Bridging The Generational Gap Between Managers And Millennials

Written by Carol Dunnigan, SVP of People and Culture for Compeat, for

Carol DunniganLearning how to work with the new generation is crucial 

Millennials have been making their mark on the restaurant industry since they surpassed Gen Xers in 2016 and Baby Boomers continue to dwindle as they reach retirement age in droves. More than one-in-three American labor force participants (35%) are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

While some managers complain that Millennials can be difficult to retain, statistics show that it is time for us to proactively learn how we can manage them in a way that suits their needs. In 2017, employee turnover in the hospitality industry reached 70% for the second consecutive year. Considering separation, replacement and training costs, the average front of the house employee costs $2,809 and back of the house employee cost about $2,171 according to the Transforming Data Into Knowledge (TDn2K) 2017 Recruiting and Turnover Report. We can do better.

Millennials get a bad rap of being the self-absorbed, spoiled generation. This is believed to be a result of overly doting parents and the inundation of social media. But there are also esteemed qualities that come with the territory. They are optimistic, tech-savvy, multitaskers who believe in team work and community. They just need to be handled a little differently than we may be used to.

Learning to manage this generation is the key to improving retention. Below are some key values that can be practiced to strengthen the connection to this generation of employees.

Structure. Millennials were raised with busy schedules and high expectations to succeed. Yet they still want to feel that they are being heard and that their opinions are valued. Let them know what is expected of them and the measures of success, then move aside and let them get there in their own way. Having conversations along the journey to guide them is helpful but over managing can stifle their creativity.

Teamwork. Working in a team environment is important to Millennials. Find ways to create a collaborative approach to tasks. Having a production line approach to rolling silverware or folding boxes may seem counter intuitive at first, but this approach can actually increase productivity since people tend to slow down over time when performing a monotonous task.

Praise. Millennials crave more feedback and praise than previous generations. When the pace is fast moving it can be hard to remember to single out employees, but a little goes a long way. After a little practice, it will become second nature to yell “Great job on that big top, Alex!” All humans crave approval and want to be reassured that they are valued, so creating a culture of praise will help with the overall morale of your restaurant – not just for the Millennials.

Community. Participating in community and/or charity events is important to most Millennials and is a good way to recruit and retain them. They want to feel that they are helping society. And, as a bonus, most businesses see a positive ROI on community events whether it be increased sales, new customers, or increased brand recognition.

Technology. This is a generation that has no idea what life was like before computers. Being raised with smartphones and social media makes them expect to have everything online. Creating a great interactive website, writing smart blogs on current trends, and having a presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. can help attract new employees. Retain employees by having smart systems in place that automate everyday tasks and allow them to communicate via mobile devices.

Managing Millennials does not mean that we must cater to them or throw out all you know about managing a restaurant. But learning how to work with this generation is important to the success of our businesses. The more we get to know about how they work and what drives them will help attract them to our industry and keep them here for future generations. Perhaps we will learn a thing or two from them along the way as well.

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