By: Carol Abel, Vice President of Education Program Development, FMI
Gen Z, including anyone born after 1997, makes up about 23% of the U.S. population and, as a generation, is starting to contribute to the economy by becoming a bigger share of the workforce. To help the food retail industry better understand the needs and wants of Gen Z, we recently released the Workforce Attractiveness in the Food Industry: How To Recruit Gen Z report, developed under the Gerald E. Peck Fellowship with Saint Joseph’s University and authored by Ernest Baskin, Ph.D. The report outlines some of the general characteristics of Gen Zers, many of which match the needs of the evolving food retail industry.
Hello, My Name is Gen Z
Gen Zers have some unique characteristics developed, in part, by some of the major events that shaped them growing up including a rise in climate change, school shootings, post-9/11 terrorism and even the Great Recession of 2008. Each of these events influenced Gen Z to develop unique characteristics including:
- A competitive mindset grounded in the desire to make a difference.
- A need for financial stability and a strong sense of resourcefulness.
- A deep integration with technology.
- A desire for diverse workplaces.
Each of these characteristics can be matched with a need the food retail industry has, and, in that pairing, Gen Z can find a fruitful and satisfying career within our industry. Let’s look at each characteristic specifically.
Competitive Mindset Grounded in Making A Difference
I can’t think of a better way to succinctly describe the food retail industry. Our industry is founded on the two pillars of entrepreneurial spirit and community support. We’ve seen the power of the food retail industry to rise up and meet the needs of the community this past year as we faced unprecedented change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While we banded together to support communities, industry members maintained their competitive spirit and continued to differentiate in new ways to increase shopper loyalty. If competition and making a difference are two needs of Gen Z, then the food retail industry has an abundance of opportunities to offer.
Financial Stability and Resourcefulness
As we’ve seen this past year, the food retail industry is essential. We work to keep our lights on during hurricanes, natural disasters, pandemics and more. You’ll never find a more reliable field to work in because the job of feeding families is fundamental to a prosperous society. The essential nature of our industry also requires resourcefulness—we have to be nimble and pivot in the face of uncertainty and we support our communities in the process. For Gen Zers looking for stability and resourcefulness in their career, the food retail industry offers both.
Integration with Technology
True, grocery stores might not seem like technology hubs, but that is the store of today. Gen Zers can help imagine the grocery store of the future that uses enhanced technology for both customer experience and supply chain efficiency. Our industry has some challenging days ahead as we continue to improve omnichannel experiences and better integrate data management into our company cultures. Gen Zers can help our industry embrace technology faster and more efficiently all while doing what comes natural to them.
Our industry is working to improve diversity, equality and inclusion across the board. Gen Zers can help the food industry on this journey and bring their unique perspective to the dialogue and initiatives taking place in our companies and our industry. This up-and-coming generation has something to teach the veterans of our industry and vice versa.
When we ask Gen Z about the prospect of working in the food retail industry, many are either unaware or have an incomplete picture of the varied career paths available in this essential sector of the economy. It’s time for the food retail industry to better introduce ourselves to Gen Z. They are a generation that possess important characteristics that our industry needs, and we can offer career paths that satisfy their wants. To do that, we must showcase different careers—both corporate, in-store and across supply chains—and better demonstrate the attractiveness of the food retail industry. Take the first step and download Workforce Attractiveness in the Food Industry: How To Recruit Gen Z, which includes key recommendations for food retailers to better recruit Gen Z.