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How to Engage Gen Z Talent in Retail and Hospitality

Posted by
Nupura Ughade
July 27, 2023

Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z makes up the latest wave of professionals joining the retail and hospitality industries. They are set to account for 27% of the US workforce by 2025. Gen Zers are unique and distinctive in their wants and needs. This generation is more demanding of employees. 82% of Gen Z expect the hiring process to take no longer than two weeks. They believe transparent communication in hiring is essential. In a highly competitive hiring market where businesses are struggling to fill open roles, recruiters are finding it challenging to meet these expectations.

Retail and hospitality employers should pay close attention to Gen Z’s preferred communication channels and motivations to be able to attract and retain them. Let’s explore some tips to keep in mind if you’d like Gen Z to be well-engaged members of your team.

6 tips to engage with the emerging Gen Z talent

Here are key insights into Gen Z, what they expect from prospective employers, and how you can keep them engaged.

1. Adopt a mobile-first approach

We all love emojis, right? They’re convenient, quick, and honestly, just fun! Turns out, you might be using some of these emojis wrong, especially while communicating with Gen Zers in the workplace. A recent survey reported that Gen Z finds the popular ‘thumbs up’ emoji (and 9 others) quite unfriendly! Who knew right?

Popularly known as digital natives, Gen Z is extremely technologically savvy. A study conducted by Monster found that 39% of Gen Zers think smartphones are essential to their jobs. This generation expects information and communication to be mobile-optimized. As retailers and restaurants begin recruiting Gen Z workers, they must invest actively in a strong online presence and social media.

If you still need paper-based job applications and use dusty bulletin boards for workplace communication, Gen Z is sure to ‘cancel’ you. Use quick online application forms and communicate using their preferred messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp or text messaging. This generation is quick to abandon an employer that they find slow to respond and may think that you just ‘don’t get them’.

2. Nurture diversity in your workforce

Pew Research Center reported that 62% of Gen Z believe that racial and ethnic diversity is good for society. That’s another good reason to invest in initiatives that improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. The American retail workforce is quite diverse, with 52 million workers representing diverse races and ethnicities. Show your commitment to diversity throughout the hiring process (and beyond). For example, implementing automated screening ensures that the hiring process is free of bias. Encourage employees to join communities with other employees of similar backgrounds and experiences. Dell has set a good example for a robust diversity strategy.

3. Highlight pay and benefits

Monster’s multi-generational survey brought up some very interesting insights about the financial motivations of Gen Z. As high as 70% of Gen Zers are financially motivated. Gone are the days of pizza parties and Ice Cream Fridays to keep your staff motivated - Gen Z prefers competitive pay.

Retailers and restaurants can offer alternative pay perks, such as Earned Wage Access (EWA) so employees can get paid a fraction of what they’ve earned between paydays. This can help Gen Zers in a tough financial spot, which is a stress-driving factor for 46% of Gen Z workers.

Other must-haves for Gen Z when it comes to benefits are:

  • Health insurance (70%)
  • Opportunities for professional development (47%)
  • Maternity/paternity leave (33%)

4. Provide flexible work options

Today, retail and hospitality employers are also competing with flexible gig economy opportunities such as DoorDash drivers. Gen Z is independent and self-reliant - 76% aim to eventually their hobbies into full-time jobs. To compete with these alternatives, retail and hospitality employers must provide flexible work options to attract and retain Gen Z workers, such as:

  • Make the shift schedule available 2 to 4 weeks in advance for employees to assess their availability
  • Make it easy to swap shifts with other employees
  • Provide the flexibility to change roles within the company

5. Prioritize mental well-being 

Deloitte's recent survey reported that half of Gen Zs feel stressed or anxious all or most of the time. Gen Z is all for the hustle culture, but not at the expense of their mental health. In a highly competitive space like retail and hospitality, fostering a workplace that prioritizes mental well-being is a valued benefit for Gen Z. 

Provide health insurance coverage (most cite medical bills as their biggest worry). Give employees access to mobile-friendly mental health resources, such as Calm for Business. Frequently conduct pulse employee surveys to check in about their mental health and collect feedback about what you can improve.

6.  Invest in socially responsible initiatives

76% of Gen Zers strongly believe in working at a job that makes an impact on the world and should have a greater purpose. For example, a recent survey found that 51% of Gen Z would take a job with a lower salary for an environmentally responsible employer.

Invest in initiatives that make a difference. Participate in events such as #GivingTuesday, which is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, or partner with local soup kitchens. Retail and hospitality employers that focus on sustainably sourced products will attract Gen Zs. 

Appealing to Gen Z talent may seem like a challenging ask, but getting this generation in your corner is going to be a huge benefit for years to come. Leverage new-age technologies like AI and automation to engage candidates across their talent lifecycle. Want to see how Sense’s mobile-first and AI-driven talent engagement platform can help deliver delightful candidate experiences? Explore our offerings for Retail and Hospitality.

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