Should retailers consider new recruiting strategies for Millennials?

Discussion
Jan 13, 2016

Just how different Millennials are from earlier generations of U.S. workers is a matter of ongoing debate. But it’s a question that those in recruiting and hiring are hoping to answer, at least in part, as the generation continues to move into the workplace.

An article in Personnel Today states that Millennials aren’t really all that different from other earlier groups in the workforce, but that they have a different way of asking for things. The article posits that opening up a dialogue with them — trying to understand them as individuals and working to understand their career needs and aspirations — is the path to courting Millennials. A sense of belonging to a team and fitting in with a company’s culture are also big motivators, according to the article.

The opportunities to receive on-the-job training are key to Millennials seeking work, according to a CIO article.

But a willingness to invest these sorts of resources in younger employees may run counter to current hiring trends. An article from Troy Media indicates that recruiters hold a dim view of Millennials.

The article cites a survey by KRC Research for Bentley University that says that 74 percent of the more than 3,000 polled believe Millennials lack the work ethic of previous generations. But with Millennials, according to Personnel Today, making up one-third of the work force now and slated to be the majority by 2025, recruiter attitudes will have to change.

One strategist indicated that focusing on retention might not be the best route to recruiting top Millennial talent.

Cliff Oxford, founder of The Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs, indicated in a Forbes.com article that a “Know, Grow and Exit” strategy is the way to recruit the best Millennials out there. He has found it more effective to help them cultivate their talents within the company in order to prepare them for getting a better role — even if it means leaving the company — rather than focusing on keeping them longer-term.

What steps can recruiters and employers in retail take to bring in top Millennial talent? Should retail industry employers use different employee retention strategies with Millennials?

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Braintrust
"Retail has traditionally been organized in silos and in a well-defined hierarchy. This may not be enough to attract younger managers who are otherwise drawn to the more open HR practices of tech companies and other forward-looking industries."
"One thing for sure, we don’t want our kids to have the same "work ethic" as many of our fathers. That is: 42 years doing the same thing, hating every minute of it and getting a watch."
"The Millennials are the first generation raised from the start without any concept of company loyalty and lifetime employment. Add to that unmatched access to opinions and opportunities via social media and I think you’re going to see a generation that is both acutely aware of their options and not enslaved to the white collar myth."

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16 Comments on "Should retailers consider new recruiting strategies for Millennials?"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I’ve found recently that the best Millennials do things with other human beings — on a team, meet as a group, go out as a group. The ones who have the hardest time are solitary and have not been challenged to develop the soft skills of talking to strangers. Without those traits, it’s no wonder so many shy away from the younger generation.

Joan Treistman
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

First off it’s important to realize that Millennials have a different perspective than other generations. In order to motivate them and simply have their most effective participation employers and other members of the staff must partake in communication that resonates. There are experts who understand the dynamics and can consult with companies and instruct HR managers. But trying to impart goals, guidelines and policy will succeed only if corporations understand and leverage the nuances that differentiate Millennials from others.

Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Best strategy in a word — Engagement!

From what I’ve seen and experienced, Millennials like to be engaged in the process of doing things. But for that matter, what employee does not want to be engaged and appreciated? Millennials like to be engaged in dialog and treated as individuals, but what employee doesn’t appreciate that?

The most challenging thing in recruiting Millennials may be understanding their “motivators.” Millennials seem to be less motivated by a “career” or long-term motivators, and more motivated by the experience of what they will be doing and learning.

The most effective strategy to recruit Millennials might be to engage them in a dialog about what they are looking for AND how they can contribute to make your organization a better workplace. But then again, most applicants would appreciate that strategy.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Bob Phibbs makes an interesting point that I hadn’t thought of. For Millennials, it’s the team versus the individual. I have seen this with my students. Their enthusiasm and output is consistently of a higher standard with group projects than with solitary projects or exams. Good observations, Bob.

Dick Seesel
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I agree with the comments about team collaboration vs. individual contributions to an organization. Retail has traditionally been organized in silos and in a well-defined hierarchy. This may not be enough to attract younger managers who are otherwise drawn to the more open HR practices of tech companies and other forward-looking industries.

Joy Chen
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Millennials are similar and yet different from other generations. Like others, they are looking to learn and accelerate in their careers. Additionally, they are not best with 8-to-5 work schedule and their best work comes with flexibility. Finally, they lean toward companies that do good for the community or environment. Recruiting strategy should provide a robust employee learning or development plan, flexibility in working hours and a company that has a do-good platform.

Retention is important but not always the best HR strategy. Focusing on getting the best work out of Millennials for a shorter period of time can generate a great return on investment.

