Fashion’s Gen Z’s Biggest Hiring Challenge

Knix, the direct-to-consumer lingerie brand, has no problem attracting young employees to design its airtight underwear or dream up its next social media campaign. Nearly 60% of its workforce is under 30 years old.

Finding staff for its growing network of stores, however, is another story.

“In almost every store we’ve opened, we’ve had great difficulty building the initial team,” said Joanna Griffiths, Founder and President of the brand. (Knix has opened seven stores in the United States and Canada over the past three years.)

Griffiths said Knix’s “hyper-clear mission and purpose” helps attract employees of all ages to its corporate jobs, but has been particularly helpful in attracting idealistic Gen-Zers. The mission also helps differentiate Knix when hiring on the retail side, but the competition is much tougher: when the company was recruiting staff for the opening of its Santa Monica, Calif., location, the ‘Last year, there were 14,000 other retail positions open within a five-mile radius,’ she said.

In August, there were still 1.7 job openings for every unemployed person in the United States, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 4.2 million people quit their jobs that month, putting the quit rate barely below the records set at the end of 2021.

Post-pandemic, workers at all levels and across all age groups have new and heightened expectations of their employers on everything from compensation to work-life balance. But, overall, Gen Z is causing the fashion industry the most problems when it comes to hiring and retention. The challenge is most pronounced in stores where the needs are greatest and the work is less attractive, experts say.

Fashion companies will need to move quickly to revamp retail jobs so they offer greater financial stability and more rewarding responsibilities. Higher salaries, consistent and more predictable schedules and creative tasks such as live streaming and social media posting could help store workers feel more fulfilled in their jobs, experts say.

As fashion retailers gear up for the upcoming holiday season — when retail sales will reach between $1.45 trillion and $1.47 trillion, according to Deloitte — worries about hiring and retaining entry-level employees ( many of whom are Gen Z) are reaching their climax.

“If you’re not able to create exceptional customer experiences — and customer experiences are absolutely enabled by your business associates — you’re going to lose opportunities,” said Aaron Sorensen, partner at Lotis Blue Consulting and head of business transformation practice.

Employer blind spot

Much of the effort to hire and retain young fashion talent has focused on corporate jobs, where companies have used remote working, mental wellness initiatives and higher starting salaries to attract talent. These measures — and looming recession fears — are starting to reinforce the rigidity of some early-career professionals, Sorensen said.

Retailers offered fewer incentives to store workers, although many raised the minimum wage.

“Those jobs that feel disconnected from a larger purpose and are low paying [making] people [ask] “Is this really what I want to do?

Store Makeover (Worker)

Despite their reputation for higher quit rates, Gen-Zs are “very pragmatic and seek stability and trust from their employer,” said Cristina Baruzzi, partner in the Milan office of executive search firm Sterling International.

Understaffed teams and a lack of “team stability” have an outsized impact on employee morale and on customers, she said.

Gen-Z also brings a “creative approach to stores that is…in tune with the purchases of young customers [needs]added Baruzzi.

Enlisting social media-savvy Gen-Zers for livestreaming and social media posts for stores can benefit both employees — who are looking for meaningful work — and attract younger shoppers who are more likely to find the job. fashion inspiration on social media than other channels, according to the latest Insights from BoF Report, Gen-Z and fashion in the age of realism.

A fully stocked store with at least some young talent who can speak their language is also essential as Gen Z is more likely to find fashion in-store than on brand sites, according to BoF’s Insight report. Specifically, 69% of Gen-Zers surveyed by BoF’s Insights team ranked social media among the top three places they find fashion inspiration, 39% placed stores in their top three, just in above the 36% who place brand websites in their top three places for finding fashion inspiration.

In Knix stores, the company has found that once it successfully hires its “initial store teams,” managers have the most impact on whether employees of all ages stay. or leave.

“When there’s a good store manager in place…and people feel like they’re respected and they like the product, they stick around,” she said.

Good managers “identify potential” in junior talent and can tap into enthusiastic store employees for training opportunities that motivate them to stay, Sorensen said.

For example, a seasonal associate whose primary role is stocking the shelves might be offered the opportunity to take on a few client duties or “organic social media posts,” part of their time, he said. declared.

A clearly communicated corporate culture, brand identity and core values ​​– age and body inclusivity as well as female empowerment, in the case of Knix – could be key to creating roles in stores — which, for now, still include menial tasks like making sales and stocking shelves — attractive in the long run, Kriegel said.

“There is no hard work when people work for a purpose or towards goals,” she said.

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