2012 October: Making Young Workers Tick

Who and what is Gen Y? The sheer variety in this young workforce makes it difficult to define Generation Y. This group is so ambiguous that it doesn’t even have its own generational name. The popular expression merely morphed from Gen X to Y.

This how I define Gen-Y: They’re a group of people who have been given everything—a defined path, a defined sense of worth, a laser pinpoint focus on how and what success is. All they know is to follow the path. This is both a positive and a negative. Never before has a group of kids been so highly talented while completely lacking any self-drive.

Trying to teach them the way you were taught—or expecting things of them in exactly the same way they were expected of you—will most likely lead to re-instruction and certain frustration. I’m generalizing here, but if you were trained with a 1,000-page manual on what to do and when to do it, then you might be great at giving the micro-managed direction that this group feeds off of. If, in contrast, you give minimal direction, don’t be surprised if one out of every 50 new hires “gets it” and gives top job performance.

I can say with absolute certainty to every single person reading this that there is a better way. There is a better way to train, a better way to manage, and a better way to thrive with this up-and-coming work force.

My father is a Retired Marine lieutenant colonel and every male in my family has served in the Marines at one point or another, including myself. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 20 years old and changed my life to become a restaurant owner instead of a career Judge Advocate General lawyer. What I witnessed in the Marines is that young people when presented with a path—a path that leads to respect, self worth and a sense of accomplishment—can carry out any responsibility your pizzeria can set before them and then some.

Think about the power of the path to self-worth. What does your pizza place do for your employee’s mentality? Does your workplace create a consistent mindset fore the employee of, “We crank out a semi-decent product while I wait for the next thing in my life to flop into my lap while old man pizza-owner wastes his life inside these four walls”? Or is yours a place where it might instead be said that, “I the employee am learning how to conduct myself in a business, pushing my own boundaries and abilities to be a valued commodity when I one day leave this job or, fingers crossed, learn to manage and run my own store with this boss I respect and value?

All employees worth a damn want this. They are out there. The Marines transform kids smarter and dumber than your staff into focused, driven young people—who are motivated, ready and willing to deliver on their tasks.

However, you are not the Marine Corps; you are not dealing with life and death. You deal in pizza. The good thing is that you don’t have to be a drill sergeant and yell to get your point across. If you conduct yourself appropriately, the fear of having you be disappointed in their results will be fear enough. Look at what high school and college sports teams accomplish with young people. They achieve focused efforts from kids not through monetary gain but through a feeling of self-worth.

So how does that translate to Gen Y more than any other generation? Gen Y is used to the quick course. Go to this place; get this Facebook page. Text instead of talk; use GPS instead of mapping it out. They have always had a path. SO GIVE THEM ONE.

Create a rank structure. Not just manager and assistant manager, but different hats, shirts, or jackets for each level of skill and knowledge. Create programs and classes with direct expectations, arduous prerequisites, and pay raises and social incentives delivered upon completion.

Money alone is not motivation enough. I know that sounds crazy. You might have been willing to clean toilets all night if it meant extra cash, but that is not the norm for this group. There is an exception for servers getting tips, but for staff that needs to complete a prep list or get food out fast and perfect while maintaining high morale, a direct motivator like status in the restaurant works best. This is where ranking status and differences in the uniform parts they wear can work to your advantage.

Create a sense of positive competition, and reward results over effort. Appreciate those who try, but reward and openly compliment those who perform. As for staff that can’t get on board, create defined, emotionless structure of what will happen when they don’t meet expectations—and then act. Never give a lot of attention to negative actions, because Gen Y is attention-starved, only feed good attention to those who deserve it and punish negative behavior swiftly and directly.

Gen Y has several advantages. Show them how, watch them do it, and then tell them that is the standard and they can perform consistently. If your staff is proud to work at your restaurant and glad that they work for someone like you, than turnover, labor costs, food quality and quality of life can and will fall in line.

For more details on International Pizza Expo 2013, visit www.pizzaexpo.com.

Mike Bausch operates two Andolini’s Pizzeria stores in Tulsa, Okla., with a total of 140 employees. He will give a seminar at Pizza Expo 2013 on Thursday, March 21, titled “Managing and Motivating Gen Y Employees.”

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