Battling for Tomorrow’s Workers

M-PACT 2018 addresses pressing issue of finding workers for a tight market.

The U.S. employment rate continues to sink, hitting a 17-year low last November with 4.1%, and job seekers are finding work more easily than at any time since the mid-1990s.

On the flip side, the battle for available workers is becoming a critical issue of the convenience store industry. That was the focus of a general session at M-PACT 2018 March 14 in Indianapolis.

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Called “Winning the War for Talent,” the session examined the changing retail landscape and how c-stores will lose ground if they treat the evolving workforce as business as usual.

“If you’re managing your stores like it’s 2008, you’re out of date,” said Matt Thornhill, managing partner for Richmond, Va.-based SIR’s Institute for Tomorrow.

Not only are convenience retailers competing with other c-stores for workers, they are battling big box stores, dollar stores, quick service restaurants and other companies vying for the same workers. A group of workers that is highly sought after are Millennials.

On the face of a changing workplace. Millennials are forecasted to be the dominant demographic in 2025, with 87 million people. That’s a 14% increase compared to today.

However, companies that are best positioned to attract these workers understand the kind of workplace Millennials seek.

Workplace behaviors of Millennials differ significantly from baby boomers. Some Millennial characteristics are: work and life are integrated; egalitarian work culture; expect personal training and mentoring daily; must multi-task and feel creative; must feel they are making difference.

Thornhill explained that retailers should strategize how to tell their company story and how to make it appealing to this generation. Millennial-aged workers are less loyal, so c-stores must communicate to them that this is a place they belong.

Part of the message to prospective workers is that the retailer has a purpose or why you do what you do. For a company to thrive, it needs to infuse its purpose in all that it does. That purpose is an important component to Millennial workforce.

“You have to have (a purpose) and you need to talk about it,” said Thornhill.


When it comes to meeting the challenge of attracting more workers, c-store retailers should be looking hard at baby boomers, which is the largest growing segment of the U.S. population. Statistics indicate U.S. citizens over age 65 will grow from 46 million to 74 million by 2030.

“Do you have a strategy for 55 and older workers,” Thornhill asked M-PACT attendees.

There are other demographics c-stores can be availing, including the U.S. Hispanic population, which is projected to double by 2050, to 110 million from 55 million.

To better fit into the changing cultural landscape, companies should shift to flexible customizable policies. In addition, Thornhill explained that winning companies of tomorrow will be teachers and trainers.

C-stores should figure out what they can offer workers that Walmart, Dollar General or others can’t. Convenience operators should also listen, solicit input from employees and collaborate.