The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that workers in the 55-and-older age group are predicted to make up 24 percent of the labor force by 2018. Workers in the 55-64 age group are expected to increase significantly during the upcoming decade; at the same time, the population hospitality employers rely heavily on—the 16-24 age group—is expected to decline.
Fortunately, mature workers are a great fit for foodservice and hospitality. They tend to cause fewer accidents and make fewer mistakes, are self-motivated and disciplined, respect authority and are generally happier on the job. They can also serve as mentors for younger employees in addition to excelling at customer relations.
Older workers also respond differently to employers’ training and engagement efforts.
Until recently, very little research has focused on training methods suitable for older workers in the foodservice industry. But Kent State University faculty members Swathi Ravichandran and Kelly Cichy and graduate students Monica Powers and Kara Kirby recently conducted two focus groups with foodservice workers aged 55 and over who were employed in a variety of commercial and noncommercial foodservice establishments to determine what training styles resonate with this age group.
The consensus among the participants was that employers neither acknowledged nor met their unique training needs.
Other findings included:
* Focus group participants strongly felt that there was a need for better leadership. They felt unsupported when it came to their own training. The chief issue was that supervisors rarely sought their input on the methods used to train older workers.
* Older workers desired continuous on-the-job training that accommodated a wide range of learning styles. However, it is recommended that foodservice managers break the training components into smaller, more manageable units, as opposed to lengthy continuous training. While they valued classroom training and demonstrations when appropriate, they expressed a clear preference for one-on-one instruction, especially when technology was involved. What it means: Managers should focus on individual workers’ knowledge, skills and capabilities when making decision about training and development.
* Older foodservice workers expressed a need for more training and wanted more time allocated for training. They preferred a slower pace, specifically when it involved training on new technologies. The participants explained that they did not have an issue with using new technologies but rather with the method and pace at which the new technology was introduced. What it means: Foodservice managers should offer self-paced computer-assisted instruction such as online videos and simulation exercises. At the conclusion of each training module, a quiz can be held to provide instant feedback on learning. When technology is involved in the training process, older workers should also be allowed to have face-to-face discussions for clarifications.
* Study participants unanimously agreed that they wanted feedback to improve their job performance. They also wanted managers to explain the training objectives prior to beginning the training process.
This research was published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.
Contact Megan Rowe at [email protected]