Viewpoint – Generation Y are our future

22 October 2012
Viewpoint – Generation Y are our future

Chris Penn, GM at Flemings hotel, Mayfair, London, takes issue with the attitude expressed by some chefs towards the new generation of talent

In Caterer and Hotelkeeper‘s recent article entitled Too much too young? I couldn't help but be riled by some of the opinions about the people who are, whether we like it or not, going to be the future of our industry.

The elements that concerned me most were the sweeping statements that could prevent the evolution of our industry and leave us even further behind other industries.

I would like to start by being honest about where we are as an industry. We still have a skills shortage; we still find it hard to find people who believe that hospitality is a credible career; we are an industry that is slow to react to change and innovation - I could go on…

So I would like to take some elements of the article and turn it on its head, to see if we could think about the next generation in a different way and actually embrace the opportunity that a fresh-thinking generation may bring.

When talking about their five-year goals, we were told young people wanted to own a restaurant or be a millionaire, rather than grafting hard. This was called "naïve ambition". I prefer "drive and determination". Think back to when you were at college and you were asked the same question - did you really say that in five years' time you would like to be grafting hard? What is the harm in dreams? We should help people fulfil their dreams.

Meanwhile, another interviewee said: "If they see something as old-fashioned, they tell you… I don't want an opinion." Was the way that we were trained and treated the correct way? How do we improve and innovate? Feedback is an integral part of learning and achievement, and sometimes the best ideas can come from the strangest scenarios. Perhaps there is a fear of feedback. When I trained I used to keep a note of times when I felt disengaged and when I felt that I was poorly treated. I made a promise to myself that I would learn from this and allow it to improve the way that I manage people in the future.

As for stages, one person quoted in the article said: "The first questions people often ask me are, ‘How much will I get paid? How long will I work? How much time off will I get? What will I be doing?'" These sound like very sensible questions to establish whether a working relationship will be successful. After all, the discussion does mention the importance of recruiting the right people in the first place.

So, perhaps it is us who need to learn from the colleges that already understand Generation Y and ensure that our employment practices are ready for them. After all, whether we like it or not, our industry will be governed by Generation Y at some stage in the future - perhaps in the next five years.

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