Talent is a critical component in the development and success of any organisation. This rings especially true in retail, where recruiting and retaining a pool of sustainable talent has always been a challenge, fuelled by intense competition and the ongoing transition of the workforce from Generation X to Generation Y.

Gen Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, comprises those aged 18 to 32. The fastest-growing segment of the workforce today, they are lauded as being tech-savvy, creative and smart, infusing the workplace with energy, innovation and fresh perspectives.

Whether it is working in a frontline position, or in the back-office, retailers have to recognise that Gen Y is now a vital cog of the workforce, and employers have to make the effort to be responsive and understand the needs and expectations of this new generation.

With a shrinking talent pool, talent management is one of the most critical tasks every company has to undertake in order to build a stronger competitive edge.

This is where human resource managers play a critical role in engaging, recruiting and strategically cultivating the talent pool to develop multiple competencies in addition to specific job-related skills.

Additionally, there is no one-size-fits-all recruiting strategy because every company has its own unique business model and culture. Finding the right people goes beyond looking at resumés or paper qualifications.

For example, Courts uses recruitment approaches such as pre-interview luncheons with senior leaders to give potential hires a better insight of the company, followed by a series of engaging activities to gauge suitability.

The company also proactively fosters relationships with students from local universities and polytechnics through internships, study tours and career fairs.


Building rapport

Gen Y-ers highly value mastering the learning curve, and being immersed in a work environment that is collaborative, supportive and progressive. To attract, nurture and retain this new generation, companies must stay attuned to the values and issues that they hold close to them, and provide them the platform to achieve their professional and personal goals.

Organisations need to cultivate an open culture of continuous learning and working closely with employees to harness their full potential for their professional development. A less hierarchical organisational structure can encourage rapport building between colleagues and management.

Coaching and mentoring opportunities should also be very much part of the talent management agenda, where experienced members of the organisation impart their skills, knowledge and experiences to newer staff.

Continuous training can boost employee morale, job satisfaction and loyalty to the employer. Employees can benefit from various training and development programmes, which revolve around building core skills, and people skills such as leadership, communication and teamwork.

One such example is Courts’ Graduate Retail Trainee Programme, a specially designed programme for fresh graduates in their first foray into retail. Successful applicants will be rotated across departments to be immersed in a multitude of roles critical to the retail operation.

Companies that want to retain employees in the long term must also be flexible with employees who desire to take up different roles within the organisation. This will provide opportunities to cross function and deepen their understanding of the business to prepare them for senior roles.


Keep employees happy

A happy and active workforce is one that will propel an organisation to greater heights. Companies must display a willingness to understand issues and concerns raised by staff. Senior management teams can use several platforms, like informal coffee chats and work improvement committees, to engage staff and listen to issues from the ground.

Staff conferences can be organised to cascade strategy so that everyone is aware of their role and how they can work together towards a common goal and vision. Opportunities for cross-functional sharing of knowledge and expertise are also created by involving colleagues in key projects. It is important to keep these lines of communication open so that the workforce feels actively engaged and part of a bigger goal.

On top of excellent staff benefits, employees are increasingly prioritising a competitive remuneration package. Companies must ensure employee satisfaction is met by rewarding staff contributions with a compensation package that is competitive and sensitive to economic and market conditions. Extra benefits like job-related allowances, commission, overtime, incentives and bonuses can greatly motivate an employee’s performance.


Giving back

A company leader can have a big effect on employees’ intrinsic human drive by running a workplace that makes a difference. This resonates strongly with Gen Y, which is known to be altruistic and active in giving back to the community. Employees will rally together to bolster efforts in their company’s charity initiatives.

In short, Gen Y employees are aspirational, highly motivated to succeed in and out of work, and want a mutually beneficial relationship with the company they are working for. This has led to changes not only in recruitment blueprint, but also workplace and management strategies.

Employers should acknowledge this and provide the necessary platforms and tools to adapt to the changing dynamics of the workforce, or else risk being perceived as irrelevant and inconsequential.


Article by Kiran Kaur, Chief Talent Officer, Courts Asia.