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Engaging Millennials in the Retail Industry

Today’s retail associates look quite a bit different from those of decades past. Both well-versed and confident with technology, “Millennial” or “Generation Y” retail associates (that is, those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) embrace new software and look forward to mastering new gadgets and devices.

Recently a Millennial Branding and PayScale study was released which revealed that Millennials are five times more likely to work in retail and sales than any other generation — and that is a good thing. With the business models of many retail organizations morphing from brick and mortar models to online retail, businesses need these Millennial workers who are eager to engage with technology and customers on a one-on-one level more than ever. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as Gen Y’ers come with their own set of challenges that can make it difficult for many of today’s organizations to attain, maintain, and retain workers in this age group.

The Problem with Engaging Millennials

First problem: these are young individuals, many of whom have little to no brand loyalty. After all, given that they have spent the majority of their life at this point involved in self-development and being told that they can do and be “anything,” why would they choose to commit themselves to a single organization?

Then there is the notable reduced attention span, which technology may be partially to blame for as these Millennials have been forced to change and adapt at incredible speeds, while also having been treated to receiving information “on demand” and faster than ever before. 77

Finally, there’s often a dispersed workflow issue that leaves retail associates and the company they work for scattered and separated.

Engaging the Emerging Millennial Generation

Every industry has its own set of unique challenges, though fortunately the retail industry can capitalize on some of the problems associated with engaging Gen Y workers and turn them into a positive outcome. Modern workforce technologies are key when it comes to meeting the expectations and the desires of today’s sales associate. For this to be a success, organizations must:

  • Go Mobile. Like it or not, your Gen Y retail associates are going to be on their smartphones no matter what, so you might as well take advantage of their need to be “plugged in.” Providing associates with a single integrated mobility platform can enhance almost every aspect of your business, driving adoption, productivity, and efficiency in every square inch of your retail store. Technologies that offer self-service scheduling, task management, and even shift swapping give Millennials the flexibility they want while keeping them engaged and productive.
  • Listen. Part of any platform should include a way for your associates to seamlessly provide feedback and offer their opinion. But in order for this to be effective, leadership must respond within a timely fashion. This is important in keeping communication lines open, and for management to continue to be able to manage the conversation without it getting out of hand.
  • Encourage Customer Interaction. Millennials enjoy interacting with customers and love to keep up with the wants and needs of the customer. Encouraging these associates to engage and gather “intel” on a variety of platforms (including social media) will provide them and your organization with valuable insight.

For this to work, organizations will need to go one step above simply providing their associates with one or two shiny new software programs. By implementing a governance structure that will streamline tasks as well as group and gather information, associates and leadership will be able to easily collaborate, deliberate, and communicate with one another.

For further details on Gen Y workers, see: http://www.payscale.com/gen-y-on-the-job

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