Before I tell you about Job Launchpad, it’s probably helpful to explain how we got here, and what we discovered about Gen Z recruiting that is important to your retail business.

Firstly, let me be clear – I’m a boomer, and how I think about my employment and my compensation are firmly rooted in an old-school mentality that is simply not relevant anymore. But what is relevant? I keep reading about Gen Z and how different they are, but how do I better understand what that means to my recruiting process and employment retention after we make a hire?

Retail has a problem! We’re all struggling to find the right resources to run our stores. It’s been going on for a while now and has hit crisis level. Throwing more advertising money on job boards may help in the short term, but it does not solve the long-term problem of getting new job seekers into the candidate pipeline.

To better understand the problem, we worked with three universities that run retail programs. We asked their students to research what job solutions were in the marketplace and their thoughts on why they no longer were relevant to Gen Z.

So who is Gen Z? That’s the upcoming entry-level workers that were born between 1997 and 2012. An important detail to understand, especially for us boomers, as this group thinks about work completely differently, even from the millennials that preceded them.

Digital Natives – Gen Z has grown up with digital devices and are less likely to read, preferring to get their content by video. They have moved past e-mail and PCs to do the majority of their communication in text and on mobile devices.

Instant Gratification – this group is constantly communicating and expects timely responses to any online transaction. They communicate in shorter bursts and will not read lengthy documents.

Less Corporate – with the rise of Tik Tok and other digital platforms, the casual video gains more attention than a professional corporate video. This group values creativity and needs to be engaged. They get bored quickly and being bored is bad!

Values Focused – Gen Z is pushing the green movement and social issues but also looking to understand the values of the people around them and the companies they work for. They want to understand the goals of the company and how the company matches their beliefs of corporate commitment to their community.

Then we took a look at the hiring process. Gen Z hates the job search process. I don’t mean they dislike the thought of searching for a job – I mean they truly hate the process. As mentioned earlier, they are digital natives which means they interact with technology all day long and their perspective is from the social apps they use. If you have a cool QR code to quickly get them into your job site and then serve up a web page formatted for mobile, they’re gone before you can blink. One stat frequently quoted is that 60% of candidates leave before completing an application.

So, what did our studies find?

– Focus on the posting
o It’s not a job description – it should be an engaging story of why your company would be an amazing home for them to start their career. How will you help ensure their success and what do you do that will help advance their career?
– The resume is a roadblock
o It’s amazing that so many companies still rely on this document. First-time job seekers panic when the first question on your application site says upload a resume. Find a way to gather the information you truly need to make a job offer and ditch the resume.
– Scheduling interviews vs. instant communication.
o Many Gen Z candidates don’t even have an e-mail address. If they do, it may be the backup to their communication but certainly not where they spend their time. Use chat and video chat to instantly connect and get them on your team before the store down the street does. Speed is king here, so communicate in the channels they are engaged with daily.
– Connect your brand through the postings
o Show your brand pride all the way through the hiring process. Too often we see great energy at the start but then simple mechanics as you work to onboard the candidate. Keep the engagement up and reinforce why you’re the right place for the candidate.

With the above as a set of baseline knowledge, we set out to build a better way to help the entry-level workers find that first opportunity. Job Launchpad was born and we will be rolling it out to the first high schools in the fall of 2022.

We’ve partnered with retail and hospitality organizations to identify entry-level training programs already in existence and set out to connect those programs to the hiring pipeline.

Then we built a mobile dating-like app that asks simple retail-focused questions to gather candidate information and generate an industry-specific resume for every candidate. If they have relevant retail training, we gather that information and add a badge to their resume while also scoring the candidate higher, so employers see them first.

Using the information from both the job seeker app and the employer postings, we score every candidate and identify the best candidates for each job. This allows us to not just find a retail employee but distinguish the difference between someone who will excel in the computer store vs. the garden center down the street. The recruiter then gets an organized list of candidates with the best matches at the top of the list. Job matching is critical! By matching employee candidates to the right job from the start, they will provide more knowledgeable service, sell more, and stay at the employer longer.

Communication is also important, so we then added chat and video chat capabilities to ensure instant connections in the mode Gen Z said was important.

While having the right technology is important, companies need to focus on having creative job postings and a communication strategy for candidates to ensure your recruiting reflects the value of your brand and why the company is an amazing opportunity. Your marketing team does lots of research to engage with customers. Are they also part of the brand strategy for recruiting?

The more I learn about Gen Z the more I like what they bring to our organizations. Being thoughtful about your company, how you engage with these new employees and how they service your customers will drive sales and customer satisfaction.

I spend a lot of time thinking about retail and what a great experience is for me as a consumer. While traveling to see a new format outdoor store in Seattle, I engaged with one of their newly hired team members. In minutes he had asked me thoughtful questions about my outdoor activities and ended up selling me some equipment that I now love. I think about that buying experience all the time. While chatting with the employee I inquired about how he chose retail as a career and became a salesperson. He quickly answered he was not a salesperson – he simply loved the outdoors and found a job where he was surrounded by the latest new equipment and customers who were enthusiastic to learn from his knowledge. He was never bored on the job and every day at work he was paid to spend time following a passion.

As you think about your recruiting strategy, focus on simplification of the process. Engage with Gen Z on their terms and find new connections through programs like Job Launchpad or industry entry-level training programs like RISE Up from the NRF Foundation. Increasing the candidate pipeline will take investment and time for the entire industry but these enthusiastic team members will drive results and improve service for our customers.

Good Luck!

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