Restaurants must adopt a gig attitude to attract Gen Z workers

Workforce Development, Restaurant Operations,

Source: Fast Casual

As members of Generation Z search for their first job throughout high school and college, the multigenerational workforce continues to widen — and with that comes a new set of expectations for employers trying to keep up. A recent survey conducted by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated has uncovered helpful insights on the attitudes and expectations of Gen Zers at work. Of course, more than half (54%) said pay was the most important consideration when applying for their first full-time job. But this next generation also wants work-life balance, a good manager, and schedule flexibility — and they want their work to be interesting and their company to be engaging. (No pressure!)

Restaurants have a unique opportunity to engage Gen Zers from the get-go: The survey found that nearly one in four would gladly take a job in the foodservice industry while in high school or college. In fact, restaurant work is second only to retail work, which is preferred by 28%. However, the real opportunity exists for employers who are able to convert their employees' initial interest into year-over-year retention — even after high school or college, where the survey revealed interest in the hospitality field significantly drops.

In order to attract the newest generation — and keep them engaged for the long haul — restaurant leaders should remain invested in advancing their workplace culture. This means providing a modern employee experience (think: clocking in and out from a mobile device, or finding coverage for a shift automatically and in real time), introducing forward-thinking workplace policies to encourage work-life balance, and holding managers accountable to ensure a supportive working environment — all things that Gen Zers will innately expect from their employer.

Money still talks.

In an era of ever-rising college tuition rates and student loan debt, money continues to motivate employees above all else, regardless of location or vocation. When applying for their first full-time job, pay is most important to 54% of Gen Zers. And this mindset carries into their first few years on the job: Just about half (44%) will measure their personal success at a company by their salary.

It should come as no surprise that money transcends any notion of a generational divide; while Gen Zers in the workforce today are more likely to view their current job as simply a way to make money versus a career or even a career-building opportunity, this is not far from the thinking shared by the generations that came before them.

Give them the flexibility to find workplace independence.

Although Gen Zers are split 50/50 on whether or not they would forgo stable employment in exchange for gig work, it is abundantly clear that this generation is drawn to the flexibility and independence that gig work offers. More than half (55%) of Gen Zers are drawn to gig jobs solely based on the ability to work their own schedules. In fact, it's become critical that traditional employers, restaurants included, consider how to provide these staple features of schedule flexibility and independence to their employees. An employer's ability to both maintain a strong talent pipeline and boost employee retention are riding on this. 

One-third (33%) of Gen Zers worldwide said they would "never" tolerate an employer that gave them no say over their work schedule, and one in four 4 (26%) would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible scheduling. In Canada (33%) and the U.S. (31%), flexibility for employees to work when, where, and how they want is motivation to deliver their "best work." 

Enhance the traits that gig work lacks: Stability and structure.

Across the globe, the vast majority (90%) of Gen Zers have at least some hesitation to participate in the gig economy. (Hint: They fear an unstable paycheck.) This suggests there is a sizeable opportunity for employers like restaurants to compete with the gig economy for talent by adopting the positive aspects of gig work — flexibility and independence — while still providing the stability and structure that traditional employment brings. This combination is what Gen Zers truly crave.

Above all else, Gen Zers are looking for a job that differs from the long stressful hours their parents worked. They expect their employer to embrace, not reject or ignore, the benefits of digital automation and real-time accountability, similar to the consumer technology they've grown up using. Employers that are supportive of these expectations and encourage Gen Z employees to be themselves at work will hold on to high performers longer and, as an added bonus, inspire them to do their best work.