Jun 06, 2017

Tapping Into Next-Gen Talent: How Retailers Can Engage Gen Z Hourly Employees

Look out Millennials — there’s a new generation of digital natives invading the workforce. Dubbed Generation Z, this post-Millennial cohort is the first of its kind to grow up surrounded by ever-evolving technology and possesses $44 billion in estimated buying power. Born just several years after the invention of the Internet, members of Generation Z can barely imagine life without smartphones and social networking.

Like their Millennial counterparts, Generation Z brings their own set of characteristics and expectations into the workforce. While a Robert Half study found that Gen Z prefers face-to-face interactions over fully remote work arrangements, they also look for employers who embrace social media, digital connectivity and jobs that provide opportunities for career growth. This group also tends to be more fiscally conservative than Millennials, having grown up through the 2008 economic recession.

As successors to Millennials, members of Gen Z are already taking the retail industry by storm as both consumers and employees. With Generation Z ready to enter the workforce in droves, retail employers will find they must redefine their workplaces if they hope to attract and retain this tech-savvy generation.

Defining Digital Natives

Millennials and Gen Z employees share similar expectations when it comes to working hourly retail jobs: both expect flexible scheduling and an opportunity to advance their earning potential. But there are also distinct differences between the generations. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z’ers carefully manage their online reputation, have shorter attention spans and are used to receiving real-time information via social channels. Gen Z is considered to be more diverse than Millennials and comes to work with an entrepreneurial mindset.

As retailers begin recruiting this next generation of hourly workers, they must reconsider the role technology like social media and instant messaging plays in workplace communication. A study conducted by Monster found that 39% of Gen Z’ers believe smartphones are essential to their jobs, and just under one-quarter anticipate texting will be necessary for on-the-job communication. This group of young employees is fiercely independent and ready to roll up their sleeves, bringing a “whatever it takes” mentality to accelerate their careers. Gen Z’ers also want to feel that their contributions to the workplace matter and look for recognition from their employers for a job well done, according to EY data.

Employers Must Adopt A Mobile-First Mentality

Compared to Gen Z’s reputation as digital natives attached to their mobile devices, most retailers’ internal communication methods seem out of touch. In fact, WorkJam’s retail management study found that 36% of retail managers still use written notes to communicate with hourly associates; only 32% use text messages and less than 20% use email.

A unified workforce management solution can give retailers the leg up they need to attract Gen Z’ers, proving their organizations are tuned in to the importance (and benefits of) technology. To engage a generation that checks their smartphones the minute they wake up, employers need to start embracing digital channels for communication, task and performance management.

Benefits Of Arming Employees With Engagement Technology

  • Personalize communication: Instant messaging and push notification features help managers directly communicate with their hourly workforce, delivering real-time information such as shift assignments, training and company announcements straight to Gen Z’ers mobile devices. Managers can streamline communication between head offices and employees, ensuring workers are always on top of the latest product information and company activities.

  • Encourage collaborative scheduling: Employee engagement solutions let employers adopt an availability-based scheduling model, empowering Gen Z workers to have more flexibility with their shift assignments. Managers can work more effectively with employees to adjust their work schedules and broadcast unfilled shifts to staff members based on staff preferences and store needs, enhancing productivity and reducing turnover.

  • Reduce long-term labor costs: The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the majority of hourly service workers stay with their employers for less than two years, with turnover costing retailers up to $4,000 per worker, not including the hit on customer experience impacting sales. By prioritizing staff availability during the schedule process, facilitating interactive training and forging close relationships between the head office and front lines, employee engagement technology can help companies increase satisfaction and retain great staff.

  • Boost employee morale: Gen Z’ers want to make sure their contributions are valuable. With an employee engagement platform, managers can virtually reward their efforts through badges, points and direct feedback. Recognition for a job well done encourages future performance and provides a valuable source of intrinsic motivation for hourly employees.

As Gen Z’ers join Millennials in the workforce, retailers must adapt their current management practices to fit the needs of a younger digital generation. Employers will need to focus on enhancing their digital workplace if they hope to successfully attract young hourly talent.

Joshua Ostrega / Retail TouchPoints

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