Four millennials laughing together

How to Manage Millennials: 5 Things Retailers Need to Know

  • By Matthew Ritchie

Millennials often get a bad rap: they’re described as being self-centered; extremely entitled; flaky; ungrateful; glued to their phones.

But contrary to what baby boomers say, studies show again and again that millennials—the generation born between 1982 and 2000 that’s currently taking over the workforce (as of this year, they’ll reportedly occupy 50% of it)—are the complete opposite.

  • Millennials are restrained, thoughtful thinkers that prefer to have all the facts before making a decision
  • They require clear, concise directions and have an allergy to ambiguity
  • Increasingly, they value job security—the ability to move laterally through a company, expanding their skill set to help benefit the business as they go—rather than abandoning a team and risking it all
  • Having grown up with technology, they’re often the first ones to instigate change at a company, offering new ideas and an analytical approach to them

Essentially, they’re the exact opposite of their parents. They’re also the least engaged part of the workforce, according to a recent Gallup poll. And that’s bad news for retailers and brands facing economic uncertainty.

But hiring, training, and cultivating young talent doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. Instead, it’s an opportunity for retailers to hit reset, and revitalize and refine their operations.

Whether they’re your frontline or future management material, these are the five things to keep in mind when managing millennials in retail.

How to Manage Millennials in Your Retail Environment


1. Show Millennials what you’re all about

As previously mentioned, millennials would instead foster a committed relationship with their company and co-workers than hop from company to company to move their way up the corporate ladder. An excellent way to engage Millennials is by sharing how they fit into the overall legacy of the business.

In a recent report, 60% of millennials said that a clear sense of purpose was one of the major factors they looked for when agreeing to a contract. Show them that their job is more than a stepping stone, and you’ll have a dedicated worker. And, considering that retail has one of the highest turnover rates, it’s also a way to save time, energy, and money hiring and training new employees.


2. Make learning a daily ritual

According to PwC, opportunities for career progression and training development are the top traits millennials look for in an employer. That’s because, contrary to stereotypes that paint them as being impulsive daydreamers, millennials would rather progress through a company, growing their skillset as they go than jump ship.

Rather than stick them in an after-hours class, make microlearning—a holistic, skill-based educational approach that breaks lessons down into easily digestible units—a part of your team’s day-to-day.

Again, technology is making the process easier than ever before. Look for applications and platforms like Foko Retail that allow users to collaborate in real time, share best practices, and access information from their mobile devices—it’s a great way to learn on the go.


3. Millennials rather have a good work-life balance and a flexible workspace than more money

In a recent talk, cultural critic Douglas Coupland—the author best known for coining the term “Generation X”—boldly claimed that “the future will not have the nine till five.”

Of course, that won’t always be possible in the retail industry—especially for store associates hired to restock shelves or work on displays before a big sales rush. But even if they can’t set their schedule, forward-thinking employers are increasingly finding ways to free up a bit of their employees’ time by leveraging technology to speed up their workflow.

One way retailers like Fuego do that is by using Foko Retail to assign tasks to in-store associates.

Once a week, their merchandising manager, Kelsey Leach, will send out a directive that has to be completed within 24 hours. Then, when it’s done, she receives a notification on her phone, tablet, or computer.

The 24-hour window gives the store associate flexibility in terms of prioritizing job duties during a given day, and their manager spends fewer hours monitoring completion, which is a win-win when it comes to time management.

A recent study shows 80% of millennials wouldn’t accept a promotion if it negatively impacted their personal lives. Employers take note: find ways to reduce redundancies, so your employees don’t have to work so late (or carry the day’s stress into the next).


4. Be clear and concise with Millennials

Think about it: this is a generation who grew up texting to stay in touch with people, not making phone calls. They have an aversion to long-winded emails, and they don’t want to wait hours for your response.

So give it to them straight.

Use real-time communication tools to help close the feedback loop, and stay away from emails and outdated intranets that clog up daily schedules and prevent users from getting the job done sooner. (And, not to be too modest, but we may have created just the thing.)

So cut the baloney and be clear with your priorities—you’ll end up saving everyone a lot of time.


5. Let them use their cell phones at work (no, seriously)

It seems counterintuitive to having a focused workplace, but don’t worry so much about letting your employees use their smartphones or mobile devices at work, as long as they help them get their jobs done.

According to Deloitte, millennials are “significantly less likely than their older counterparts to be comfortable not knowing all the answers,” and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Increasingly, shoppers are coming into stores with more product knowledge than employees, and that’s all thanks to the internet. So, rather than leave your employees wallowing in uncertainty, let them look things up on their mobile devices if they have to—it’s going to lead to a better experience for your shoppers thanks to the added insights, and it’s a lot more honest than having your team fib their way to a future sale.



Millennials are officially the largest generation in the world’s population. But Baby Boomers and Gen Xers stuck managing them in stores shouldn’t worry.

Click here to learn how Foko Retail streamlines communication, so you can manage Millennials on the frontline more easily.


About the Author

Matthew Ritchie is a content marketing specialist and former arts and culture journalist. He lives in Ottawa, ON. When not researching and writing about the retail industry, he can be found hiking the trails of nearby Gatineau Park or alphabetizing his record collection.