If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The digital natives, that is.
Rather than wailing about the ubiquity of cellphones and earbuds, two fast-food employers are using smartphones to their hiring and training advantage.
Ty Yano, who just opened his 11th McDonald’s restaurant in the Kansas City area, wrestles with turnover rates of between 30 and 80 percent, typical for entry-level job sites that employ a lot of young people. Nearly half of his employees are under 21.
He soon found, as many employers know, that his existing workers are the best referral agents to attract applicants – “but the young want to do things online as opposed to sitting across from you. To get them to come in (to apply) is hard.”
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So Yano’s team uses and encourages individual Facebook and Twitter posts, both by the company and by employees. Each restaurant also uses its own McDonald’s website, “but Facebook is probably the best response,” he says, with current employees being “the best advertisement” for recruiting friends and others.
At Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs, meanwhile, president Scott Ford says smartphones have saved the training day in his 82-unit chain of sandwich shops, where there’s now a training app for just about every procedure that’s part of the restaurant job.
“It’s anecdotal, but I bet 90 percent plus of our employees have a smartphone,” Ford says. “They already have their earbuds. They use the wireless connection in the restaurants.”
So Goodcents basically abandoned printing training materials and now offers 55 separate training videos that employees access through an Employee Text Club. Need to learn or refresh your tomato-cutting skills? There’s a 30-second video for that.
“We’re taking the Buzzfeed video approach,” Ford says. “Oddly, it doesn’t take more than 30 seconds to show many of the tasks. We will be putting out about 50 more videos on how to maintain our restaurant equipment.”
Both employers say their basic messages focus on punctuality, the importance of schedules, and how to interact with customers, co-workers and bosses. But they also want entry-level employees to see a training path for career growth.
Online learning is a good way to track where workers are in their development, Ford says, and he’s willing to pay well above the minimum wage to workers who show continuous improvement.
“These kids are so knowledgeable as far as computers, touch pads,” Yano says. “It takes them just minutes to learn how to work the pop-up menus on the cash register or work the drive-through headsets. They assimilate very quickly.”
The industry’s challenge is moving good workers from assimilation to leadership and keeping them in career-worthy jobs.