for your restaurant to have a mobile presence to appeal to this group.
- Interviewing practices are the same for this group as with Millennials above. But another technique to try is behavioral interviewing. This type of interviewing simply involves asking applicants to tell you a story and then listen to what they have to say. For example, ask them to “tell me a story about a time you solved a problem at work.” Or, “tell me a story about a conflict you had with another employee at work. How did you solve it?” You may already be using this action based interview strategy but if not, it can really tell you a lot about what kind of employee the individual will be.
- Training should encompass multiple strategies. One of the most important is implementing mentoring programs. Pairing each new employee with a mentor will provide access to how the business is run as well as ongoing assistance for all those questions that come up in the first few months on the job. It’s also a great tool to encourage communication and build a sense of community within the culture of your business. Another strategy to offer is providing visuals with training. Visual representations and teachings show the step by step process of how something is done. Visuals will clarify any questions with your processes and when done with a mentor, can prove to be very effective. Both of these strategies are important to include in your training program to motivate this group of driven workers.
- Other general tips that will be help them succeed:
- Listen to these trend setters. If you want to make an impression on this generation because they represent the bulk of your customer base, ask your employees who are members of it. They are creative and know how to get the word out. Take the time to listen to what they have to say so that you can implement their ideas and make a statement. Not only will this help with your current customer base but it may attract some new customers.
- Use rewards. This generation is used to getting a ribbon, trophy, or some kind of reward for everything that they do. Implementing an employee reward program that offers recognition will be motivating especially when you change it often.
Generation Y and Z are filling up the workforce that currently represents restaurant employees. As owners and managers of these establishments, learning more about how to motivate and retain these individuals are key to running a successful business in today’s world. With some adaptations and changes in the way we hire, train, and employ these future leaders, we’ll be saying “when I was your age, I….” much less than our parent