Is Gen Z the Workforce Solution?
by David Klemt
Is Gen Z the solution to the industry’s workforce problem?
That’s one big question posed during the 2021 Restaurants Canada Show.
A panel consisting of Philip Mondor, president and CEO of Tourism HR Canada; Adam Morrison, president and CEO of Ontario Tourism Education Corporation; Jody Palubiski, CEO of the Charcoal Group; and Lori Wilson, manager of people and change at BDO Consulting have answers.
Canada’s hospitality industry is facing a labour shortage. In fact, that has been the case since before the pandemic.
According to several sources, the hospitality industry is Canada’s fourth-largest private-sector employer. And yet, there’s a labour crisis.
This is partially due to Baby Boomers retiring. As they leave the workforce, there’s a disparity in the number of people in Canada working or seeking work.
According to a January 2020 report from The Globe and Mail, there were at least 60,000 empty positions in foodservice before Covid-19 lockdowns.
Mondor concurs with that article’s sentiment. He expects “a very large shortfall” over the next year that could force the industry into a four-year recovery.
Neither Wilson, Mondor, Morrison or Palubiski see Gen Z as the solution to Canada’s labour shortage problem.
Now, that isn’t to suggest that operators and managers should dismiss Gen Z. Rather, Mondor suggests including this generation as they enter the workforce without viewing them as the only solution.
“Relying on youth alone is not going to meet the demand,” says Mondor.
Instead, Mondor posits that new Canadians—immigrants—will play a significant role in the hospitality industry moving forward. In fact, Mondor expects immigrants to make up 50 percent of Canada’s workforce.
Recruitment and Training
Palubiski says that what separates Gen Z from other generations is how connected and informed they are. Screen time provides Gen Zers plenty of information about social, regional and global issues.
To recruit Gen Z, Palubiski suggests brands and businesses be transparent about their stances on issues such as sustainability and the climate.
However, that approach to recruiting isn’t just effective when it comes to Gen Z—employees and guests alike want to know where a brand stands.
Morrison says that it’s important to be cognizant of the employment market. Knowing what people are being paid, even if an operator can’t match or beat that rate, is helpful. It’s also part of an effective strategy, says Morrison, to understand the ambitions of candidates to see if available roles will match their motivations.
Once an operator has built a team, the next step—training—is key to staff retention. And not just training for the specifics of one particular role in a restaurant or bar.
Rather, the panel agrees that this industry does a poor job of documenting transferrable skills. For example, operators can help develop employees’ leadership and conflict resolution skills (among many others) that they can take into other careers. Operators must explain that benefit to employees and help nurture it.
Additionally, the panel suggests looking at training and retention in the following ways to adapt and make businesses in this industry stronger:
- Invest in people, don’t just hire them. That means training and developing their skills and careers.
- View hiring and training as investments, not costs.
- Everyone makes mistakes. True leaders admit their mistakes, fix them, and move forward.
- Ask this question: Do your employees feel a greater affinity for this industry and your business after they’ve started working with you?
In parting, operators and managers should consider this: Palubiski had to furlough 950 employees due to the pandemic. A staggering 95 percent returned when they were called back. That is effective hiring, training, development and retention to emulate.