I’ve been busy with my private sector transition this past year.  It’s been challenging to navigate within a constantly-changing environment, but the obstacles keep me flexible and aware of the impact I can have on the service industry in the long-run.  That said, I’ve noticed a few contrasts between public and private sector employment including the average age of the workforce, the need for agility, and the presence of innovation.

THE NEXT GENERATION

The most obvious difference between the public and private workforce is the average age of my employees and coworkers.  There are a few seasoned veterans but for the most part, the roster is primarily youths in their early- to mid-20s. Obviously, the main objective is to find candidates to fill these open positions, and also to improve employee retention.

Our society is experiencing a cultural shift in the value we place in food service.  The prevalence of reality TV bake-offs and chef competitions make a real-life kitchen job seem so unglamorous.  Understanding that employers cannot reasonably reward their staff for completing basic tasks, we have to find creative ways to engage the youth workforce – make work fun or create an inclusive environment so they look forward to returning.

Compounding with increased economic instability, the tendency to embrace the accolades of higher education and esoteric thoughts rather than old-fashioned sweat and tears has a significant impact on our perception of minimum-wage or low-skill jobs.  The expectations of work (and our contribution to it) have changed – the trend I notice is that everyone feels they are the best and should be treated as such.. With high turnover we schedule interviews fairly regularly, and I am consistently impressed by young applicants who show interest in working in the service industry.

The baseline enthusiasm of these inexperienced teens & young adults was noteworthy and a stark contrast to the malaise I observed in my public service position.  I encouraged our management team to recognize an opportunity to energize a stagnant work environment while simultaneously creating a new generation of customer service all-stars!  While it may take a bit more effort to build these skill sets from scratch, it’s a strategic investment in the strength of our community!

To be fair, a person’s attitude and approach to work affects the outcome of individual experiences, so a positive attitude goes a long way at any age!

MOVE IT, OR LOSE IT!

The physical demands upon private sector service workers is equally significant when comparing these industries.  The heat of a baker’s kitchen, the exertion from moving quickly between tasks, and the general stressors of direct customer contact keep all of us running in high gear.

These environments reinforce basic survival instincts and keep me focused on my physiology – my inner balance & overall health – more than the sedentary office lifestyle did.  I’ve been eating healthier foods, drinking more water, and was even able to quit smoking once I returned to the private sector. Stepping away from the office allowed me to realize a need to change external factors in my world.  In turn, I was able to achieve a series of personal goals while expanding my toolbox of skills.

For instance, I spent my office break times furiously circling the courtyard outside – huffing on cigarettes, eyes burning and adjusting to the natural light.  I wore glasses to block the blue light of computer screens and fluorescents because it induced migraines. Compared to this environment where I was introduced to employee drawers full of prescription medications and endless tales of hip, knee and wrist surgeries, the physical exertion I experience in food service is still more attractive than full-coverage health insurance at this stage in life.

PLAN AHEAD

The goal when making my shift to the private sector was to gain management experience, and I am approaching the end of my commitment.In the past year, I helped advance the long-term consolidation of a local franchise operation, and identified necessary changes to achieve company goals. In doing so, I created a new position to help the current management team transition with structural shifts within the organization.In my new role, I have time to review recent progress, enjoy momentary successes, and set achievable goals for the future! Let’s do this!