Retail’s response to value-driven candidates

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I’ll never forget my first experience working in retail. I was the impressionable age of 21, and the product was fast fashion.

During the interview, there was no mention of the brand's commitment to saving the planet or minimising waste. Conversations around professional development or workplace well-being never came up either.

Instead, the interviewers asked what my stance was on wearing heels. They were convinced that towering over the shop floor on stilts would somehow transform me into a shoplifting-spotting machine. My poor feet didn't stand a chance. Nor did my values.

Thankfully, things have changed. In the age of conscious consumerism, it's no longer enough for retailers to sell products; they must sell a purpose. Today's consumers, especially Generation Zs (the generation born 1997-2012), want to know the values behind the brands they support.

And the same goes for job seekers who are drawn to retailers that align with their own values. The bottom line - they want to work for organisations that share their beliefs and support causes they care about. And they don’t want to compromise their well-being by doing this. Goodbye heels, hello cushy trainers.

In response, retailers are stepping up to the challenge, communicating their values by committing to sustainability, employee well-being and social responsibility. By showcasing these, retailers are attracting a more diverse pool of talent that not only share their values but passionately promote their brand. It’s a win for the business, the candidate and the community.

A commitment to sustainability

“The world is waking up, and change is coming”. Greta Thunberg said it, and retailers are proving it.

It started with the removal of plastic bags and the introduction of in-store recycling. Now, retailers are finding more ways to take sustainability seriously and reduce their impact on the environment. And the growing number of candidates who care about sustainability and environmental issues are drawn to retailers who prioritise this commitment.

In fact, a recent survey from Deloitte shows that the younger workforce is extremely interested in sustainability issues, with 28% of Gen Z respondents saying that climate change and safeguarding the environment is their top concern. The study also directly linked business sustainability with staff retention of this generation.

And rightly so. Gen Z will inherit this planet, so it’s fair for them to expect employers to act responsibly and minimise the impact their business has on the environment.

By showcasing dedication to practices like reduced waste packaging, using sustainable materials and partnering up with environmental causes, retailers can create a strong connection with the younger workforce who share these similar values. Not only will they have more success in attracting this talent, but they’ll be more likely to retain them too.

The value of well-being

A recent study conducted by Gallup revealed that pay and well-being are now the top two factors influencing candidates' job-seeking decisions. And we’re not surprised. After the challenges and anxiety of living through a pandemic and now the crippling cost of living, people’s priorities in work have changed. They want benefits that directly contribute to their well-being and a better work-life balance.

In response, retailers have recognised this need to adapt and are finding ways to raise their candidate value proposition. Gym memberships, health insurance packages and professional development training are some of the benefits being offered. Candidates recognise the value of these benefits, calculating the potential savings on personal spending and the investment in their professional skills.

But what about work-life balance? The demand for workplace flexibility has risen, and many candidates who would’ve considered working in retail are now looking for customer service-based roles that can be performed from the comfort of their homes.

To stay competitive in this space, retailers need to get creative. This might involve helping employees balance their work and personal lives by offering flexible hours, shift swapping, and opportunities to work in different locations or departments.

Taking responsibility

More and more candidates are evaluating a business's efforts towards social responsibility as they consider potential employers. In fact, a Deloitte survey discovered nearly four out of ten Gen Zs and Millennials say they have turned down tasks due to ethical concerns or have rejected employers that don’t align with their values.

When evaluating a retailer's social responsibility, candidates are looking for evidence of ethical business practices, such as fair treatment of employees, responsible sourcing and sustainable manufacturing processes. Candidates also consider the retailer's engagement with local communities, including charitable initiatives, volunteer programmes and support for social causes.

To attract candidates who prioritise these things, retailers need to show they’re making an effort.  Actively engaging in partnerships and collaborations with local or well-known social initiatives or charities is a great start. By doing this, retailers demonstrate their dedication to making a meaningful impact beyond their business operations.

Internally, retailers should encourage a culture that values social responsibility. This can be achieved through employee education and training programmes that emphasise ethical practices, environmental consciousness and diversity awareness (if you’re interested, our Diversity and Inclusion suite is seriously good!). They can also create ways for employees to participate in volunteering activities or social initiatives. For example, giving employees a day off to volunteer or celebrate awareness days is a great way to reinforce a retailer’s commitment to social responsibility.


By going beyond the price tag and showcasing their commitment to sustainability, well-being and social responsibility, retailers are creating a workplace that appeals to the values of today's young job seekers. These efforts not only help attract and retain good staff but also build a positive brand image and create a loyal customer base. In the ever-evolving retail landscape, retailers who understand the power of values are the ones who will more likely stand out and make a lasting impact on both candidates and employees.

Published by:
Emily Gibson
Instructional Designer
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