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FMI Midwinter: Driving Growth with Talent


Employees are as precious as customers, and both will vote with their feet – one of the key takeaways from a Sunday session during the FMI Midwinter Conference, and a clear economic motivator for strong employee retention policies to ensure productivity and long-term success.

A panel of industry players discussed strategies for driving growth and competitive advantage in this roundtable, hosted by the Network of Executive Women and American Express, at the conference in Miami Beach.

CEOs say attracting and keeping younger workers is one of their biggest challenges, according to the results of Accenture’s 2015 College Graduate Study, presented by Gerarda Van Kirk, partner for change management consulting at Accenture.

The next five years will see a shift from Baby Boomers to Millennials as the primary workforce generation, Van Kirk noted, and existing “ways of working” may not engage the changing workforce majority.

For example, she said, Millennials look for development opportunities, work-life integration, transparency and customization, compared to the “just work hard and pay your dues” mindset of earlier generations. Meanwhile, Generation Z – the next group following Millennials – values teamwork and meaningful tasks, and are willing to stay with employers longer.

Of 2015’s college graduates: only 15 percent want to work for large companies, 64 percent are looking for more education, 60 percent want a fun social atmosphere and 64 percent expect a high digital experience, the Accenture study revealed.

Culture to match the workforce

Corporate culture, mentoring and constant engagement are critical for retention in today’s workforce, the panel concluded.

Kerrie Peraino, SVP of global talent management for American Express, aimed to “debunk the myth that Millennials don’t want to come into the office” - they do, she said, but they want a more flexible, casual, social environment.

“Culture is the single biggest competitive advantage anyone can have,” said Glenn Hartman, SVP of channel business development for Starbucks, noting that while companies can buy technology, “culture is homegrown.”

Among his company’s efforts, Starbucks is committing to hiring more military veterans and is paying for employees to get college degrees.

Sabrina Wiewel, SVP and chief customer officer at Hallmark, stressed the importance of social consciousness, toward both employees and customers. Wiewel explained that Hallmark has targeted business resource groups to address the needs of Asian, Latino, African American, LGBT and Millennial demographics. She recommended employers invest in inclusion councils to better understand marketplace objectives that reflect diversity.

Hartman and Peraino agreed that moving employees around to help them find their niche can benefit companies. “Moving about and collecting experiences is proving to be a real value equation,” Peraino said.

Peraino stressed the importance of building relationships and being advocates for employees’ advancement. The so-called “career conversation,” or regular talks between leaders and team about “what’s next and when,” is crucial: “You have to have a sense for what’s meaningful to them,” she said. “It’s the single most important thing our leaders can do in a highly competitive market.”

Hartman said Starbucks has abandoned annual reviews in favor of ongoing conversations with employees.

Further, he said, Starbucks leaders are asking, “What is the role of a for-profit company today? Can you work at a company that has a higher purpose than profit? … If you can be for something bigger that you, that’s when people want to stay.”

It was a year ago at Midwinter, Toth noted, that NEW launched its initiative to promote a “workplace with no limits,” encouraging executives to create a workplace culture that fully engages everyone.

“We need a workplace culture that matches our workforce,” she said, “not the other way around.”

The day’s activities closed with “Road to Super Bowl 50,” an NFL playoff party sponsored by PepsiCo.

Attendees gathered in a ballroom decked out as an opulent South Beach-style lounge with sports-themed entertainment, and enjoyed a guest appearance by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, two-time Super Bowl veteran and a finalist for this year’s Walter Payton Award.

Watch for exclusive interviews with retailers and other industry leaders, starting Monday, Jan. 25 on

Follow reports from FMI Midwinter on Twitter at @jimdudlicek, @JoanPGrocer and @pgrocer

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