Earlier this year, Millennials achieved a major milestone: they surpassed Generation X as the largest age group in the U.S. workforce, filling employers’ ranks with their unique set of expectations, needs and challenges. With 20 to 34 year-olds representing more than a third of the country’s hourly labor pool, service organizations must learn to effectively manage millennial employees or risk alienating a major portion of their staff. Here are three ways service companies can rethink their internal tools and processes to align with millennial recruits:
- Prioritize flexibility
Throughout the service industry, many businesses have yet to adapt to Gen Y workers’ preferences for flexible schedules – and they could lose talent to more flexible competitors because of it. Research from EY found that Millennials are the most likely age group to change careers, pass up promotions, relocate or take a pay cut to have more scheduling flexibility.
According to our recent study of hourly service workers and managers, a majority of employees (56%) receive their schedules a week or less in advance. This last-minute approach leaves Millennials struggling to plan for and fulfill both work and personal commitments. To prevent workers from jumping ship, employers must adopt an adaptive approach to scheduling. Replacing outdated shift management processes with one integrated platform makes it easier for workers to communicate their availability and request shift changes, and for supervisors to design schedules that accommodate them.
- Shift to digital
Millennials are typically first to embrace the latest IT innovations, and they expect their employers to be similarly tech savvy. As of early 2015, 86 percent of 18-29 year olds in the U.S. owned a smartphone and 50 percent owned a tablet.
In the service industry, too many employers still rely on manual, confusion-prone processes for schedule distribution and shift swapping. More than two-thirds of service companies communicate shifts via physical charts posted in a communal space. And though 69 percent of employers claim to have a shift trading system in place, most of these involve manual efforts like paper requests and phone trees. By shifting these tedious practices into the digital world (e.g., with online portals or mobile apps), employers can improve their efficiency and satisfy Millennials’ tech preferences.
- Deliver more consistent feedback
An MTV study found that 80 percent of Millennials want regular feedback from their managers, and 89 percent believe it’s important to constantly learn on the job. Brief semi-annual reviews, despite being a practically universal standard in the service industry, are simply not enough for hourly Gen Y employees. Still, few supervisors have the time or resources to meet one-on-one with their staff on a daily or even weekly basis.
To ensure they engage their millennial workforce, employers should seek out new, digital ways to offer employee feedback in real-time while providing more opportunities for staff to learn at their own pace. By integrating training resources (from videos and workshops to virtual guidebooks) with frequent performance feedback, managers can empower their hourly workers with the tools they need to succeed and quickly recognize their achievements.
A new generation of workers requires a new type of management focused on engagement and development through fresh technologies. Inefficient shift management processes and sporadic feedback were once inevitable traditions in the service industry, but now contribute to the service industry’s inability to hire and retain.
As service industry competition continues to intensify, companies can’t afford the consequences of poor communication, legacy processes or weak employee relationships. Addressing these issues now isn’t just a way to better manage Gen Y workers; it’s a smart business strategy.