The trouble with Millennial’s…

Attracting and retaining talent in the hospitality industry has long been one of our biggest challenges.

By Vicky La Trobe, Director, Fourpoints Management

With the exception of programmes like Master Chef, our industry’s equivalent of The X Factor, there are few positive representations of our industry as one which young people would aspire to a great career in. And I can hear some of my colleagues muttering into their pints right now, achieving great success as a Chef is not about 15 minutes of fame, it’s about hard graft, long days and nights spent in hot kitchens and strict discipline by dictatorial leaders…….. Working in a kitchen or restaurant is hard work and we all know many brave or misguided start-ups that have failed as a result but, as the 2005 winner of Master Chef, Thomasina Miers, founder of the Wahaca chain of Mexican restaurants can attest, perhaps there is another way!

One of my friends works as a University Librarian. Recently, she said something which started to change my way of thinking. She told me that they were running training courses on how to use library indexes because the Google generation of digital natives had no idea how to find referenced articles contained in books or periodicals. Initially, I was shocked that students are so ill equipped for the world of higher education but soon, I became fascinated by how differently these young people think and shocked that the University would even consider training students in a skill which, for them, is obsolete. If their experience of that University began with a lesson in obsolescence, how relevant will that institution appear to them?

“Perhaps when we debate the problem of recruiting and retaining Millennial’s, we don’t even have the right people in the room?”

We all have colleagues who complain that they struggle to find the next generation of leaders within their organisations or worse, that they are fed up with the attitude of their younger employees who have no respect and expect everything on a plate.  I would suggest that the problem rests with us, not in fact, with them.  The difficulty is that the Millennial Generation and Gen Z, born from 1980s onwards, just do things in very different ways from us but, they are the future, both as our employees and our customers.

Millennials believe in “brand me”, that they are the centre of their careers, not on a path dictated by any company or brand. A company that can adjust to them and remains flexible is “authentic”. A static or rigid brand is “fake”. They grew up with the instant response and instant affirmation of social media likes. They expect to be involved, they expect to be valued and they need regular feedback and affirmation. Peer mentoring and group working is valued. Respect is not given but earned. They bore quickly.

Perhaps when we debate the problem of recruiting and retaining Millennial’s, we don’t even have the right people in the room? Experience is, by nature, backward looking. To solve the challenges of the future, perhaps we need to be looking forwards instead of back? Of course, experience is valuable but as a frame work to help guide new ideas and ways of thinking. Are we wasting our training budgets on obsolete skills or are we giving our very own future Master Chefs a chance to run the company?

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