We have all seen it. You go to the mall on a weekday night, and there are a few stores closed. You walk into a restaurant with plenty of empty tables, yet there is a 30-minute wait. Operating hours of some of your favorite retailers have been shortened. You can’t find the products you want in stores way too often.

These problems all stem from the labor shortages that have hit us so hard and while this trend seems to be easing up a bit recently, it has created a new wave of workers and higher expectations than ever before. I have experienced this as a consumer, I have experienced this with my customers who I work closely with in planning their labor and scheduling spend, and I have seen this as a father of a daughter who has recently joined the workforce. In this post, I’m going to talk about these new expectations that the workforce is demanding and what retailers and employers are doing to hire and retain employees and thus keep their doors open.

Maybe the best example I can give is to tell you about my daughter Amy. About a year ago, Amy joined the workforce. She went out and had two interviews and was immediately offered a job at either a local pizza restaurant or a local retail store. She chose the pizza restaurant since her friends work there (and well, also because we eat there nearly three days a week and know everyone there). Things started off great as she got trained in multiple areas of the restaurant, had good hours, good pay, friends, etc. She was loving it.

And then about 6 months later, she quit. I couldn’t understand why, but she explained to me that they kept scheduling her as a hostess and she didn’t like being a hostess. She wanted to take calls for pickup orders or be a food expeditor or a server. After complaining a couple of times, she left. Now I have been working with retailers and the food service industry for over 17 years, and while I have seen this new trend emerging, when it was personal and my daughter, well my dad hat came on and I felt I needed to have a talking with her.

So after I had the talk of “when I was your age I worked whatever they scheduled me and I liked it. Plus I walked five miles barefoot in snow just to work a three hour shift at minimum wage.” After realizing I was reciting my dad’s speech to me, I calmed down and tried to be more rational with her. Then I remembered, she just picked up a shift at that restaurant last week as a hostess and now she is quitting because she hates being a hostess? This didn’t make sense. And that’s when my kid said the most profound statement that defines what we are seeing with the latest generation of workers. What she told me was:
“I want them to give me what I want, unless I change my mind and I want something different.”

I hate to say it, but that certainly sounds like my daughter. But look at what she is really saying here. The first part of her statements says “give me what I want.” And that is the expectation of employees today. When they first get that schedule, it better be a schedule they want to work. For my daughter, that meant her schedule better be the jobs she likes and only schedule the job she doesn’t like if you have no other options. Seems easy enough, but that’s just one employee. The next employee may need to work at least 30 hours a week and if they don’t, then this job isn’t worth it. Another may only want to work three days a week because they have to work the rest of the week at another retailer. The combination of preferences can be overwhelming for managers.

Then look at the second part of my daughter’s statement: “…unless I change my mind.” If the first thing an employee expects is that perfect schedule, the next thing they expect is an easy way to change it after they get that perfect schedule. Needing to pick up shifts, swap shifts, offer up their shift for someone else, or call off… all of these were actions employees always performed, but today’s employee expects easy and instantaneous ways of performing these actions through their mobile phones with alerts.

Gone are the days where the top reason someone kept a job is purely the amount of money they made. The workforce of today expects flexibility, honoring their preferences, stability of their schedule from week to week, the ability to change their schedules as they see fit, and for this all to be instantaneous and as easy as grabbing their phone.

My daughter Amy is now looking for a new job. And she has come to me asking who uses Blue Yonder Workforce Management, because I’ve shown her how the tool works. Through Blue Yonder she is able to open her phone to put in her preferences, change her preferences when needed, pick up shifts, swap shifts, offer up her shifts, get notifications when shifts become available, and work at multiple locations with the same experience. I gave Amy a quick tour the Blue Yonder Workforce Management Mobile application and her response to me is what all employees are saying: “Yeah, that’s what I expect my manager to do for me.”

Are your employees equipped with these tools? Have you run employee engagement surveys to understand what your employees are wanting? Are you taking their feedback and making efforts to provide employees with simple to use, no training required, immediate access to real-time information with push notifications? Act now by contacting Blue Yonder for a free assessment of your current state and let us help you make plans to become the employer of choice.

One thing to mention, managers at these retail locations are employees too. While I focused on front-line employees here, we must not forget the managers and what they must go through to keep their staff happy, engaged, and from leaving. In my next article we will focus on the managers and why these tools are not only expected by your employees, but also critical for your managers.