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HFA Reports: Retail Benefit Plans

Furniture World Magazine



Over the past couple of years, virtually every HFA member has dealt with a phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. It’s part of a quiet generational war that is taking place in retail. Typically, there used to be two generations in the workforce at any given time—a younger less experienced group and a dominant, senior group that naturally shaped and mentored them. Currently though, there are four generations in the workplace, each with its own values based on their unique life experiences.

Four Generations
Aging baby boomers are quickly exiting the workforce as they approach retirement. In established retail organizations, they are still the major decision-making group holding C-suite roles. The youngest baby boomer will be 65 years old at the end of this decade.
Millennials now outnumber Generation X and have become the largest group in the workforce. And, Generation Z is right behind them, projected to overtake all other groups due to its sheer size.

New Expectations
As societal norms and expectations have progressed, workers and consumers have come to use different criteria to determine where they spend their time and dollars.

Organizations are being evaluated based on factors such as community involvement, environmental impact, social responsibility, diversity, inclusivity, work/life balance and family-friendly policies. Gone are the days when the onus on qualified job seekers was to sell themselves to employers. The tables have turned. Talent acquisition teams instead have had to sharpen their marketing skills to sell candidates on the benefits of joining an organization.

Any organization’s fate depends on the quality of younger workers it can attract and retain. Although unemployment is currently at low levels, there is no shortage of workers. Vacancies exist because many workers do not want to work in rigid environments where employers do not respect their lifestyle and individuality. If you have trouble attracting the millennials and Gen Z workers you need, it’s time to take a hard look at how you do business.

“Consider offering a four-day, 40 hour work week also known as a 4/10, or a schedule that spreads 80 working hours over nine days. The 9/80 can provide employees with a three-day weekend every second week.”

Native Tech Users
Gen Z and millennials are native technology users. They likely spend more time communicating through TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitch and Discord than through LinkedIn, Facebook and more established formal platforms. As ridiculous as it may seem to the average baby boomer retail CEO, many good candidates won’t read your carefully worded job posting. So, create a video. Applications need to be easy to fill out on an applicant’s phone with few clicks. Even attaching a resume may seem too tedious of a task for them. Don’t judge them as lazy. From their perspective, it’s likely that if your organization uses what they view as archaic, hard-to use technology, it’s a reflection on your organization and its business practices. They know there are better and easier ways to get things done. You may want to bottle up some of that energy for your company.

Solutions to Consider

  • Relax your dress code, especially regarding piercings, tattoos, hair colors, styles and outdated requirements like ties and pantyhose. Other than safety issues, neat and clean should be your standard. It is essential to allow for individual expression.
  • Create a mentorship program that is as mutually beneficial to the more experienced worker as it is to the younger worker. The more experienced worker can share valuable insight and the younger worker can share technical skills and coaching.
  • Be generous with time-off requests, even if you are occasionally shorthanded. If you don’t, employees are more likely to call in “sick” on days they want to take day off. It is always better and appreciated when you can plan for workers to be absent. Also, consider that you may lose employees when you don’t allow them time off, which is an even bigger problem.
  • Try moving away from email to a swifter form of communication. Formats such as Slack, a business messaging and productivity app; Voxer, a secure platform offering a real-time, push-to-talk, walkie-talkie messaging app; and similar platforms can simplify overall company communications and find receptive audiences, especially among younger employees.
  • Reconsider your organizational structure to find ways to allow for remote or hybrid work.
  • Offer alternative work week schedules. Consider a four-day, 40-hour work week also known as a 4/10; or a schedule that spreads 80 working hours over nine days. The 9/80 can provide employees with a three-day weekend every second week. Some workers may prefer a split shift with significant breaks to account for school schedules for themselves or their children.
  • Create a meaningful Rewards & Recognition plan. Be sure to celebrate them victories to allow them to feel like they are a part of the organization’s success.
  • Collect and use employee feedback using employee engagement tools. Recognize when employees make meaningful suggestions and acknowledge the employee’s contribution.

Balancing workers’ needs with the company’s needs can be a rewarding experience. The transition will also cause some growing pains. Do not quickly throw in the towel, as it may take time before the new way of doing business catches on.

For more information on what HFA is doing to empower furniture retailers for continued success, join the community at www.myhfa.org.

A  feature about Home Furnishings Association's retail members, legislation affecting the furniture industry and other retail news from HFA.