Training Generation Z for Confidence Rather Than Compliance
The retail sector has so much to offer Generation Z.
In order to attract and retain talent from this digital-native cohort of employees, born after 1995, it's vital for retail employers to provide a benefits package that offers value way beyond remuneration. By doing so, retailers can benefit from highly skilled employees who in turn add value to the bottom line.
Understanding what Generation Z employees value most is the keystone to remaining competitive in the retail sector. A helpful baseline is to give Gen Z the training tools they want and need to grow and excel in their roles.
Skills as a Commodity
There are many traits that set Generation Z apart from previous generations; one of them is the appetite to learn new skills on demand. Having grown up in a digital life, with instant access to vast amounts of content, including “how to” tutorials, Generation Z employees are fast learners. This gives retailers an opportunity to thrive in many areas of the business, including sales, so long as they provide high-end training that engages staff and offers skillsets that trainees believe to be of tangible value to them in their careers. Learning opportunities are therefore a major asset in attracting, retaining and growing talent in retail.
The 2023 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report summarizes this trend neatly: “People who are not learning will leave.” The study places opportunities to learn and develop new skills in the top five factors that influence people to pursue a new role. The same study in 2021 showed that Gen Z employees logged more than 50 percent more hours on online courses than learners from any other generation. The study also found that 83 percent of Gen Z want to learn skills to perform better in their current role. There's a shift in the generational value of learning — Gen Z want to and like to learn.
Generation Z has a wide range of choices in the type of work they want to do and how they want work to fit around their lifestyle. There are more opportunities to work for themselves than previous generations had on entering the workforce. Side hustles and flexible working options are also far more widely available and something that Gen Z has become accustomed to.
Where retailers are at a disadvantage in terms of flexible working options for job seekers, they have a big advantage when it comes to opportunities for career progression. Relatively unique to the workforce, the retail environment offers employees the ability to start as cashiers and work their way up to CEO — a mobility that's highly alluring to this independent generation. Investing in training to build skill sets and help grow employees is a key strategy in both attracting and retaining talent. It’s imperative for employers to be able to speak to clear and defined pathways for employees, building out both an ascension plan and the means to acquire the skills appropriate to achieving said goals. Having this fortified onboarding and growth training plan makes for a highly competitive advantage for retailers.
Budget for Training
Profitability is directly linked to the skillset of your workforce. As more retailers cross-train and upskill with objectives to increase profitability, those who are relying on cutting costs or upping prices to increase profits will struggle to compete. The ability to train specific skill sets fast makes for measurable differences company-wide. You can design adaptable modules that target everything from customer experience scores to sales, allowing your employees to efficiently tackle specific key performance indicators and drive the business forward.
Increased productivity from investing on the front end allows for ripple-effect results in retention. Gen Z workers that feel they can build from their onboarding foundation with the training necessary to support their continued development will be more likely to stay, contributing to organizational growth.
'Tech is the Enabler'
With advances in technology, including game-based training on mobile devices and artificial intelligence-driven tools to support high-quality content creation for training, it pays back in spades to invest in technology that gets superior results, as opposed to harder-to-measure traditional training methods. You need to find tech that supports agility, allowing for customization on the go. But more than speed, content has to be powerful. Speed to content is important for remaining agile, but quality of content has to exist for impact. With AI-driven tools, you can offer a tailored user journey — not a one-size-fits-all model — assuring the best level of impact for learners. Speed plus powerful content equals a winning combination. And Gen Z isn’t settling; they're putting a higher value on their time and vetting employers for their development and support strategy. Being able to provide engaging training that's impactful and has tangible results for their performance and confidence is creating a generational shift for both employees and organizations.
Greg Hull, MD of retail and hospitality at Attensi, a mobile training app.
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