Workforce Shortage: Grooming Future Employees
By Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE
School of Hospitality, Georgia State University
James Canton in The Extreme Future The Top Trends that Will Reshape the World for the Next 5, 10 and 20 Years (Dutton, 2006) states:
A global war for talent will be the top driver of competitive advantage, pitting nations, individuals, and companies against one another as talent grows scarce.
Canton goes on to emphasize that “finding high-tech skilled employees from a global talent pool will be the greatest challenge for every organization and every nation. Workforce crises that arise in the near future will be traceable to the lack of skilled workers.”
Others, such as Ken Dychtwald in Workforce Crisis How to Beat the Coming Shortage of Skills and Talent (Harvard Business School Press, 2006) support Canton’s prediction. The basis for the impending talent war is that nearly one-third of all Americans, 76 million people, were born between 1946 and 1964. It is expected that a large percentage of these “baby boomers” will be leaving the workforce over the next 20 to 25 years. This wave of retirement will start to be evident within the next five years.
Based on these demographics, Dychtwald predicts that by 2010 the United States will experience a shortfall of 10 million workers. For the restaurant industry, predictions target an increase in Georgia from the current 382,500 employees to 460,400 in 2017. This figure equates to a 20.4% increase within ten years for an industry that is already challenged with a labor shortage.
Past articles have elaborated on the importance of employee retention and strategies aimed at better hiring, training and coaching necessary to maximize an employee’s tenure with an organization. We also have to start thinking creatively of building critical partnerships to reach younger generations with the message of career opportunities in our industry.
These partnerships can be structured in ways that target both organizational needs as well as what will ignite the passion of our future restaurant employees.
For example, this past summer the senior capstone class at Georgia State University’s School of Hospitality partnered with The HoneyBaked Ham Company to engage in an in-depth project that focused on possible new distribution channels for the organization. The executive team of HoneyBaked including President and CEO, Chuck Bengochea, visited the class on several occasions throughout the seven-week semester to discuss the company’s core values, mission, vision and strategic direction. The outcome was mutually beneficial. HoneyBaked gained nation-wide data collected by the students as well as creative menu and marketing ideas.
The students’ learning surpassed any “hypothetical, textbook” examples. In addition to refining their research skills in the strategic planning process, the students were mentored by the HoneyBaked execs throughout the semester and saw first-hand excellent role models of leadership and professionalism.
Partnership opportunities abound at all educational levels including:
- Go to area schools with samples of new menu items and get student ideas on naming the items
- Participate in elementary, middle and high school career information days to discuss what it is like to be a restaurant manager, chef or owner
- Participate in college and university career fairs
- Contact local schools and universities to offer the services of your business in providing guest lecturers or field trip sites
- Ask local Parent Teacher Associations how your business can get involved in supporting your neighborhood schools (remember parents often play a big part in shaping the career expectations of their children!)
- Find ways to inform school guidance counselors of career opportunities in the restaurant industry. Several restaurants may even want to collaborate in hosting an “info luncheon” or “info break” for teachers and counselors to discuss career options emphasizing career ladders that lead to restaurant management and ownership.
- Design student internships where students can work in part-time positions along with experiencing meaningful mentoring and coaching during the process.
What can help optimize the positives of these encounters?
- Realize the benefits may not be immediately evident. You are “planting the seeds” of interest that are vital to a workforce “in the making” for the future of our industry.
- Emphasize the positives of the restaurant industry. Many restaurants are multi-million dollar ï¿½ and some even billion dollar – businesses. Managers have to be knowledgeable and skilled – comparable to other high-level business operators. The encounters with students, faculty, counselors and parents present opportunities to create positive, professional images of the restaurant and foodservice industry. Sending representatives from your company that epitomize passion for the restaurant and foodservice industry is absolutely critical.
- Make the visits memorable. Give out gift coupons. These can be for reasonable amounts and they bring in new customers. Take photos with the classes and give them copies. Get student e-mail addresses or home addresses and send company newsletters, personal letters at key times of the year (i.e. summer is approaching are you looking for a summer job?), and updates on job opportunities for older students.
- Think of ways to make the partnerships beneficial for all involved. For example, with the HoneyBaked project at Georgia State, all parties were actively engaged from the top corporate leaders to the students. The students felt supported and that their talents and perspectives were valued and appreciated.
Partnerships, like those described above, are a better fit for some organizational cultures than others. To reap results, companies have to embrace a collaborative approach of investing now for the future. For many restaurant companies, this is a natural fit. These businesses will most likely find the partnering results positive and worth the long-term investment.