Monday, November 6, 2017

The Kids AREN'T Alright - Millennials Part Two

In my previous blog, I'd made the argument that complaints about millennials are nothing we haven't seen before every time a new generation comes of age.
Vincent Rotolo of Evel Pie and Lars Smith
of State of Mind, mid-competition.

But as the irony of the world would have it, right after writing that blog, I attended a gathering of great pizza minds outside San Diego, during a little shindig called the Western Pizza Trials. A number of them had something to say on the matter of millennials. In fact, they were giving me an earful, practically begging for PMQ's help on the matter of how to find good employees. It seems they're feeling the growing pains of a generational shift.

Participants in the Western Pizza Trials

Now in my defense, I never claimed millennials weren't different than previous generations. My whole point in Part One was that every generation is different. What makes this one different? Salvatore Trupiano seemed to have the best insight on how we got here:

Salvatore Trupiano of Dominic's Italian Restaurant
Oceanside, California
"I think what has happened over the years, if you go back to the days of immigration coming through Ellis Island.... that generation came through the Great Depression. You and I have never, ever understood what it could mean to not know if dinner will be served on the table tonight. That generation did. It was almost an unspoken oath that that generation said 'The next generation - our kids - will never have to go through this. We're going to make a better lifestyle for them.' And then that next generation did the same and so forth. So if you go down the chain to my generation, I've done exactly that."

Speaking from my own experience, I was raised by a child of the Depression. My grandfather, despite being a man of few words, often lectured me on his own meager childhood of extreme poverty. Though we were a low-income family ourselves, the very definition of poverty itself had changed, and it seemed important to him to let us know how good we had it compared to the squalor he knew. So what are the unintended consequences of successively better quality of life? Salvatore continues:
"I never intended to start a family and not have them have a better lifestyle than they did. My kids as well as other millennials have been raised to have everything at arm's reach. They have never been taught to have to work to get something. Today with the internet and social media, everything is instant gratification. 
These kids nowadays, if something extends over their normal existence, they completely and automatically shut off.  If the workload becomes too much for them, that's it. That's their last day, that's their last minute. They shut down. They don't come back. We're learning that if you exceed what THEIR expectations are, you lose an employee.  I grew up knowing and trying to exceed the expectations of the employer, and now we're sort of in a role-reversal. "

Makes sense. So how does a restaurant operator work around that?

"We've changed our configuration of hiring and interviews. Our interview process used to be to find the best employee for the position. That focus has changed. Now our process is - if they make it through the interview, that's already a huge accomplishment. Throughout the interview process, what we're looking for is: Do we have somebody who's actually going to come in for their shifts and perform?
Now instead of hiring one person for a position, I will hire two people for one position because I don't want to put that one person into an over-workload. So what I'll do is split that one position across two people."
Ultimately, Trupiano believes we're in a state of transition.Those millennials who want to work and make an honest living will eventually separate from those who do not. As always, the cream will rise to the top.

If only an employer had the benefit of a magical sorting hat, that process might be less painful. Unfortunately, magic is the stuff of Harry Potter books. In the meantime, we'll make do with good ole fashioned trial-and-error.