Attracting Millennials to a Baby Boomer workforce can be challenging. But while their culture is different from older generations, they share many positive values that are good for retail.
Current trends show that Millennials are interested in many things beyond money—they value time with family, will not sacrifice their quality of life for a career, and are very team-oriented. These characteristics could help explain why interviews have gone up in retail—according to the recruiting software firm jobvite, the average retail hire is up against 35 other candidates. This might be because Millennials tend to take more interviews and talk to more potential employers before committing, and this can be great news for retail.
How to Recruit Millennial Talent
- Personalize the Experience. No different than the shopping habits of Millennials who want an experience in a retail store, the applicant is looking for the same thing. It makes sense that they consider the interview and hiring process as a preview into what life would be like working in your store. For example, conduct the interview outside the store instead of the backroom. Find out if they like coffee or yogurt or diet coke and buy them one while interviewing. Make sure you do more listening than talking. This is the hardest one for managers, but it speaks volumes to the candidate. They need to be heard.
- Pay Referral Bonuses. More people were hired in 2016 from referrals than newspapers or signs in the front window. Tell your employees (and customers) that you will pay a bonus for a referral you hire. Make it worth it though. Giving someone a gift card for a free latte will not motivate anyone. In my stores, we gave $250 in store credit for referrals. Now, that is a big number to an employee or customer, but since they are buying merchandise with it, it honestly cost me half based on my gross margins. Now that's a win-win for sure.
- Be on Social Media. Post your job openings on social media. That is where Millennials are searching these days. And be creative when you do. Share the referral bonus for example. Remember, it's not about your followers on social media, it's about theirs. They will retweet or share your post or Instagram with their personal network and you are getting it sent to thousands.
- Team Interview. Millennials are much more social in nature. And while they love their mobile devices, they love human contact more. Have your employees interview the candidate as well. First, this shows your current employees you value their opinion and helps engage them in your store and second, it models for the candidate that you value team—which is a high priority for them in choosing a retailer or company to work for. Plus, you are asking your current employees to accept this new hire, to train them, to coach and mentor them and support them in the role. Imagine how much more likely they are to support the new hire when they had a hand in the selection. Keep in mind, I'm not talking about the assistant manager, but the actual front-line employees.
- Shadow. Allow the candidate to shadow another employee to see exactly what the job entails. This one tip alone can save you a lot of frustration. No matter how well you explain the role, no one will ever truly understand until they experience it. One note, in some states (like California) this idea might be frowned upon as it is a fine line between the person working and observing. But keep in mind, they are just observing nothing more.
- Use Behavioral Questions. Many of your candidates will have little work experience, so it's hard to know if they are the right fit for you. First, remember, you always hire people who fit your culture—in other words—their core values match the core values of your retail store. But if you use situational (behavioral) questions, you can gauge whether or not this candidate can perform at the level you need them too. For example, "tell me about a time you had great service in a retail store. What was that like?" or "Tell me about a time you had bad service, how did that make you feel? What did you do about it?" Obviously the best scenario is to pose situational questions about them at work, for example, "tell me about a time you had a frustrated customer, what did you do?" But you have to consider that much of the Millennial workforce has limited work experience. But they all have life experiences that can tell you a ton about how they are "wired."
- Share What the Candidate Cares About. In most interviews that I observe, it is a ton of talking about the manager about what they expect or like in a retail store. But, the candidate never says much. First, this models for the candidate that life working for you is about you and not them. Millennials are about work environments that focus on them. So, instead of focusing on things about your retail company that you think make you unique, focus on the things Millennial candidates are looking for in an employer. One such thing is development. Millennials want to work for a company that will develop them and help them grow. So talk about your commitment to training and development and what that looks like at your company.
- Talk Benefits Not Pay. Millennials are not paycheck focused like we have seen in previous groups. They want more. First, by benefits, I am not talking about insurance or sick pay. I'm talking about the extra benefits of working with your store. For example, in my stores, I let the employees make the schedule and give to me to approve. They got to choose their shifts and hours they wanted which created space for them to have a strong work-life balance. Share the "perks" of working for you that include the intangibles that you may have left out in the past. Show them the rewards and awards you give out for great performance and great customer experience. Recognition is a big deal to Millennials.
- Be Desirable. One of the most significant things you can do as an employer is to be desirable to the candidates. Does your store have a social conscience? Are you a part of the fabric of the community or do you just take from it? Are you in the news for your good works or creative sales events? If not, you will have a hard time attracting Millennial talent. The truth is, if you cannot answer yes to these last few questions, you are going to have a hard time staying in business. Keep in mind Millennials make up the majority of the workforce now, which means they will be the majority of the shoppers.
For years, the number one reason an employee left a job to work somewhere else was lack of recognition. Millennials are changing that. They leave a job for lack of engagement. Does the job engage them? Is the retailer engaged in the community? Does the company help the employee be a better person through development and transparent communication? Sixty percent of all Millennials leave retail within the first three years—not for money or career advancement—but because they want more from an employer. And that more starts with the way you recruit and interview.