When hiring: Don't forget grandma and grandpa

| by Matt MacInnis
When hiring: Don't forget grandma and grandpa

Restaurant chains continue to struggle with hiring and retention in this ever-tightening labor market. With a 146 percent turnover rate, limited-service restaurants in particular are subject to the headwinds and costs associated with the issue. Relief doesn't appear to be in sight.

Let's start with hiring. Not only is the job market tight with only 3.8 percent unemployment (as of May), but restaurant brands are also facing a population shift within the job market. Only 35 percent of 16- to 21-year-olds currently hold a job or want to secure one — a number that has dropped 10 percent in the last decade. For an industry that historically depends on an endless supply of young workers, these numbers are especially painful. 

But the market offers an interesting, if somewhat surprising, opportunity to solve the problem: baby boomers, aged 55 to 72, are working longer than expected, and many are seeking out “bridge work” between their careers and retirement. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 97 percent of this age group is active in the job market, surprisingly even higher than the national rate.

The reasons for their continued employment — modest savings, recession hangovers, longer life expectancies — matter less than the fact that this group represents a major part of the solution to the hiring problem among front-line workforces.

As it turns out, this population segment is the fastest growing restaurant workforce group. Flexible hours, coupled with a desire to interact with people on the job, make restaurants an appealing option for older workers.

These discussions sometimes garner a bit of unmerited ageism. The evidence shows that hiring seasoned applicants over new workforce entrants has strong positives. A study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and McDonald's found that older workers have low turnover rates, low absentee rates, and are more interested in learning new tasks.

And if you're wondering about productivity and performance, older workers beat their younger counterparts there, too. An international 2010 Cogito study found that older workers have more consistent and stable levels of productivity over time. The study attributed these findings to their wealth of experience, as well as stronger problem-solving skills, greater self-confidence, and higher levels of motivation. 

The same study found that older workers can learn new technology skills if provided the opportunity. That assertion is even more true today as baby boomers have been adopting technology at a rapid rate. According to Pew Research Center's 2018 analysis, 67 percent of baby boomers now own smartphones—a huge jump from 25 percent in 2011. Their adoption rates have also grown in other technology areas as well: 52 percent now own a tablet computer, and 57 percent use social media.

All of these insights dovetail nicely with modern retention strategies. At a time when mobile devices are ubiquitous in every workforce age group, it's logical to mimic consumer trends and match current learning behaviors. Let's face it: there's really only one place where it makes sense for your frontline team to train, and it isn't that stuffy, windowless back office. With mobile enablement, your frontline team trains shoulder-to-shoulder in the context of the kitchen. 

With employees who can access training and reference materials on a mobile device at any time, you enable everyone to do their job under any circumstance. And when interactive microlearning (bite-sized learning) materials are provided, you benefit from 90 percent knowledge retention and 50 percent more engagement with the materials.

For anyone looking to uphold brand standards, guarantee consistent execution, and provide better guest experiences, this one is a no-brainer: cast a wider net with your recruitment efforts and onboard every employee using mobile tech. It's just what your customers ordered.

Photo by iStock 

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Digital Signage, Equipment & Supplies, Staffing & Training, Systems / Technology

Matt MacInnis

Matt is the Founder and CEO of Inkling. His vision for the future of how people communicate drives Inkling’s strategy, product development and culture. He leads Inkling to make the world a smarter place. Prior to founding Inkling, Matt spent eight years at Apple, growing the use of its products in education and the sciences. He holds a Electrical and Computer Engineering degree from Harvard University

wwwView Matt MacInnis's profile on LinkedIn

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