In 2017, it was estimated that over 3 million teenagers graduated high school to begin university or enter the workforce.1 This flood of new employees comes from Generation Z (Gen Z), otherwise known as the digital native generation. I currently have three Gen Zers living with me. My daughters are in their late adolescence and early adulthood; all attend high school or college and have jobs in addition to their schooling. Lately, I noticed their use of personal mobile technology (i.e., cell phones) more so than in the past as it applies to their daily lives.
Although they rarely use the telephone feature, they are constantly immersed in a digital universe. Their world is filled with daily two-way communication feeding through the device, and this is not solely social or extra-curricular. For instance, my high school daughter gets her homework assignments through an app called Canvas, and school grades are accessed from Skyward. Band announcements and schedules come through Charms. These are only a few examples of the many apps she uses for updates.
One of my college-aged daughters is in the marching band, too. Her schedules and instructions come on a group text, but she communicates with her saxophone section via Group Me. My other daughter is in a college sorority; they use a Facebook group to communicate events. At the doughnut shop where she works, her team uses HomeBase to get schedules, swap shifts and request vacation. What an intriguing generation; they are not overwhelmed by such variance in technology. Instead, they crave it.
What does this mean for retailers?
Let us talk for a moment regarding how that impacts retailers. Not only do Gen Z employees expect technological sophistication from their employers, but they also exhibit fierce independence.2 This means they desire to autonomously manage themselves in whatever ways possible. One area that retail leaders have seen success in catering to such associates is through employee self-service (ESS) technology. ESS empowers employees to manage their own information and preferences in a staffing system that feeds automated scheduling.
ESS offers many benefits to retailers and employees alike, making it a win-win piece of technology. For instance, on the retailer side, allowing associates to manage their own schedules and shifts (e.g., time off, shift swapping, shift bidding, etc.) reduces managerial time mediating such details. From an organizational standpoint, housing this information in one centralized system reduces low-value tasks for in-store leaders, like paper shuffling and reporting.
From an employee perspective, ESS caters directly to Gen Z, as ESS’s functionality gives associates maximum independence. For instance, during onboarding, an employee might input weekly availability into ESS. Throughout the year, she will manage that availability and her vacation directly in the system. If she desires more work on a given week, she can view openings that utilize her qualifications and request to swap shifts with a co-worker, only requiring a manager to click “accept.”
The bottom line
Higher-level advantages abound for retailers using ESS. Results of one study found that when employees had input into their schedules, their work-life conflict reduced even as schedule unpredictability remained.3 As transparency and ownership over one’s work schedule increases satisfaction, this naturally correlates with employee performance and can ultimately translate into higher profitability.
On top of this, ESS’s ease of communication mirrors what Gen Z desires. In other words, technology will be a foundational element for Gen Zers to collaborate. Take what happened with my youngest daughter, for instance. Recently, she needed quick parental approval for an off-campus school event. Instead of calling me, she used Find My iPhone to send me a beeping alert so that I would see her text message and send her my response!
In ending, consider the benefits of a solution like ESS for your retail needs with the Gen Z workforce. Does your company offer two-way communication and personalized data storage within one efficient system to staff operations? If the next generation is asking for it, it might be worth the investment.
- Lanier, K. (2017). 5 things HR professionals need to know about Generation Z: Thought leaders share their views on the HR profession and its direction for the future. Strategic HR Review, 16(6), 288-290
- Chillakuri, B., & Mahanandia, R. (2018). Generation Z entering the workforce: The need for sustainable strategies in maximizing their talent. Human Resource Management International Digest, 26(4), 34-38. doi: 10.1108/HRMID-01-2018-0006
- Henly, J. R., & Lambert, S. J. (2014). Unpredictable work timing in retail jobs: Implications for employee work-life conflict. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 67(3), 986-1016. doi: 10.1177/0019793914537458