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The Future of Work


A new, more diverse generation is taking center stage. And new technologies are changing the way people shop, buy and sell, and work.

We know that in the next 10 years, the retail workforce will be reshaped by millennials, who will make up an estimated 75 percent of all employees by 2025. This generation expects companies to have digital acumen. They hunger for meaningful work and want an engaging culture with a personalized experience.

Technology will be a key driver, disrupting how the industry handles finding talent, how you and others in retail do the work, and how you’re trained and developed for the next step in your career.

Are you and your company ready to take advantage of these changes — or will you surrender the edge to your competition? Consider these top trends that experts say will change who you work with and how you work together:

Women Leaders

Despite the stubborn gender gap in corporate America, I’m confident female leaders will be more prevalent in the retail workplace of the future — business demands it. Women make up more than half our workforce and two-thirds of shopping trips. But companies need to build more inclusive cultures that put women “at the table” and “in the room” when plum assignments are awarded, when promotions are decided, and when compensation is calculated. 

“Companies that create an inclusive culture for all of their people will be most successful at attracting, retaining and promoting women throughout the leadership ranks, according to NEW Board member Beth Marrion, managing director of retail at Accenture.

Do the women at your company have clear career paths to leadership roles? Are men and women offered the same mentoring, sponsorship, development and opportunities that lead to leadership roles?

Job Automation

Marrion cites futurist Thomas Frey, who says 60 percent of the best jobs in the next 10 years haven’t been invented yet — think drone pilot, digital reputation consultant, digital archeologist, and chief experience officer.

At Deloitte, clients are looking at in-sourcing capabilities like artificial intelligence, robots and other “productivity accelerators” that can take on routinized tasks, repetitive analysis and the like, joining humans to form a hybrid workforce of machine learning/automation and human insights and analysis, according to past NEW Chair Alison Kenney Paul, vice chairman, global lead, client service partner at Deloitte. “This will be a trend in white-collar work as the war for data scientists and other hard-to-hire professionals becomes more challenging,” Paul says.

Consider the checkout-free Amazon Go convenience store powered by “Just Walk Out” technology in Seattle and the online shopping giant’s plans to supermarket-size the concept this year. Different skills, in different areas of expertise, will be needed to operate the retail store of the not-too-distant future.

Young Managers

In the multi-generational workplace — where young professionals may be savvier about new technology and changing trends — leaders need to connect with emerging leaders and develop them faster. Is your company incorporating millennials’ ideas and points of view by creating an open and safe work environment where everyone’s contributions are valued, regardless of tenure?  

“Diversity drives innovation and that includes generational diversity,” Paul says. “Deloitte data tells us that 80 percent of millennials expect to be able to give a performance appraisal to their boss.”

Transparency Is Key

Deloitte research shows culture is crucial to attracting high-quality talent. And culture without transparency will fade.

“Retention and engagement rely on regular feedback, not once-a-year performance reviews," Paul says. "If our newest employees are used to getting thousands of ‘likes' for their point of view — in a few hours — they will not sit still for a once-every-12-months discussion of their progress. Companies will need to build in regular feedback, coupled with great learning opportunities, to hang on to the best talent.”

The "Boomerang Employee"

A boomerang employee is one that leaves a company, but returns later. Deloitte has created "Colleagues for Life,” a talent strategy focused on alumni.

Embracing boomerang employees is a benefit for all, says Paul, and a solution to the work/life balance conundrum where “road warriors” want to move to roles in corporations with less travel and more predictable schedules to meet family responsibilities.

The Gig Economy

According to the Accenture Skills and Employment Trend Survey, 43 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be freelancers by 2020, Marrion notes.

“The ‘gig economy’ is here," Paul agrees. "We are using the ‘crowd’ to source solutions, get the best thinking, and solve problems fast. Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for corporate America, nor is every project a full-time job.”

There’s only one way to succeed as a retailer today and that’s by leveraging the newest technology and best talent, no matter their gender, age or career stage.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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