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Attracting Young Talent To The Grocery Industry

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by Jim Dudlicek / NGA director of Communications and External Affairs

It’s no secret that independent community grocers have a lot to offer young workers who are seeking a meaningful, challenging and rewarding career.

But when it comes to selling this younger talent pool on a career in grocery, independent retailers are battling both the competitive offerings from big stores and incorrect perceptions young people may have about what grocery jobs look like.

The NGA Foundation hosted a recent webinar in which Nick Nikitas, founder and CEO of e-commerce solutions provider Rosie, and a panel of young grocery talents explored how independents can appeal to Gen Z and Millennial employees, build out a leadership pipeline and set themselves apart from the competition.

Speakers also included Alexa Dash, director of e-commerce and marketing for Dash’s Market, which operates four stores in Western New York; and Corry Lankford, director of advertising and e-commerce for Brookshire Brothers, which operates more than 100 stores in Texas and Louisiana.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Understanding your future employees is critical. Generation Z is digital – they grew up with the internet, smartphones and video games and have been exposed to the global marketplace of ideas and e-commerce. Many say they face a tougher time when entering the workforce compared to previous generations, and two-thirds believe they will end up in jobs that don’t yet exist.

Feel the burnout. Many grocery workers feel burned out or underappreciated by management or co-workers, making it a challenge to attract and retain talent. Store employees report being much less satisfied with their jobs than office workers, and just over a third say they only receive training during big job changes like transfers and promotions.

Counteract dated perceptions about a career in grocery. The modernization of independent grocery opens up attractive career opportunities for younger employees: e-commerce, digital marketing and automated back of house requires tech skills to implement.

Local grocery stores offer what young employees want in a career. Grocers have authentic histories of serving the community, with a vibrant culture and personality, as Dash observed about her employee-oriented company.

“Nobody is afraid to get their hands dirty,” she said of the family-run company.  Smaller stores offer opportunities to own key business activities rather than be a minor contributor in a large chain, and present clear career paths, from entry level to store leadership positions.

Promote a progressive career narrative. Evolve your career opportunities to sync with the interests of younger consumers, such as e-commerce and social media. Treat recruiting like you would a marketing campaign for your store – like the three pillars of “good people, good food and good deeds” pursued at Brookshire Brothers, Lankford noted.

Leverage existing young talent to attract others. Identify opportunities to incorporate benefits that are more important to younger employees, such as training opportunities, tuition reimbursement and flexible hours.

To hear exclusive retailer insights, view a recording of this webinar, along with past webinars, in the online Live Learning Center: https://nga.sclivelearningcenter.com/MVSite/default.aspx.

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
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