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A tighter labor market demands creative thinking

A tighter labor market demands creative thinking

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Simply noting a job seeker’s age has always given operators a very rough idea of how well the candidate might work out. But you have to look much deeper if you want to consistently make successful new hires for your restaurant today. A new study from Assess Systems argues that restaurants will make better hiring decisions if they analyze applicants for critical competencies and traits rather than rely too heavily on stereotypical assumptions about how certain generational cohorts behave at work.  

It’s timely news for operators. Low unemployment is fueling already high turnover rates of both hourly and managerial positions.

“We are seeing the toughest tightening of the labor market in the postrecession era,” says business advisory firm Alix Partners. National Restaurant Association chief economist Bruce Grindy agrees. “Many restaurant operators are experiencing the double-edged sword of stronger customer traffic and a shrinking labor pool that comes with an improving economy and job market,” he writes. One trouble spot drawing a lot of attention right now: the kitchen.

It’s costly to constantly replace departing staffers, and high turnover is a morale killer for the hourly workers and managers who stick with you. In this context, word that valuable employees can be found in every age group is welcome.

“While generational differences exist, their perceived impact has become overblown. Our research illustrates that personality and behavioral factors are much more significant, and determine if a person is the right fit for your restaurant,” says Steve Sasser, president and c.e.o. of Assess Systems, a Dallas-based talent selection and people development firm. “It’s a must to use competency modeling, which ensures the people you’re hiring have the skills, knowledge, and characteristics necessary to perform well in their roles and as part of your team.”

Operators can use sophisticated tools to identify an applicant’s competencies or simply rely on their gut instincts. No matter the method, you’re looking for employees that have good time-management skills, can juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, know how to provide exceptional customer service and are able to tolerate high-frustration situations.

The Assess Systems report, titled “Generational Differences: The Newest Way to Justify a Bad Hire,”  is a high-level study that analyzed work-related traits of more than 500,000 people and interpreted them in light of the needs of restaurant positions.

But even the researchers at Assess were moved to give special attention to Millennials. As the NRA’s Grindy points out, that’s the generation where restaurant operators are finding more potential new hires. “With teen representation in the restaurant workforce declining, a majority of the new restaurant jobs went to Millennials in recent years,” he writes. “The share of restaurant jobs held by 20-to-24-year-olds rose from 21.4 percent in 2007 to 24.2 percent in 2014, while 25-to-34-year-olds also took on a larger role in the restaurant workforce.”

The Assess report points out a couple of areas in which the attitudes and work behaviors of Millennials are worth noting.

“A lot of articles claim that Millennials are better at performing multiple tasks at once, and either less or more hopeful about the future than previous generations. Our study found that optimism and multitasking remain stable across generations, with Millennials agreeing to approximately the same amount of questions for these scales as other generations,” the report authors write.

Commenting on other traits, they point out that “the decline in realistic thinking and self reliance in Millennials is thought to be caused by a less-independent and more scheduled upbringing, and the expectation to be frequently heard and included by authority figures, which may not be a realistic opportunity.”

A restaurant operator’s skill in hiring and handling Millennial-aged employees matters because, according to Assess, more than 10 million of them will be joining the workforce over the next five years. Get ready.

Contact Bob Krummert at [email protected]

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