Don’t Underestimate the Value of Soft Skills Training When It Comes to Attracting Great Talent

You simply cannot hire around the soft skills gap.

No matter how much an organization may focus on the importance of soft skills behaviors at every step of the hiring process, the fact is that the majority of new young talent is lacking when it comes to soft skills. This is simply what it means to be inexperienced in today’s workplace! Soft skills have become less and less a focus in education at all levels and the weight is on employers to make up for the difference once young employees enter the workforce.

For employers in most industries, this is a difficult problem without a pre-made solution: soft skills training is simply something that hasn’t been formalized and taught to managers and leaders. But restaurant and food service employers may have a special edge when it comes to bridging the soft skills gap. Strong customer service, communication, teamwork, and self-accountability are all major requirements for success in restaurant teams, and these are the types of soft skills employers in other industries are desperate to find.

Strong customer service, communication, teamwork and self-accountability are all major requirements for success in restaurant teams.

McDonald’s has recently launched their Where You Want to Be campaign in response to this insight. By providing strong soft skills training and mentorship opportunities, McDonald’s is hoping to position themselves as an employer of choice for young, ambitious talent.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea for restaurant employers to follow their lead.

Winning today’s talent wars requires employers cultivate a strong reputation and culture. For restaurants fearing the “Gen Z labor crisis,” the solution could be to hitch your reputation to the great reputation of top employers in other industries, that is, to make your restaurant a place where other great employers know they should look for talent when hiring. It might seem counterintuitive, but the benefit is this: ambitious young talent will seek you out first, no matter where they ultimately want to end up in their future careers. The nature of most restaurant and food service positions are transient by nature anyway, so why not take advantage of that fact rather than fight against it?

Just imagine what your team would look like if it were comprised of people who were working for you because they are intrinsically motivated by their own goals and self-improvement. Imagine the benefits of having managers who are highly-engaged in working with each and every employee to find opportunities for continuous improvement. In that kind of culture your prestige is bound to skyrocket as customers come to know you for your great service, front line employees know you for your commitment to their personal development, and passionate leaders know you for supporting strong management.

Start by identifying which soft skills behaviors are most important in your restaurant, and why. Make a clear connection between those soft skills and the careers your employees aspire to. Find ways to turn those soft skills from something ephemeral to something concrete by focusing on specific, observable behaviors rather than vague qualities or personality traits. Get your managers aligned on how to both coach others on those behaviors and “walk the walk” themselves. Then do everything you can to connect top employers desperate for strong soft skills with the great employees on your team whom you’ve developed.

Of course, laying the groundwork will likely be difficult and time consuming. But the long-term benefits are so worth it.