EXCLUSIVE: 4 Workforce Trends for 2024

Progressive Grocer talks with industry recruiting pro Jenn Hahn on what’s next
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
a woman smiling for the camera
Jenn Hahn
Jenn Hahn, who recently spoke on workforce trends at Progressive Grocer's Grocery Impact event in Florida, says that redefining success can help align leaders with their best roles.

As the year rolls over, so are some workforce trends that have affected grocers as employers. Retailers who staff their businesses at the corporate and store level, along with other areas like warehousing and transportation, must also navigate newer interests and demands among employees and would-be workers. 

To get a handle on talent trends, Progressive Grocer talked with Jenn Hahn, founder and CEO of J Recruiting Services in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a 2023 Top Women in Grocery winner. According to Hahn, retention is a major topic among retailers and retail-related companies with which she has worked and, given demographic dynamics in the industry, will shape decisions in the new year. 

She identified four areas of particular interest:

1. Corporate directors and executives are testing the waters: Introspection is spurring some rising stars and higher level staffers – especially women – to reevaluate their positions, building on the "The Great Reshuffling" that emerged after the pandemic. “What I’m seeing across the board is that executive level directors and above are reaching out more to us. They are open to new opportunities,” Hahn reports. 

Why the change? Hahn says that many of these leaders think they want something new but when asked to define an ideal role, they aren't able to clearly define what they're looking for. "They're generally feeling some burnout and overwhelm and it feels the the best way out of it is to find a new role," she adds. 

2. Defining personal success can align roles and values.  As employees think about making a change, they are also thinking about getting ahead. But, as Hahn says, keeping employees satisfied involves other factors besides an elevation to the next job title. “People often define success as the next step in the ladder. We are often restless if we aren’t moving – ‘When’s my next promotion, my next raise?’ Especially among high achievers, that keeps us busy,” she declares. That said, there is a growing realization that life stages affect the interpretation of success. “Then it may mean slowing down enough to pick up kids from school or not being so stressed out at work or being present for dinner conversations,” Hahn explains.

[Read more: “What Does Workforce of the Future Look Like?”]

As employees, including leaders, reassess their views of success and the reasons behind their restlessness, they can recognize that perhaps they can best focus on their current role, a mindset that actually fosters the legacy for which the grocery industry is known. “We can redefine healthy achievement that’s sustainable,” says Hahn, citing an example of a client who decided to prioritize taking care of herself so she could show up better in her current role instead of always thinking what’s next. “She then hit every major goal she set out to hit, and the doors for new opportunities naturally started opening."

3. “Psychological safety” is a thing, and it can help retention. The ability to speak openly and honestly about one’s professional and personal goals is important, notes Hahn.

“Sometimes, people are afraid to say what they really want, but it’s promoting psychological safety to have real transparent conversations,” she says. In addition to talking about future goals, those discussions can also hinge on current expectations, like assuming that employees have the time and inclination to take on additional tasks, whether it’s volunteering to lead an internal company initiative or group or feeling compelled to attend every happy hour. “How can we do less but in a way that will still move the needle? That’s where people will thrive,” she adds.

4. The career path isn’t always straight. This is another workforce mindset that can enhance retention or help workers find a potential new role that suits them well. “It’s about encouraging people to explore career paths that feel new and different. If someone says, ‘What’s next?’ and they are not ready for a VP role, do they have other options?” Hahn says. 

Finally, Hahn underlines the significance of training to ensure that the grocery industry hallmark of longevity continues. “In order to build legacy, the number one thing we can do is to invest in training and develop our leaders at all levels and doing so in a way will that train leaders how to take care of high achievers, create a culture of transparency and know how to truly motivate them to do more."

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