Ian Percy
Guest
6 years 4 months ago
One thing for sure, we don’t want our kids to have the same “work ethic” as many of our fathers. That is: 42 years doing the same thing, hating every minute of it and getting a watch. Call that loyalty if you wish, but if purpose and meaning is missing it’s not any more “loyalty” than a prisoner has. What is the higher purpose of working in retail? Seems to me hiring hasn’t changed much, still pretty mechanistic. A job and nothing beyond a job. Big difference is Millennials won’t do it for four weeks, never mind forty years. For Millennials, the actual work of retail is an excellent vehicle to learn even bigger things. Cliff Oxford has it exactly right — it’s to prepare them for getting a better role. During orientation and training, spend as much time telling them what they’re going to learn about success in life and business and relating to people as you do how to dress a manikin. Tell them how proud you’ll be when they leave your store to… Read more »
J. Kent Smith
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

The Millennials are the first generation raised from the start without any concept of company loyalty and lifetime employment. Those concepts died during their parents’ generation. Add to that unmatched access to opinions and opportunities via social media and I think you’re going to see a generation that is both acutely aware of their options and not enslaved to the white collar myth. It’s a generation that is going to act on the reality that loyalty is a two-way street, and they will be fully informed and empowered that career advancement isn’t just about being promoted from your job, but changing companies too.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
6 years 4 months ago

My experience with top and well-educated Millennial talent is, unfortunately, that too many of them want to come in and immediately make significant changes in company process and policy. This, without having a true grasp of the company’s financials and regulatory obligations, or understanding anything about the company’s position in its industry, goals, strategy and history. Then they become discouraged and demoralized because departments don’t “hop to.” I wish I knew how to address and fix the disconnect with this generation of workers who seem to be looking for a fit that is just not going to be there until they’ve proven themselves and yet who often show something bordering on contempt for their managers and older and more seasoned co-workers.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

The first mistake hiring managers can make is to assume all Millennials are alike. Recent studies show ONLY 65 percent of Millennials shop via mobile. That’s not as much as you might think. Once you understand folks in this demographic, many hiring challenges today end up being not all that different from those of decades past. Retail is a tough business, physically and mentally. Advancements paths are not always clear, and if they are, they may not always be attractive in terms of career advancement.

Recruiters need to be completely transparent and encouraging on the benefits of working at the retailer. They need to be aware of competitive industries attractions for new hires and see how they can effectively respond to them.

Most Millennials are indeed connected, so hiring managers need to match their recruits in terms of demographic. Yes, Millennials should be hiring Millennials. And upon hiring, stay close to the new hire and ensure they are not feeling overwhelmed or left alone too much. However, this is true for any demographic.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
6 years 4 months ago
For over 30 years I have been helping retailers find, hire and retain top talent. The same question posed here have been posed about every new generation as they enter the workforce. But bluntly they have no work ethic and so far every generation has gotten the job done. In answer to the question what steps do retailers need to take to bring in and retain top talent, here are the top five steps: Most importantly they need to come up with a list of the top 10 reasons that top talent would want to come to work for them and stay. If they don’t have a list, where are the people they are looking to hire going to get a list? They need to go looking for people who are not looking for a job, but are looking for a better job. They need to be able to provide the better job. They need to develop systems and processes to identify top talent. (University of Chicago reports that most interviewing is only 5 percent… Read more »
Ed Dunn
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I agree with Ian’s comments — if the definition of a “work ethic” is punching in and punching out and standing there all day performing a mundane routine, then Millennials are not interested.

It is the retailer’s job to provide a dynamic “work environment” with continuous improvement, collaborative participation and involvement as a stakeholder to attract Millennials as employees.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Secondary comment. When it comes to actual motivation of employees, you do not motivate groups you motivate individuals. You market to groups.

Dan Raftery
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

A group of smart retailers with whom I meet once a year discussed this topic in detail. After much anguish about generational differences such as entitlement attitude, the group (predominantly Boomers) concluded that the best way to know how to attract Millennial employees is to look inward. Core differences are minimal.

Doug Fleener
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

A recent survey found that over 59% of people have worked in a store or restaurant. We’re a stop on the way to somewhere else for so many people. That’s true for Millennials as everyone else.

I believe the key to attracting and retention is to deliver an amazing work experience. Be part of a team. Let them contribute ideas and ways to improve. Make it fun. Make it rewarding. Be sure you have leaders who not only appreciate the frontline staff, but is always showing it. Recognize people. Develop them.

With all of that said, the best retailers were doing this before we had Millennials. The above applies to all age groups!

Quit worrying about labels, and start focusing on making your work experience as important as your customer’s experience.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Guest
Patricia Vekich Waldron
6 years 4 months ago

I have a number of Millennials on my team and mentor a dozen others. What I’ve observed is: they crave human-to-human interactions as well as online connections, they are unafraid to share opinions and ideas, they very much want to grow knowledge and experience and they are always looking for the next gig.

In response, I try to make sure we have “team time,” that they take on tangible projects where they can develop skill(s) while contributing, and I help them set reasonable goals and expand their networks.

Their seriousness, energy and work ethic is inspiring to me.

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Braintrust
"Retail has traditionally been organized in silos and in a well-defined hierarchy. This may not be enough to attract younger managers who are otherwise drawn to the more open HR practices of tech companies and other forward-looking industries."
"One thing for sure, we don’t want our kids to have the same "work ethic" as many of our fathers. That is: 42 years doing the same thing, hating every minute of it and getting a watch."
"The Millennials are the first generation raised from the start without any concept of company loyalty and lifetime employment. Add to that unmatched access to opinions and opportunities via social media and I think you’re going to see a generation that is both acutely aware of their options and not enslaved to the white collar myth."

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