Oct 20, 2018

Is Gen Z a Restaurant Worker Goldmine?

Just when the restaurant industry has figured out what millennials want, the next crop of employees is coming up. In fact, the industry may already be behind.“I feel like the industry in general could spend a little more time getting to know this generation ahead of the curve, and I think we’re a little behind the curve at this point,” said Bank of America’s Christin O’Hara. “This group does not pay attention to anything these other generations pay attention to.”

The oldest among them is already 22 years old while the youngest set is about 13. This is a prime age range for that first restaurant job, so operators need to figure out what resonates with this group. If they do, they could tap into not another version of the archetypical lazy millennial, but instead a generally hard working, collaborative and digitally savvy workforce.

“This group of young employees is fiercely independent and ready to roll up their sleeves, bringing a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality to accelerate their careers,” said Joshua Ostrega, co-founder and COO of WorkJam, a digital workplace platform.

But there are some interesting differences; if you thought millennials needed a lot of hand holding, Gen Z could need even more.

“Gen Zers also want to feel that their contributions to the workplace matter and look for recognition from their employers for a job well done, according to Ernst and Young data,” said Ostrega.

A new wide-ranging survey of the generation done by Generational Kinetics, a generational research firm, shows that they want a lot of feedback. Two thirds of survey respondents said they need feedback from their supervisor at least every few weeks just to stay at their job. And 20 percent of respondents said they needed feedback daily or several times a day just to stay.

As seen in this chart, that’s significantly different than how much feedback millennials want.

“As restaurants begin recruiting the next generation of hourly workers, they must reconsider the role technology like social media and instant messaging plays in workplace communication. A study conducted by Monster found that 39 percent of Gen Zers believe smartphones are essential to their jobs and just under one-quarter anticipate texting will be necessary for on-the-job communication,” said Ostrega. Gen Z is also the first truly digital generation, so restaurants need to meet them where they are technologically.

And before they even consider working somewhere, they do a lot of research, but you won’t find them on Glassdoor or LinkedIn. They prefer YouTube and Instagram by far. That may be a head scratcher to anyone over 25 years old, but companies need to get social with their employment search, too.

Once they’ve decided to apply, do not hand prospective Gen Z employees that long-form application— they will laugh at you and throw it away. More than 60 percent of survey respondents told Generational Kinetics that an application should take less than 15 minutes. The firm advised employers not to load up prospects with typical screener questions. Start very basic with, “Do you want to work here?”

“There are clearly employment rules, regulations, and HR considerations throughout the job application process. But, a quick initial application will get the most Gen Zers to apply,” said Jason Dorsey, president of Generational Kinetics. “The follow-up steps can then go into more in-depth details.”

While it’s going to take some serious getting used to, employers that can meet Gen Z where it is may find an incredibly loyal and effective workforce.

“This group is very different than the millennials. They grew up akin to my generation; I was graduating in the ’92 era. These guys have the same sensibilities, a lot of them have jobs in high school because they are concerned about debt,” said O’Hara. “But I think we tend to put them in a less pragmatic bucket.”

According to another survey from Generational Kinetics and the National Restaurant Association, Gen Z likes restaurants and wants to grow their careers in the space. At least at this age, they see the restaurant industry as a place to gain valuable skills that will help them grow.

Get more details in the full Generational Kinetics whitepaper about Gen Z at GenHQ.com.

Nicholas Upton / Franchise Times News

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