The Selling Point

The Pet Store's Guide to Engaging Millennial Employees

Millennials: the most talked about generation since the Baby Boomers. It seems as though the other generations are still not quite sure what to make of us and our differences in terms of work ethics, engagement, and the ever-talked-about "work-life balance." 

There's no doubt that millennials have presented a challenge to employers throughout all aspects of the pet industry. No matter what job function, many companies are seeing high turnover and low engagement rates with their younger work force. With this struggle, the question becomes: How do you hire, retain, and engage a millennial employee? 

In this article, you'll uncover a millennial's perspective on five of the ways you can keep millennial employees engaged in your pet shop.

1. Keep Work challenging and rewarding

Owning a business often means that there's always something to do and not enough people or time to do it. Unless carefully managed, this could easily result in overworking your staff while expecting unrealistic deadlines and results. This is the opposite of keeping work challenging and rewarding, and will likely end up in many burned out employees and high turnover for your store.

One way to keep your employees from burning out is by keeping their job duties both challenging and rewarding. Nothing is more disheartening than completing a particularly difficult task and hearing "cool, but have you finished x yet?" rather than "Great job! Thanks for being a valuable part of our team!" 

Millennials strive to be complimented and rewarded. The more they feel appreciated, the higher quality work they will put out. Instead of increasing the length of their to do list, you should consider how to make the most out of the time they work and increase the level of productivity. Offering rewards for completing challenging tasks will ensure your employees don't feel underappreciated, and therefore encourage them to work harder in the future.

Related Article: Why Employee Training is Crucial for Pet Stores

Some ideas for rewards may include:

  • An after-hours team building activity (i.e. Laser tag, escape rooms, dog renting, etc.) - BONUS: This will also help build teamwork and let your employees get to know each other better outside of work
  • A fun event day - This could include ice cream socials, pizza parties, or anything else that your employees are interested in. This would be a great reward for when sales goals are met for a certain time period.
  • Extra time off - Time is very important to millennials, and so is maintaining a work-life balance. For employees that are going the extra mile, reward them with an extra day of paid time off that they can take whenever (provided they tell you enough in advance so you can schedule around it)


2. Understand work-life balance

You've probably heard it a million times: work-life balance is so important for millennial employees. The fact is, the younger your employees are, the more likely it is that they consider work as something they do between the weekends. It's important to understand that this is not a job your young employees see themselves doing as their full-time career. 

Related Article: How to Build Employee Confidence in Your Pet Store

Once you understand that as a manager, you'll be able to structure your communication methods so that they fall in line with these ideas. Rather than enticing them with the idea of promotions and new titles down the road, you can say something like, "In order to get this week's paycheck, this is what you need to do." 

The actual job, and the title that comes with it, isn't as important to millennials as the current task at hand. Therefore, you'll want to take those long-term goals and narrow them down into bite-size tasks in order to communicate effectively with your younger staff. This will allow them to go home feeling accomplished ("I finished today's tasks" versus "I have a lot more to do still") and turn off the work side of their brains until they clock back in again. You will benefit by keeping employees more engaged during work hours and therefore more productive with their day-to-day activities.

3. Cater to their social side

Walking down the street, you'll be hard pressed to find a millennial who isn't using their phone during their commute. A recent survey completed by YouGove Omnibus reported that "over 50 percent of millennials report that they carry their phone in their hand throughout the day."

Rather than criticizing the generation for using their phones so often, it may be smart to take advantage of that. Let them run your store's social media account. Have them use mobile checkout kiosks to better assist your customers on the floor. Ask them to invite their friends to a flash sale to pick up the latest brand of dog food. No matter what you decide to do, take advantage of the fact that millennials are good at being social on their phones.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Become a Mobile Friendly Pet Store

As Leigh Buchanon writes in Meet the Millennials, “One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities" (Ivey Business Journal).

In addition to catering to their social side, have your employees participate in adoption events and other activities that promote your store's social giving. Allowing them to give back to their community will not only help those around you, but will also boost their loyalty and let them feel as though their company is willing to give back to society - something that millennial employees value greatly.

4. Listen to their ideas

Millennials have a lot of ideas. Moreover, they like their ideas to be heard, especially by those who will then act on them. The Ivey Business Journal has recently cited an example of a millennial struggling with staying engaged at work. According to the article, she was reported stating, “I guess I just expected that I would get to act on more of my ideas, and that the higher ups here would have figured out by now that the model’s changing.”

Taking time to listen to your employees' ideas will help them feel engaged with your store. Once they feel as though they have a hand in helping your store succeed, your employees will feel more personally connected and interested in the store's overall outcome. The second they feel their ideas are being ignored, they will no longer treat your sales goals, your store, or even your management with the same respect.

Take some time every week, month, or quarter to listen to your employee's ideas. Not only that, but pick a few really good ones to try in your store. Your staff are those who are in your store day-in and day-out, communicating personally with every single customer that walks in the door. Odds are, a few of their thoughts are going to be great, and may be the difference between your store's success and failure.

5. Let them know where they stand

For millennial employees to become successful, they need to know where they stand at any given time. The problem is that many companies don't realize how often their employees need to hear their feedback. Semi-annual reviews are becoming increasingly unpopular among millennials because they don't occur often enough for them to make changes to improve, or realize their full potential in their successes.

Rather than relying on long, semi-annual reviews, work with your employees to find a time frame that works best for them. A shorter timeline will allow them to set themselves up for short term, realistic goals and allow them to make quick changes to improve their quality of work. Don't be afraid to hold back on critiques either, because millennials like to know where they truly stand.

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In a study compiled by Ivey Business Journal, one millennial respondent said, "If I get feedback from above as to if what I am doing is ok, needs changes, should do more or less, etc., I do not care about the message. I am very receptive to even quite negative feedback, but I like knowing where I stand, and I like knowing what the expectations are and how I’m stacking up.”

The key here is to keep feedback clear, consistent, and frequent in order to get the best results out of millennial employee engagement within your pet shop.


Summary: How to Engage Your Young Employees

As a summary, there's a few ways you can go about engaging your employed millennials.

  1. Keep their work challenging, and rewarding them once they have been completed well.
  2. Millennials are often cited as wanting to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Rather than fighting this, use it to your benefit by constructing your communication methods to align with these thoughts.
  3. You may also consider taking advantage of the fact that your employees might always be on their phone, by allowing them to run your store's social media or inviting friends to come in for a flash sale.
  4. Additionally, you'll want to listen to and consider your employee's ideas
  5. Let them know where they stand on a consistent, clear, and frequent basis in order to boost their success.

Additional Resources


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Ashley Hoffman – E-Commerce & Digital Marketing Manager joined the All Points family in April of 2015. Ashley brings a fresh outlook to the marketing industry as well as a constant desire for learning something new. She is dedicated to consistently improving her skills and efficiency in the marketing industry and using those skills to promote APM and all brands we represent. Ashley is a millennial pet owner herself, and is currently the loving owner of two cats.

Click here for more information about the All Points family.

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