Millennials—Finding, Training, Motivating, and Retaining the Best Workers

Appeal to this huge generation with your great story, then offer them a challenge
Girl cleaning dishes

Numbers don’t lie. The millennial generation is huge— the largest to emerge since baby boomers. So if they’re not already a part of your restaurant workforce, they will be … probably in a big way.

These 25- to 40-year-olds (born between 1977-1992) are well-educated, tech-savvy, and self-confident. They came of age in an era of rapidly evolving technology, making them good multi-taskers with lots of energy. They have high expectations and are eager to work as a team to tackle challenges. They value immediate results in their work, and desire speedy advancement. So far, so good, right? They also tend to express little loyalty to their employers. That makes it essential to hire the best candidates, and then understand how to train, motivate, and retain them.

Reach Out and Connect with Millennials

To attract millennial job candidates, you first have to understand what fuels them. Work-life balance is critical. Their parents and family are very important, as is their desire to celebrate diversity and tolerance of lifestyles and behaviors. They are pragmatic and hardworking, but they also find time to volunteer more than other generations. In fact, 70 percent cite the importance of giving back and being civic minded. They care about corporate responsibility and, according to a Bentley University study, 95 percent say a company’s ethics are important when choosing a place to work. This makes them less of a “me” generation than many people think.

One way for restaurants to attract workers is to use the same formula deployed to engage customers: tell your story. If you offer career opportunities, maintain standards of social responsibility, and encourage work-life balance, make sure it’s part of your job posting.

Consider All Recruiting Avenues — Starting Online and Reaching Beyond

Where will millennials find your business? Most likely online. Lioness Magazine says social media has become the language for this generation, and reaching them depends on your ability to make an electronic connection with your business and your story. No matter which sites you use to recruit job candidates—,,,, etc.—you need to include your story to appeal to millennials. 

Ways to start involve regularly updating your profile on Facebook and LinkedIn. You already know how simple it is to attract customers by posting your lunch specials online. Telling your story on social media sites can be an equally effective means of attracting employees. Just as your menu speaks volumes to your customer base, your story will appeal to people seeking work.

Having a strong online presence is important, but don’t overlook other avenues. In addition to the essential electronic sites, it may be worthwhile to partner with colleges and universities to find job candidates. Many programs feature internships that provide a try-it-before-you-buy-it opportunity to find workers who are the right fit, both for you and for them.

Training Makes Perfect

Once you’ve hired your ideal candidate, training is essential. In fact, millennials will demand it, according to Dan Longton, President of TraitSet, a workforce training company. Change is part of their DNA, and regular manager feedback brings best results and a sense accomplishment. But be careful—millennials were raised in an environment where everyone was a winner. They want explanations, not orders, says Millennial Branding founder Dan Schawbel. They want to understand the “why” behind every decision, vision, and mission before they will fully commit. In their eyes, dishwashers are just as essential to the organization as a general manager and are entitled to just as much information about the company and their place in it.

One-on-one, buddy system training may improve employee relationships, but even the best mentor can dole out bad advice to a new employee. recommends complementing in-person training with training materials stored online or delivered in mobile apps. This provides consistent messaging and allows hourly workers to have some control over their development.

After Education, Embrace Motivation

Training is never really complete. It’s an ongoing process that involves motivation. Longton points out that even your best employees need to be led. Showing them that you have an interest in them long-term, perhaps a desire to mold them into future leaders, is a big motivator.

Tearing down walls that help bring out a worker’s best is important, Longton says, but so is building walls that set in place a framework for growth. Communicating about growth potential, offering constructive criticism, and setting milestone goals—such as a raise or a promotion—will help build confidence.

Keep Them Happy, Employ Them Longer

All of these, says, are examples of another millennial motivator—engagement. And that leads to long-term happiness. Communicating concern for employees as individuals, practicing excellent time management, and having get-togethers that foster a sense of family are satisfaction-builders.

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey echoes this sentiment and goes a step further. Putting employees first and having a solid foundation of trust and integrity are traits this generation values.

Scheduling flexibility is one employee-first factor to consider. A good example is allowing a worker to take on extra hours one day so he can take the next day off, or making a four-day workweek to accommodate personal schedules.

Millennials were raised to challenge authority, so they need to feel able to talk to anyone in the organization about any topic. Giving them paths to achieve career goals, offering varied job responsibilities, and allowing them to approach tasks creatively are keys to earning their loyalty and retaining them.

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