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Many articles and books have been written about how management and leaders should communicate, engage and even get along with the workforce. Over the years, different generations have been responsive to varying approaches. Now, more than one-third of the workforce is made up of Millennials — those born during the 1980s to the early 2000s — requiring innovative approaches to engagement. Millennials have a short attention span, a strong ability to multitask, and an addiction to technology. They need to know the answer now, and always ask why. In response, many food producers and grocery retail executives feel compelled to tailor food safety programs specifically to the Millennial workforce. That might not be the best approach, however.
For food safety culture to be engrained, employees need to be engaged. According to a 2015 Gallup study on employee engagement, nearly 70 percent of all employees surveyed said they were unengaged at work. That lack of engagement in a grocery store can have catastrophic effects. A 2009 study from the FDA shows that more than 50 percent of retail associates are out of compliance with many basic food safety protections.
Rather than creating a food safety program tailored just for Millennials, a better approach for grocers is to look at how this generation is shaping the attitudes and behaviors of all workers, and then develop new techniques for a sustained food safety culture. Consider these four similarities:
- Millennials rely on tablets and smartphones. The Census Bureau estimates more than 83 million Millennials live in the United States, but it’s also estimated that 182 million people in the United States own smartphones. It’s safe to assume that Baby Boomers also use smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, and clearly, neither generation is interested in reading a print manual.
- Millennials gravitate to social media. Sure, but according to Facebook, the average user in the United States is 40-plus years old. Nearly everyone has become accustomed to using online platforms or forums for information and a community of resources.
- Millennials have a short attention span. It’s believed that their attention lasts for around eight seconds, but nearly everyone is exposed to a world with hundreds of television channels and instant access to everything. Consumers want everything now. Just ask Amazon why it created two-hour delivery.
- Millennials need to know “why.” For Baby Boomers growing up, loyalty often trumped reason. Millennials have never been satisfied with doing something just because they’re supposed to; they need to know why they’re doing it and how it fits into the greater good. What could be more compelling than attaching a cause and effect to food safety? Millennials just showed everyone it's okay to want to know the big picture.