Fill the Millennial employment void

November 12, 2012

Gen Yers aren’t working to their potential—which makes them ripe for food chains to recruit with incentives that they value.

Do supermarket senior executives look at their own sons and daughters as the next wave of their chains’ workforce? Or do they want better careers for them?

If working in the food channel holds no appeal to their kids, how badly does the trade miss the mark with Millennials—not only as potential employers, but also as sellers of their daily needs? If stores covet them as customers, don’t they also need to respect them as staffers?  

The Lempert Report doesn’t expect supermarkets to be as stellar as Google and Apple—who enjoy strong relationships with Millennials both ways—but it’s clear to us that Millennial-driven strategies could pay long-term dividends. Chain executives tell us they have problems recruiting qualified college graduates.  

This is an opportune time for food stores to step up with innovative appeals that could help them vie for the best of the lot. After all, more than half of recent college graduates are unemployed or under-employed, says The Associated Press. Some of the low-pay, dead-end jobs held by Millennials are as baristas, clothing sales associates and retail cashiers, notes PayScale. Saddled with college debt, 40% expect to boomerang home at least once, according to the Pew Research Center.

With the right incentives—perhaps starting with help to pay down their education loans with tenure and a rise up the ladder in a management training program—supermarkets could attract the best of this tech-savvy generation. These Millennials could immeasurably help retailers relate to this upcoming generation of family-forming shoppers too.

Whole Foods is known as a better payer than Walmart and other retailers. This may be enough to fend off a push for labor unions and attract people already willing to work in the food trade. But their $15 an hour average rate won’t compete with the broad range of potential employers.  

If the food channel moves to fill the Millennial employment void, we expect they’ll find a receptive audience today. An influx of new, young talent could make chains quicker to apply new technologies and relate to this increasingly important audience for their store performance.