gen z pov on board

Gen Z POV: Getting Retail’s Next-Gen Workforce on Board

Valeria Orona, Industrial Engineer
Chloe Feast, Industrial Engineering Intern
Nate Sugrue, Industrial Engineering Intern

From an employer’s perspective, satisfying one age group at the expense of another is not an effective workforce solution. However, as our fellow Generation Z colleague Elizabeth Lee discussed in the previous blog post of this series, some inefficiencies that older generations have “lived with” can be frustrating for younger employees, even deal breakers (read part 3 and part 4.) In 2019, a shocking 73 percent of Gen Z employees left their jobs because the job did not end up meeting their expectations, compared to less than 50 percent across older generations. As Gen Z’s representation in the workforce increases, employers must be aware of our work expectations to maximize employee retention.

Onboarding and training

As Gen Z enters the workforce, employers face the challenge of finding optimal ways to incorporate us into their organization. Unlike generations before us, we were raised in the digital age, gaining high technological literacy and developing unique learning strategies as a result.

For our generation, working in teams is less attractive. We’ve been educated in a system that assesses individual effort, so we generally prefer to work independently rather than in a group setting. Moreover, as educational practices have evolved in our lifetime, we have been exposed to multiple new learning approaches, such as online modules (eLearning), flipped classrooms and virtual testing environments. These techniques can certainly be leveraged by employers to efficiently integrate Gen Z into their organizations. However, our generation still learns by doing, and 40 percent of Gen Z employees want daily in-person interactions with their boss, not a computer screen.

In practice, balancing our generation’s desires to work independently with expectations of face-to face contact means utilizing progress check-ins, daily huddles and mentorship to ensure that when we have questions, we are equipped to find answers. Direct communication with management shows our generation that their opinions are respected in the organization, while mentorship from experienced employees helps improve our performance.

Beginning a new career is intimidating for all generations, but Gen Z is currently entering the workforce at the most rapid rate. The teaching approach that, in our experience, was most effective in mitigating this intimidation factor and increasing knowledge retention is strong mentorship. Having mentors explain the responsibilities, best methods, and techniques that they learned and utilized throughout their careers make us as Gen Zers feel welcomed, comfortable asking questions, and confident in our abilities to perform.

We have also each seen eLearnings being leaned on as a primary method of onboarding, with online courses usually comprising the first days of employment. Despite being an often-necessary aspect of onboarding because of limited training resources, too much material assigned at once in eLearnings can result in low information retention and employee morale. Instead, providing digital training supplemented by hands-on experience and mentorship places Gen Zers in the best environment for success.

Motivation and retention

Retail employers know that the cost of hiring and training a new employee is substantial. Unfortunately, even cutting-edge retailers with advanced workplace management and otherwise high employee satisfaction can struggle to respond to the work expectations of our generation. Each of us have witnessed technology that is often both incorrectly utilized and outdated in the day-to-day logistics of the retail workforce.

However, employers should note that while utilization of value-adding technology in daily tasks is preferred by a typical Gen Z employee, it certainly should not be the sole consideration when trying to appeal to young associates. As mentioned previously, personal factors such as freedom to grow, hands-on development resources, and appropriate face-to-face communication with management are equally valued by our generation.

Stability and environments that provide continuous growth and development are key interests of Gen Zers like us. When our managers and supervisors validate hard work, through feedback or benefits, we find our work most satisfying. We deliver with the expectation of a level of recognition for exceptional work. Thus, organizations with vertical mobility and tangible benefits like scholarships and education programs are particularly attractive to our generation.

Whether it be learning opportunities, advancement opportunities or recognition for hard work, our generation values both feedback and visibility into future potential. We are motivated simultaneously by our big-picture goals within an organization and the degree to which we feel our day-to-day tasks are both meaningful and recognized. From our experience, work in which we received regular feedback from a mentor or manager coupled with opportunities to learn new skills—through interaction with subject matter experts or developed training programs—provided the best motivation.

When companies invest in employee education, training, rewards and work environments, our generation delivers the best results. Making sure a company provides well-structured objectives and purpose gives us Gen Zers the growth potential we look for. We appreciate a good work-life balance, and even though we generally will not hesitate to sacrifice some hours of our personal life when needed, we expect some flexibility in return. There is nothing more frustrating and unproductive than being kept at work when there’s nothing to do. In short, flexibility, recognition and development potential are key to retaining Gen Z talent.

In summary

The personal touch has not been lost on our generation; it simply needs to be molded differently than with previous generations. We suggest retailers focus on direct feedback, mentoring and the right balance of technology to bring Gen Zers into the workplace. These simple considerations can go a long way towards retailers retaining the talent they look for in an increasingly competitive environment.

Our generation was born into technology and assumes it as an everyday part of work life. Solution integration can be the perfect balance of appealing to our younger generation’s requirements while generating positive change company-wide. Our next Gen Z POV post will explore solutions that can integrate seamlessly with the way we are accustomed to living and working with technology.