Understanding & Attracting Today’s Employees

Your workforce is about to become a multi-generational blend, requiring a deeper understanding of their needs and targeted messages.
Waitress smiling carrying plates of food

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 2016 averaged 4.85% unemployment, the lowest we’ve seen since 2007 and one of the lowest in the last 30 years. This healthy unemployment figure means job seekers are in short supply, driving up hiring and retention costs and increasing competition for candidates.

Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 per day according to Pew Research Center—a rate that’s set to continue for the next 12 years. As they step out of the workforce, other generations are stepping in to take their place. But Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X expect very different things from their jobs versus their Boomer predecessors. A one-size-fits-all hiring and management approach won’t be enough to interest individuals from these generational sets in an interview, let alone land them as a mainstay on your team.

Instead, you need to draw members of each generation in by appealing to their unique needs, as shaped by the experiences of their time. Afterall, they’re interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them, and they want to work for someone who demonstrably “gets” them.

Get to know Gen Z

This up and coming generation is a common foodservice hire. For many Gen Zers, working in a restaurant or catering operation could be their first job and their first exposure to customer service and hospitality, as they grew up on fast casual dining. Keep that in mind as you’re interviewing them.

Attract Them

Gen Z will want to know you before they walk in the door. Make it easy for them by sharing your brand story on your website, explaining who you are, what you stand for and how you came to be. As you think through your staffing plan, consider the impact your story should have on your hiring message, on-boarding experience and cultural activities, as all of it will matter to Gen Z.

Retain Them

Make it mobile: Gen Zers grew up with touchscreens in the palm of their hands. They value mobile experiences, especially the ability to connect with people and companies through social media. Allow some screen time to keep them happy.

Consider a mobile-friendly application process, as 56% of Gen Zers apply for jobs via mobile devices. Also examine a digital solution for onboarding and training them. They’re extremely comfortable with technology and implementing it could save you time and money.

Empower their experience: Focus on teaching Gen Zers the basics and give specific, frequent feedback with examples. Positively reinforce correct/good behavior by offering recognition. Create room for them to advance as they gain knowledge and skills.

Communicate clearly and simply: Share well-established rules (proper storage for dishware and glassware, food-safety protocols, etc.) and keep the means informal—a quick chat, phone call, text or email is not only okay, it’s how they’re used to communicating. Listen to their feedback, if they have any, and seriously consider it.

Understand Millennials

With some work experience on their resumes, Millennials are your current and future mid-level leaders, and the biggest generation to come since the Baby Boomers. They are highly skilled, energetic multi-taskers.

Attract Them

Two things are important to job-seeking Millennials: work-life balance and an open, transparent, team-oriented environment. They firmly believe in diversity and tolerance, care about corporate ethics and responsibility, volunteer and give back regularly and feel each individual contributor is equally essential, so anyone should be able to talk to anyone else in the organization, no matter their rank or title.

Retain Them

Be flexible with schedules: Allow a worker to take on extra hours one day so he or she can leave early the next or create a four-day work week with longer hours to accommodate volunteer time. This shows you’re truly supportive of a work-life balance and their civic-minded interests.

Share regularly: Share your mission, goals and strategy—both short- and long-term—and the “why” behind each. Keep a Millennial’s interest by explaining how their role directly impacts not only their individual success, but the success of your organization as a whole. Tell them your story and they will likely become your biggest customer advocates and best job recruiters.

Clear a path forward: Millennials value speedy advancement and transparency. Be up front about career opportunities and provide a roadmap to help them get there. Training, mentoring frequent feedback and varying job responsibilities will see them moving forward.

Remember Gen X

While the smallest generation, Gen Xers are important because they are prime candidates for leadership, with plenty of experience and education to back up their skills. They grew up with high divorce rates and both parents working, conditions that formed their independence, resourcefulness, adaptiveness and skepticism.

Attract Them

At a career-minded phase of their work life, Gen Xers are looking for financial and emotional security, and place a high value on education and material goods. Showing how what they’ve learned would be put to good use in your organization and talking up your retention rates could secure their interest.

Retain Them

Offer mentorship: While they value time with their bosses, Gen Xers want room to figure things out for themselves due to their independent nature. Mentor them and share your expertise, but don’t micromanage them. Instead, offer them options and let them produce the solution.

Encourage fun: Gen Xers like to have a good time. They will look for a job elsewhere if they feel that their work environment stifles opportunities for enjoyment, so lighten up and be open to playing along, as long they keep it work appropriate.

Show they’re valued: Layoffs and economic downturns were likely a part of Gen Xers past. A lack of feedback could leave them insecure and see them out the door. Ditto if they don’t see any room for growth. Provide clear goals and the latitude to achieve them, rewarding their performance with pay increases and/or promotions along the way.

A message for each generation

Instead of a single acquisition, onboarding, retention and scheduling message, which likely resonates with only a small percentage of your workforce, you can hone in on their unique generational drivers, crafting targeted hiring, training and motivating communications that are more likely to hit their marks. Such customization will require a small investment of time, but if done right, your efforts will be rewarded with improved performance and a positive bump in retention rates.

As more Baby Boomers leave the workforce, the more varied the age of your staff is going to become, with multiple generations to manage at once. Having an overarching communication strategy in place that speaks to the unique needs of each generation on your staff will keep your hiring and retention practices competitive, an increasingly important aspect in an ever-tightening labor market.

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