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Expert Column: Hiring and Training Millennials in the Grocery Industry


Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are entering the workplace in record numbers. In fact, in 2014, Millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. According to a Virtuali/New Leaders Council study, over the next five years, they are expected to grow by 30 percent to 72 million, while Baby Boomers will decline by 28 percent to 30 million.

As the mantle of leadership is passed on to Millennials, companies need to adapt to this generation, which has been described as entitled, selfish and driven by motivators other than money. Particularly in the retail industry, it's important for Millennials to understand the various professional careers that exist, to ensure that grocery chains are recruiting top talent. Following are a few recommendations for grocery companies looking to prepare themselves to communicate effectively with this tech-savvy generation and create a work culture where Millennials can thrive.

Managing Expectations

When hiring Millennials, it's crucial to set expectations from the beginning. Share with them the training and development opportunities that exist within the organization, as well as conveying the company's culture, expected work schedules and communication policies, among other pieces of information. Given that many potential employees question whether progressive career opportunities exist in retail, it's important for retailers to provide Millennials with clear career paths and the necessary skills to reach those levels. Sharing success stories from former employees can help them see the opportunity beyond their current roles.

Prepping for Success

Once companies have piqued Millennials' interest, managers should be responsible for their professional development. Since this generation was born after 1980 and has been exposed to many social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, their attention spans are much shorter than those of Baby Boomers, which can lead to communication challenges. To grab the attention of Millennials, the message must be personalized, short and concise.

Interestingly enough, Millennials don’t view managers as content experts, because they already know where to find multiple versions of the information. Instead, according to research from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, they view managers more as coaches and mentors. Therefore, management staff should give them constant feedback during the training process to reach performance expectations, as Millennials tend to value open and honest communication.

Jobs that Matter

In addition to growth opportunities, Millennials are looking for a work environment where they feel comfortable and inspired. They're constantly seeking purpose in what they do for a living, and at the same time want to know how their jobs are helping them succeed, as reported by Forbes. This generation also likes to work collaboratively; therefore, companies should offer opportunities to develop initiatives that foster mutual support.

Recently, employees from Mi Pueblo Food Center rallied to raise money in support of the Hispanic community, with the Unidos por los Niños campaign to help children who have come to the United States illegally in search of a better life. When a company gives back to the community, Millennials get a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, as they have become a part of something bigger.

Millennials have entered the workforce and are here to stay. Companies shouldn't be intimidated by their ambition, optimism and multitasking skills; they should instead leverage these skills to groom tomorrow's leaders. While there are numerous career opportunities in the grocery industry, it's our job to make them accessible to future employees. Given the generation gap between management and staff, many employees may experience communication hurdles. Nonetheless, keep the message short and concise, and concentrate on developing and integrating Millennials into a more comfortable work environment for them.

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