Guest Column | December 22, 2017

Millennials In Retail: The Real Deal @ Work

By Julie Smith, principal, Point B

Attract And Retain Millennial Talent

Key to keeping your millennial workforce engaged is understanding what they want from work and responding to their needs.

Millennials make up one-third of today’s workforce so it’s important to understand this generation of employees to attract, nurture, and retain top talent. Their preferences and needs are increasingly impacting the work culture and effectiveness of retail. With the oldest millennials now in their late thirties, their presence is increasingly being felt throughout organizations — from early career roles to middle managers to leadership. The ability to understand the motivations of the millennial workforce is essential to building an effective culture that retains top talent and delivers for your customers.

Here are a few tips to create a culture in your organization that will keep millennials engaged and reduce attrition.

Help Them See That Their Work Matters

It is more than just participating in local community service (though that is important). Millennials are driven by a sense of purpose; they want to see how their work helps the company, customer, and the world around them. Tie their work to care about the company’s mission and vision, help them see the big picture.

Clearly Define Roles In Working Groups To Foster Understanding And Respect

Everyone on a team is important — tenure and experience should not always outweigh specific knowledge and creativity. Millennials want to feel valued, and want respect for what they know and contribute. Create a culture that recognizes the value they bring, and support individuals to develop expertise and share information and ideas. Consider roundtables and invite employees to participate in brainstorming sessions.

Provide Learning Opportunities

Millennials want to grow and learn on the job and then share their learning back to the organization. Provide opportunities for formal and informal learning. Connect employees to coaches – both internally and externally. Establish a continuing education budget if you don’t already have one in place.

Provide Feedback On Performance And Outcomes

All employees crave feedback — millennials are no different, but they want it now. Millennials expect real-time actionable feedback from a variety of sources. Make sure individual employees and teams have visibility to the impact of their work. Solicit feedback widely. Celebrate individual and team success as recognition can be the best reward.

Embrace Technology Connectedness

Millennials see technology as a way to increase productivity and connectivity. It’s highly intuitive for them and they expect to use it to do their work, though they may choose to employ it in different ways. Keep pace with technology changes and adapt organizational practices to keep up. Appreciate the opportunities new technologies present and develop timely communication practices and standards to ensure you can take advantage of them. Ensure your senior leadership team is up to date on the latest tools and technology by offering ongoing tech training so everyone is talking the same language internally.

Look For Opportunities To Welcome Input And Engagement

Employees want to participate in company growth and operations. They want to share and exchange ideas to improve the company and seek to be involved in shaping policy. Find ways to tap millennials’ energy and creativity and include millennials in the formation of company principles and practices. To foster this, consider creating an employee board in which participants discuss top company concerns as they work to establish draft policies, which can then be submitted to senior management for serious consideration. And don’t just go through the motions in considering new policy — be willing to implement.

Focus On Output And Flexibility

Millennials tend to put more emphasis on output then process. They want clear, objective measures for success and want the space to find creative solutions to business challenges. Provide clear expectations of what success looks like. Embrace the variety of workstyles and backgrounds Millennials bring to the workforce (as the most diverse generation to date). Allow employees to work flexible schedules, or offer occasional work from home days.

And lastly, make sure your organization walks the talk. Employees respond best to sincerity and authenticity and expect their leaders and companies to live up to commitments and principles. Make sure your organization is following through on corporate principles and promises within the organization, community and beyond.

About The Author

Julie Smith is a principal with Point B, an integrated management consulting, venture investment, and real estate development firm. With more than 20 years of experience understanding and addressing consumers evolving needs, Smith has led marquee retailers through strategic planning, omni-channel strategy development, consumer engagement initiatives (both digital and in-store), cross-channel loyalty program development and execution, and ecommerce strategy and deployment.