The challenge of attracting and retaining talent is one that’s becoming increasingly difficult across all industries right now. A high rate of employment coupled with a strong economy has resulted in job openings being at their highest rate in almost two decades. Employees know they are in demand and have more options.

Hospitality is feeling the pain more than many other industries. A recent study by The Caterer revealed that 82% of hospitality and tourism businesses believe that it is currently harder to recruit suitable staff than at any time in the past. Generation Z, born in the mid-90s, is now hitting the workforce in droves. Hospitality has traditionally relied on a high proportion of younger employees — almost 20% of hospitality workers are under 25 — compared to 8% in other industries — and so attracting and retaining Gen Zers is critical for hotels, bars and restaurants to succeed in the years ahead.

Who Are Generation Z?

Differing enormously from the millennial generation that preceded them, Gen Zers have unique views on the world and the workplace. Generation Z employees have grown up to the backdrop of political failures and economic uncertainties, so they are cynical of brands and traditional advertising, while also being far more sensible and conservative than older millennials or even Gen Xers. Most tellingly perhaps for recruiters or hospitality companies looking to tap into this swelling potential talent pool, Gen Zers are also the first genuinely digitally-native generation, growing up with an iPad in their pushchair and more likely to watch YouTube or Netflix than traditional TV. By making technology central to your recruitment and operations, you can provide a workplace that is not only Gen Z-friendly but also serves to attract new employees in search of jobs and careers.

Using Technology to Attract Gen Z Employees

Make applying easy

There’s an old angling adage that goes something like “Fish where the fish are but use the right bait”. Great, but what’s it got to do with staffing? Well, the traditional channels for finding employees aren’t going to work when the workforce you’re targeting isn’t traditional.

  • Use social media — both paid ads and content showcasing what it’s like to be a young person working in your company — to attract talent. Almost 80% of young employees look for jobs on social media first.
  • Create referral schemes so that your current likeable, conscientious, young employees are incentivised to encourage their equally agreeable and conscientious friends to apply.
  • When they do apply, make the process as simple as possible — an application tool that sucks in their LinkedIn profile and requires few additional details is ideal.


Provide Flexibility

One of the main reasons that young employees avoid careers in hospitality is that they see it as a profession with long, often antisocial hours and limited flexibility. It’s vital that this perception is addressed to attract more talent to hospitality companies.

While customer-facing employees don’t have the luxury of working from home, smart scheduling software can allow for flexibility in terms of employees being able to choose shifts and shift patterns that fit the rest of their lives. Students can choose to work around their studies and young parents can opt for times that work with childcare arrangements.

Just as importantly, Generation Z has a different view of employment to the traditional one-person-one-job approach, with many already bringing in some form of income via the gig economy or a side-hustle by the time they finish their studies. Flexible scheduling allows them to choose shifts that support and don’t impact on their art collective, budding pop careers or online store.

Showcase your caring side

Gen Zers are interested in both political and social causes, but especially issues relating to equality. If your company regularly works the counters at soup kitchens, raises funds for local charities, or offers its spaces free of charge for female entrepreneurship meetings, make sure you showcase these on your website and social media channels. If you don’t, maybe you should. Remember: in a high-employment economy, you’re not only competing against other hospitality firms but also retailers, manufacturers and facilities service providers. Without any deeper “purpose” to attract them, employees will go to the highest bidder.

Using Technology to Retain Gen Z Employees

Make it mobile

Gen Zers live their lives through their mobile devices so, whatever technology you use within your business, you have to make sure that it’s mobile-first and that it works across all devices and operating systems. That’s table stakes now.

Communicate your culture

Like millennials before them, Gen Zers want to feel connected to and inspired by their employer but companies are failing spectacularly in that regard. The turnover rate in the restaurant industry is as high as 70% annually. This doesn’t only make staffing difficult, but — with the process of finding, recruiting and training even junior employees costing more than £1,000 a pop — it also slices enormous chunks off your bottom line.

Using a workplace messaging app is shown to significantly increase employee engagement due to head office being able to provide real-time company updates, employees being able to communicate with managers and each other easily, and all company data being easily and quickly accessible in one virtual place. Engaged employees are proven to provide better customer service, stay with companies longer, and positively impact their colleagues.

Workplace messaging can also be used by managers to provide concrete but non-confrontational feedback to employees or provide a platform for team members to leave suggestions. As a serious-minded generation, younger employees crave objective feedback but also expect to be heard when they have a strong opinion.

Video, video, video

What does being completely digitally-native actually mean? Well, when Gen Zers want to learn how to do something, their first port of call is a YouTube tutorial. This is the video generation.

  • If you want to provide training and development via mobile software, for example (you should: Gen Zers are ambitious and more financially-conservative and career-minded than their predecessors, so they highly value workplaces that develop them), then do it by video.
  • If you want to showcase your latest menu or demonstrate how tables should be laid out, do it by video.
  • If you want to send a message from the CEO, congratulating employees on another record-breaking holiday season (again, you should — Generation Z loves being recognised for its achievements), do it by video.

Provide support for managers

As an ambitious generation that seeks development experiences, you might find your Gen Z employees ready for positions of responsibility faster than you would have expected of older employees.
Technology can play a critical role in fast-tracking and supporting talented employees, such as:

  • Mobile-ready training or micro-learning platforms to upskill younger employees.
  • Operations software that takes the legwork and guesswork out of a lot of time-consuming tasks.
  • Scheduling software that makes staffing correctly effortless and intuitive.
  • Front-desk solutions that make oversights and double-bookings a thing of the past.
  • POS software to speed up transactions and manage inventory.

Remember, Generation Z is hitting your workplace and is the most technologically-proficient generation of employees there’s ever been. Rather than fearing these strange new creatures, support them with the right tools and they’ll improve service and maximise productivity and efficiency within your organisation in no time.

Matt Warnock

Matt Warnock


Matt is an experienced journalist-turned-marketer, with content in his blood and a particular affinity for tech, SAAS, B2B and hospitality. Originally from the north west of England but now a proud Amsterdammer, his first job was working as a kitchen porter, eventually progressing to the dizzy heights of silver service waiter and occasional barman!

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