Nordstrom Displays Good Judgment for Recruiting and Retaining Millennials

How to engage with millennials and avoid the fast employee turnover amongst this cohort is just one of the many challenges faced by a retail sector that is having to keep up with increasingly higher expectations of service from their customers.

Millennials now represent the largest generation of people in the history of the United States with a colossal 80 million members. For any business to secure its success in the future, its leaders need to be thinking about how to get the most out of the millennials they are employing now, and looking at how those same people will lead their firms tomorrow.

But Aren’t Millennials Always Itching to Move On?

According to the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey, the evidence certainly seems to point in that direction. One of the major findings of the survey is that millennials have “one foot out the door”, with one in four of those surveyed being happy to leave their current place of work within one year if opportunity knocked. That figure rises to 44% over a two-year period, and by the end of 2020, a full two-thirds of those surveyed are hoping to be thriving in pastures new.

The reasons why millennial loyalty is so precarious are many. Millennials express a need for their place of work to be well-aligned to their moral and ethical values. They also place a lot more emphasis on gaining new experiences than their predecessors did – a desire more important to them than simply having the means to pay their bills, saving for the future and owning a home – and so securing a long-term job is less important to them on a personal level.

Millennials, it seems, need value in their lives right now. For employers, this means, above all else, developing strategies that promote engagement – through processes that forge meaningful connections between the millennial workforce and the core values of the company, and through learning and development opportunities.

Indeed, the Deloitte survey reveals that millennials want to contribute to the positive impact that they deem a business is having on society, with 70% believing that their personal values are shared by the organizations they work for – a figure that rises to 80% with millennials in a senior role, and 82% among those intending to stay at their current place of employment for at least a further five years. On the flip-side of the coin, globally, 56% of millennials have “ruled out ever working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct.”

Further, 71% of millennials who are likely to leave their current firm in the next two years cited being unhappy about how their leadership skills are being developed. The most loyal employees are those that believe that the organizations they work for offer leadership support and training, and indeed encourage younger employees towards leadership.

In short, millennials display the greatest loyalty and drive if they are given something to believe in, commit to, and put their weight behind. From an employer’s perspective, this means finding ways to engage them, and provide clear opportunities for learning and development.

Nordstrom Has a Strategy to Engage Millennials – Empowerment

Clearly, millennials wish to feel empowered at their place of work. They want to feel like the organization they work for supports their values – and therefore, by extension, themselves as individuals – and that there is a clear path to progress. Instilling a sense of such empowerment involves placing trust in employees to use their initiative to do the right thing.

At Nordstrom, this attitude is embodied within its remarkably short employee handbook that perhaps delivers the ultimate in employee empowerment and trust. "Our employee handbook is a single card that says 'Use good judgment in all situations,'" Nordstrom spokesperson Dan Evans told Business Insider

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It’s a strategy that clearly works for the retailer, for, as the Business Insider article notes, the company has “better-than-average morale and retention” rates, especially among millennials. 

In an interview with NRF, former Nordstrom Director of Talent Acquisition Mary Porter (She is now a Director of HR at Nordstrom) describes the company’s passion for customer service and how this is embedded within every single member of the team.

“Every Nordstrom employee (whether they work on the sales floor or in a support position) is focused on making people feel good, and our culture is centered on creating an environment where our people feel supported and empowered to do just that. We encourage our employees to work as though it’s their name on the door – to build their own business and do what they feel is right to build lasting relationships with their customers.”

Porter added that Nordstrom wanted “candidates who want to build relationships with customers and provide them with an outstanding experience. We empower our people to do what it takes to make our customers feel good and have just one rule in all situations that gives them the freedom and flexibility they need to make that happen in all situations: Use good judgment.”

And this use of “good judgment” is something that Nordstrom encourages its employees to take with them outside of the workplace in an ongoing effort to build up the Nordstrom employee community with more of the right people at every opportunity. And this, once again, plays into the millennial desire to feel empowered by the company that they work for, and, importantly, is backed up with clear learning and development opportunities that Nordstrom provides exclusively to its employees. Indeed, in this regard, Nordstrom offers a set of values that millennials can positively engage with, and a culture of community in which career paths can be mapped out at any stage of employment. The last word goes to Porter.

“We believe finding great candidates who will be the right fit also starts with making personal connections and word of mouth. When Nordstrom employees are out in the community getting a coffee, having dinner or purchasing something at another place of business, they are encouraged to make connections with those who offer the service we are looking for with hopes that they may consider a career with Nordstrom. In addition to our typical recruiting programs, we also have a robust campus program where our leaders connect with students as they start to think about their career choices. We offer a great starting point with our internship program. From employees who choose to work with us, we promote from within, so the career options are endless at Nordstrom.”

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About John Waldron: John Waldron is a technology and business writer for markITwrite digital content agency, based in Cornwall, UK. He writes regularly across all aspects of marketing and tech, including SEO, social media, FinTech, IoT, apps and software development.