Generation Z Is Entering the Workforce: Are We Ready?

Just as restaurant managers figured out how to hire and retain Millennials, Generation Z (born after 1995) is looking for job opportunities. They have been described as being smarter than baby boomers and more ambitious than Millennials.

Generation Z employees look for a workplace that offers a strong company culture, stability and flexibility.

Given that Generation Z makes up a quarter of the U.S. population, and the average restaurant’s turnover rate is around 75 percent, making smart hiring decisions and managing turnover for this age group is business-critical for any restaurant’s future success.  

Generation Z differs from the Millennial generation in numerous ways. They grew up in more uncertain financial, economic and environmental times and in a world in which the internet, social media and mobile technology surrounded them from day one. As a result, Generation Z has different priorities and is looking for employers that embrace their new technologies and big ideas at work.

For example, in comparison to Millennials, Generation Z has less of a focus on “how will my employer develop me for advancement?” Instead, Generation Z employees look for a workplace that offers a strong company culture, stability and flexibility.

With this in mind, here are three things to think about when hiring Generation Z employees:

  • Communicate on highly visual social media channels like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Social media is a lifestyle to them and you will miss qualified candidates if you’re not actively communicating via those channels. Generation Z wants to be contacted on social media, and often uses these channels to communicate through images, such as emojis, rather than text.
  • Friendliness of people is the most important factor when assessing their culture fit with a company. According to a study presented by John Flato of HR consultant Universum Global, Generation Z cares about how a company treats its people. From the moment that members of Generation Z step into a restaurant, they are immediately evaluating their potential employer. They look for brands that have an inspiring message that speaks to them and shows that the company values its employees.
  • Discuss long-term career opportunities that show there is stability ahead. They are planners. They have seen uncertainty in the economy, and their parents and siblings often have debt, such as student loans. As a result, Generation Z has countered this uncertainty by focusing on planning for the future. Also, consider the fact that many Generation Z members may want long-term part-time opportunities since many are taking longer to finish their education.

Once a restaurant operator has hired Generation Z employees, the next step is to retain them. Here are three top initiatives that makes you attractive to them:

  • Build a relationship by providing star employees a chance to return the following summer. Members of Generation Z differ from Millennials in that they want a longer-term relationship with their employer. Many Generation Z employees will first enter the workforce looking for summer jobs, and operators can take this opportunity to build a long-term relationship. This job security supports their need to plan.
  • Offer a flexible schedule. This does not mean Generation Z wants to work less; instead, they want flexibility with their hours. They don’t mind working weekends, but they value work-life balance. An employer’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not as important to these employees as their own personal social causes, where they actively invest their free time. Offer Generation Z employees flexibility to give them time to make a difference on their own in the community.
  • Provide opportunities to do things out of their comfort zone and make an impact. Members of Generation Z are often fearful they don’t measure up, so give them opportunities to grow. For example, if they are less outgoing, have them be greeters to help build on their interpersonal skills. Ask them about their end goal, and determine ways that you can help them get there. For them, work is not just a “means to an end.” They want to make an impact.

The characteristics of Generation Z and the communication strategies to reach them are clearly a departure from previous generations. With that in mind, it’s important for restaurant operators to take the time to learn how to best attract, interact with, and retain Generation Z employees. This will pay off for your company in the long run.