Training millennials

Once they’re onboarded, how to get young restaurant staffers the need-to-know info.
millennial tablet

Last month, we discussed best practices for getting top millennial job-seekers in the door. But hiring is only the first step for restaurant operators looking to employ young staffers. Getting millennial recruits up to snuff means re-evaluating longstanding procedures, such as handbooks and classroom learning, in order to jive with the tendencies and preferences of this always-questioning, tech-dependent demographic.

While some bosses may be irked and baffled by the stereotypical millennial habit to question superiors, that inquisitive mindset is not a diss. Millennials were encouraged by their parents from an early age to voice their opinions, ask questions and share their ideas, says Hannah Ubl of Minneapolis researcher BridgeWorks. Read another way, “they are collaborative,” she says. “This is the generation that grew up only doing group projects while looking at posters that read, ‘There is no I in team’,” says Ubl. And it’s this group-think mentality that is evident from Day One on the job.

“In the past, the boss would say jump, you’d say how high,” says Eric Chester, author of “Employing Generation Why: Understanding, Managing, and Motivating Your New Workforce.” Now, millennials want rationale before jumping, if they jump at all. “They say why; give me reasons. Maybe I don’t have to jump. Maybe there’s a better way,” he says.

At Perkins & Marie Callender’s, that rationale drives training. “Lead with the why,” says Donna Herbel, lead director of training and development for the Memphis-based chains.

How operators deliver that “why” also is shifting. Gabe Hosler, director of training and operations services for Carlsbad, Calif.-based Rubio’s, has found that millennials don’t see the need to memorize an entire manual up front. Rather, he refers to this demographic as “on the job” people. “They say, ‘Give me the least amount of information needed to get my job done.’ Over time, they pick up on more,” he says. So Hosler has embraced this in his training practices, creating what he calls a “succinct, scrubbed-down” program. “Get them onboarded with the small details, then impart bigger, cultural details over time,” he says.

Herbel took a similar approach at the family-dining chains, instituting what she calls the “Rule of 8 Minutes,” how much can a person grab, retain and act on in eight minutes. “A sense of urgency on getting people active translates to improved buy-in vs. spending a few days reading stuff,” she says.

But when they’re ready to learn more, information has to be readily available. “Millennials are the Google generation,” says Hosler. “They want info when and where they want it, but only when they’re ready for it.”

A study by Pew Research Center refers to millennials as “always connected.” More than any other generation, 74 percent of millennials say that technology makes life easier. And a majority (56 percent) say that tech helps people use their time more efficiently. That’s part of why forward-thinking operators like Chipotle have switched to tablet-based training. The chain gives employees content tailored to their specific positions, and staffers have control to access and navigate materials as they see fit. 

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