Are Millenials the Perfect Supermarket Employees?

October 02, 2012

It is time to offer a new opportunity to the food-centric, food-loving Millenials to join supermarkets.

Millenials have a hard time finding a silver lining in this economy, with so many of them highly educated, carrying high debt for their degrees, and unemployed or underemployed. Boomers have delayed their retirement to replenish their nest eggs, but will likely step aside within a handful of years. It is predicted that Millenials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Although still over a decade away, it could be payoff time for people who’ve re-schooled to fit into fields targeted for growth.

But for now, according to a study released by PayScale, the most common jobs held by this generation are retail floor clerks and sales representatives, both are among the lowest paying jobs. Retail clerks average $19,300 per year. This is an opportunity for food retailers.

Part-timers in supermarkets have regularly turned over at more than 100% per year. Even in a slow economy, however, the rate persists at 44.1% annually, compared with 11.2% for full-timers, and 8.4% for retail headquarters and corporate staff, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Store staffers are the face and personality of a supermarket. Costco and Trader Joe’s appear to understand this. Wegmans and Whole Foods have built their reputation on having food and health knowledgeable staff in every aisle. They value their employees and pay them relatively well to help create positive environments that keep turnover down. Continuity of well-trained staff is becoming more important, since smartphone-equipped shoppers armed with product and price information demand more responsiveness at the store level.

It is time to offer a new opportunity to the food-centric, food-loving Millenials to join supermarkets. Food retailers at both the high and low-end of the wage spectrum could benefit by hiring Millenials, not only with more livable wages, but with career development opportunities that will both empower the individual to make use of their talents and passion, but also to feed the growing need for educated young talent.

Work styles may be challenging however, as the MTV “No Collar Workers” reports how different Millenials really are. Eighty-one percent of Millenials feel they should be able to set their own hours, a desire that may fit supermarkets at store level, but is challenging as they move up in the organization. Almost three-quarters say they need “me time” on the job – double that of Boomers and a full 90 percent believe that they deserve their “dream job.” The challenge before us is how to mix their passion with their beliefs to create the next generation of super-marketeers.