Michael J. Hawkins considers what it takes to attract and retain young talent in foodservice. 

Michael Hawkins, CFSP President, Michael J. Hawkins, Inc.When Hatco’s Mike Whiteley assumed the role of president for the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) last year, he spoke of the favorable impact our work in the foodservice industry can have on the world around us. Simply put, the foodservice industry makes food safe, fun and delicious. We impact most every citizen’s daily experience. Who doesn’t want healthy, satisfying and entertaining eating experiences?

At last senior managers are realizing that our industry is aging, which creates an urgent need to inject new perspectives and renewed enthusiasm into the foodservice community as a whole. This applies to all of the skillsets that comprise the foodservice industry, including accountants, engineers, salespeople and so forth. Our great industry is full of fantastic people and we must come out in full force to attract young talent. Once they are in the door, they rarely want to leave.

Within companies hiring and retaining blue chip up-and-comers, senior management has to realize how the organization supports its salespeople, for example, and their efforts play a major part when it comes to success and retention. The tools, the training and the encouragement to achieve will determine the individual’s belief, effort and outcome. Setting goals and quotas as part of the job requirements is commonplace but plays a small part in someone’s desire to stick around.

Company leaders are all too eager to judge their teams’ ability to produce the goods, but rarely will they self-evaluate their efforts to support and encourage their most valuable asset: their people.

Can managers make presentations that can serve as a learning experience for their teams? If your company can mentor young talent into excellent performers you have gone a long way to enhancing your brand as the place to be, and also the place to stay!

Here are a few additional responsibilities that owners, general managers and company leaders need to accept if the organization is to attract and keep young talent as well as re-ignite the passion in veterans.

Maintain an impeccable reputation about the company, its products, and service. This is foundational and fundamental to a sales-person’s belief system. Belief fuels enthusiasm. Reputation precedes all companies.

Everyone needs information and answers to serve customers. The right training will both help and encourage every employee, regardless of their role. If they can access sales information on their mobile device while waiting for an appointment, for example, salespeople will gain a new self-confidence that will help them make the sale. On-demand, web-based sales and personal development training is here to stay.

Differentiate your company from the competition. Articulate your company’s value proposition, value-based statements, and value-based questions, sharing this with everyone enterprise-wide to genuinely engage any customer or prospect. And that value must be perceived as value by the customer.

There is much to do at the top levels to recruit and retain young talent. So let’s get to work!