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Sector Soapbox

Is foodservice an attractive career option for millennials? It depends on the business, says Shirley Duncalf.

By 2020, half the workforce will be millennials. When it comes to attracting this generation, foodservice operators need to approach recruitment and internal policies in a different manner to appeal to these potential employees who are more conscious than ever of a business’s environmental impact.

Did you know, for example, that 88% of millennials prefer a company that emphasises corporate social responsibility and 86% would consider leaving an employer if the CSR policy no longer met their expectations? Clearly, it is crucial that the industry adapts its strategies to ensure it attracts a portion of this burgeoning pool of talent.

So, as a hospitality employer, how do you ensure your sustainability strategy stands out to this generation? Let’s take a look at three ideas.

  1. Innovative Internal Initiatives

There has long been talk around bettering internal ‘green’ policies but the millennial generation seek companies that do things differently. Companies that stand out from the crowd. There are always ways of innovating your internal environmental policies and involving your employees. One way could be through charitable donations. According to a Deloitte study, 63% of Millennials donate to charity, and likewise want their employer to have a sense of purpose beyond profit. Hosting regular prize draws, where employees can opt in and take part, is a way to encourage donations and reward employees at the same time.

Or, if you have an on-site canteen you could overhaul your suppliers so employees are offered food and drink from British or regional suppliers or producers. Supporting British businesses reduces food miles, carbon emissions and also offers clearer traceability on the food origin – a win, win all round.

  1. Partnerships

Another approach is to look at innovative partnerships. Supporting a charity, body or local group that aligns with the values in your sustainability strategy means employees are united in supporting a common goal. Everyone can get involved and in different ways – this approach appeals to millennials who prefer practical measures rather than intangible ideas. For example, any unusable products that would ordinarily be wasted could be donated to local projects. Broken bags of sugar could be given to local beekeepers and help to feed honey bees, as a substitute to nectar. Equally, any short-life products could be donated to food banks.

You could go one step further and offer study tours; a much more immersive and authentic way to engage with the partnership. We’ve worked with One Water – the ethical bottled water brand – for many years, helping to raise awareness of the global water crisis. A team of us visited Malawi to see first-hand the effects that access to fresh water can have on communities. Study tours with a charity partner can offer a genuinely enriching experience for employees and harness the passion that so many of the millennial generation have for ‘giving back’.

  1. Weave sustainability with employee benefits

A company’s mission, vision and culture has a significant impact on the quality of the candidates it attracts, especially millennials. Do any of the employee benefits you offer align directly back to sustainability? Some 87% of millennials view a successful business as going beyond financial metrics to focus on issues such as environmental and social impact.

So, instead of being able to purchase extra annual leave days, employees could opt for extra ‘charity days’, which could be used to volunteer for a cause they are passionate about – perhaps working with the homeless, a soup kitchen, visiting schools and generally supporting improvement measures by these organisations.

Millennials are the future of business. Sustainability plays a big role and it’s crucial the industry adapts to ensure we stay ahead and continue to attract talent into the sector.”

Shirley Duncalf is head of sustainability at Bidfood.