Are you prepared for the millennial workforce?

Are you prepared for the millennial workforce?

I recently wrote about the pending changes in the consumer marketplace as the baby boomers are replaced as the dominant generation by the millennials, also known as generation Y.  (In case you missed it, click here.)

The boomers, dominant for years, are well-known to most, but the millennials are a bit more unknown.  They comprise 80 million people born between 1976 and 2001.

This generation will bring changes to your store—not just as customers, but also as employees.

About the millennial employee

By 2014, 36 percent of the workforce will be millennials.  Some estimates show that by 2020, they will make up 46 percent of the workforce. In less than two years, you can expect them to be a third of your staff and in less than eight years, nearly half.

In some ways, things that are part and parcel of working in a good natural retail store fit this group perfectly.  Some 65 percent of them said that the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor in their job. Is there any industry where there is more opportunity to learn, train, grow and help influence your community than the natural products industry?

And 92 percent felt entrepreneurship education was vital.  You want to learn entrepreneurship? Work at a natural products retailer and learn it firsthand.

Challenges of employing millennials

A full third of gen Y make work mobility a priority when considering a job.  If they are looking at work in the field as a broker or sales rep, that's a good fit, but it is quite hard to make retail work mobile.  You have to be in the store with the customers and merchandise.

This generation also is not used to being told that the reason for doing something is "just because."  They are well-educated and use technology to get answers.  I like to refer to them as "Generation Why."  As employees, they will challenge you, and some of what they challenge may need to be challenged.

They could also be referred to as "Generation Why Not."  As in, why aren't you updating your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your Pinterest boards, etc. more regularly?  Why aren't you publishing sales flyers in a format that is smartphone-friendly?  Why aren't you doing promotions with Foursquare? 

Bottom line: Some of the same people that can help you refocus your efforts to reach the new generation of consumers will be the same people that you will be putting (or have put) on your staff.

This is part of what I will cover during the education session "Why Are You Doing That?" at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore later this month.  For this session, I will be joined by my good friend David Williams from Living Naturally to explore a variety of changes in the world and how they affect natural products retail. We'd love to have you join us.

How do you manage your millennial workforce? Share in the comments.

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