Tips for Attracting and Retaining Millennial Workers


To say millennials are taking over the workforce is no exaggeration. Members of this generation — typically defined as people born between 1981 and 2000 — number 9.6 million in Canada. By 2025, millennials will comprise 75 per cent of the global workforce, according to Deloitte.

For foodservice operators (many of whom are Baby Boomers or Gen Xers), attracting millennials to the workplace requires new rules for recruitment. “The paradigm has changed and many organizations aren’t working in the new paradigm,” says Ian Milford, principal at JRoss Hospitality Recruiters.

To get beyond what worked in the past, a good starting point is technology. “Organizations tend to put their efforts into technologies they know and understand: Hcareers, Indeed and LinkedIn,” says Milford. “[They need to] focus on other means to connect with candidates. Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat are all resources you can leverage to connect with millennials.”

Laura Darrell, Boston Pizza’s director of Operations for Western Canada, says her organization is helping franchisees and general managers understand how to leverage technology to more effectively reach and engage millennials.

“There’s no reason why you can’t get someone on FaceTime for a 20-minute chat to go through your pre-screening questions and, if they’re a final candidate, they can come down to the restaurant and meet you,” says Darrell. “Or, coordinate interviews via text message. Millennials have grown up in an environment where they have very little face-to-face conversation. It’s really about sending a SnapChat or a text message saying ‘I got your resumé and would love to talk with you.’”

Another key is making the online-application process simple. “If it takes 25 steps for a candidate to get through the process to submit a resumé, you’re going to lose them,” says Darrell. “Nobody in that cohort will make 25 clicks for anything — that’s a big one.”

Phil Wylie, vice-president of People & Operations at Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality, says it’s important to create website and social-media content that’s engaging and fun. Videos are key — whether it’s more formal recruitment videos or Instagram stories that highlight what goes on in the kitchen. “Create content that shows off what you’re doing,” he says.

For new restaurant openings, O&B creates videos of managers introducing themselves, so a prospective candidate can see who they’d be working with. “This is a way for us to showcase the management team so a candidate can take a look and say, ‘This looks like a great management team, I want to be part of that,’” says Wylie.

Millennials want to be appreciated and recognized for the work they do and talking up that type of workplace culture can also help attract talent. “At our best restaurants, the general managers will talk about what they do to celebrate great performance,” says Darrell. “From a coaching standpoint, our best general managers do a great job of saying, ‘I’m hiring you today as a host or as a server, but we’re excellent at career pathing and you can go from being a server to a supervisor to a front-of-house manager to an AGM to a GM,’” says Darrell.

While employers do need to retool their recruitment strategies, Wylie says it’s not just for millennials. “I don’t have a strong belief that millennials are any different than other young generations,” he says. “What’s different now is we’re living in this world of rapid technological and societal change. So, the way you approach recruiting for all positions, regardless of whether someone is born between this year or that year, has to [evolve] and change.”

Written by Rebecca Harris

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