With baby boomers aging and retiring and members of Generation X now well into their forties, Gen Y — otherwise known as Millennials — and post-Millennial Gen Z will now provide the bulk of your restaurant team members. They’re younger, more “connected” in terms of technology, and often much less experienced regarding common workplace norms. Engaging these younger workers is the key to optimizing both their performance and the performance of your restaurant. Here are five tips for better engaging your Gen Y and Gen Z employees.
1. Explain the “why,” not just the “how”
Millennial team members want to understand from the outset what is expected of them, and why. 93% feel that it’s just as important to understand the reasoning behind a procedure as it is the procedure itself.1 Best learning practices tell us that clearly stated reasoning and objectives before, during, and after training and coaching will greatly improve retention of training concepts. Explain how each idea in workers’ training plays out on the job. Clearly lay out specific tasks and the level of performance that will be expected for each. In addition to training, you should explain to your Gen X and Gen Y workers how (and how often) they will be evaluated, and how specific information from their training might connect to their performance evaluations. Automated training and performance management systems are ideal for maintaining training and messaging consistency and ensuring that every employee is on the same virtual page.
2. Provide a social knowledge forum
Adding a knowledge forum to your overall learning strategy provides some significant benefits including a rapid question response system, knowledge sharing amongst peers, data monitoring to identify trends, and integrated micro learning to address real time knowledge gaps.
QSR chains utilizing a social forum find that most questions are related to new products, processes, and procedures, which really shows how much team members care about what they do and how they do it.
The result is better informed and more engaged team members capable of providing a vastly improved customer experience.
3. Create an atmosphere of inclusiveness
When Gen Y and Gen Z workers are treated as cogs in a machine, they begin to think of themselves as contributing little value to the operation. Before you know it, they begin to treat your restaurant tasks like any other mundane job. Elevate employee attitudes by treating them as individual members of something important. Promote the feeling that they are members of a chosen group and are key to its overall success. This can also tie back to the social learning forum that can be embedded in technology-forward restaurant learning platforms. The inclusive forum helps make every individual team member feel more closely connected to the larger team, both at a single location and across the chain.
4. Integrate friendly competition
As your new, more connected Millennial and post-Millennial employees complete individual training modules successfully and move through their learning plan, the best platforms create some friendly competition. For example, the Ontrack learning and performance management platform for restaurants uses a “racetrack” functionality that shows a team member how their performing. Because each team member can see how they compare to their peers in real time, competition becomes a key component in a continuous engagement loop to hold employee interest. They become more receptive to new key product knowledge and retain it longer and more completely.
5. Offer tangible rewards
Recognize your outstanding Gen X and Gen Y employees. Give them public recognition and inexpensive rewards such as “champion” buttons, badges, or certificates. Post “employee of the month/week” announcements in break areas. Reserve a special parking space for outstanding employees for the duration of their recognition period. The latest restaurant performance platforms also include built-in virtual badges that can be automatically awarded for reaching key training and task milestones. When it comes to engaging your employees, no recognition is too small.
Millennial and post-Millennial team members want to believe that their time at work is not wasted. By playing to their “connectedness,” by communicating their significant role in your restaurant’s success, and by recognizing their individual contributions, you can help ensure their full engagement and personal stake in your operations.