How to build a future-fit workplace

4 minJune 10, 2024News

What will the Consumer Goods and Retail Industry look like in 20 years? One thing’s for sure: young people are the future of our industry, and the more we invest in them now, the stronger our sector will be down the line. A lot of attention is (quite rightly) paid to senior leaders and CEOs, but it’s also critical to involve NextGen employees in shaping the future of our industry.  

At LEAD Network, we conducted research on NextGen talent, in collaboration with our NextGen Chapter, Lidia Timkovskaya, the Gradus company, and Sarah McGowan, our strategic advisor. We spoke to close to thousand employees aged 25-35, via surveys, focus groups and crowdsourcing, to find out what they really think about the Consumer Goods and Retail Industry, and published the insights in our seminal NextGen Report, available to LEAD Network Partner companies.  

“This research is unique because we analysed insights from NextGen talent within our industry and some from outside to identify insights relevant for Retail and CPG companies,” says Sarah McGowan. “We did see some important differences – as NextGens view our industry as far less ‘future-fit’ than NextGens outside the sector. We can learn a lot about how to adapt organisations from this data.” 

In this article, we’ll give you a summary of what we learned from our research. 

NextGens inside our industry generally see their organisation as less fit for young talent.

31% NextGens in our industry who see their organisations as fit for young talent

69% NextGens outside our industry who see their organisations as fit for young talent

Our industry is less attractive to NextGens.

28%NextGens who find our industry attractive

72%NextGens who find other industries more attractive (service, IT, Hospitality, Consulting, Financial Services, Pharma)

Most NextGens inside our industry want to grow and develop the necessary skills to advance, and are more likely than NextGens in other industries to want to do so.

97% NextGens in our industry who express the desire to grow their career

87% NextGens outside our industry who express the desire to grow their career

Myths about NextGen employees  

One of the most interesting takeaways from our research is that some of the myths we commonly hear about NextGen employees aren’t rooted in reality. One of the most pervasive myths is that NextGens only want to work remotely, in a fully flexible manner. This myth doesn’t take into account the fact that NextGen employees are often living in shared accommodation with friends or housemates, and might not have a dedicated office space at home. This means it’s difficult to focus on work and to take part in confidential client calls, for example – and working from a comfortable office alongside colleagues is an enticing prospect. Our research showed that many NextGens do want to work in the office. Creating opportunities to choose the preferred work location is important. Mandates don’t work – providing choice does. 

Another myth that we see perpetuated in the media is that NextGens want to advance quickly without putting in the work. Our research shows that NextGens are very keen to access training and opportunities for growth and are dedicated to putting in the hours to develop their functional and business skills. The industry is not providing enough visibility to career paths or growth opportunities, taking for granted that younger employees know how and what to do to advance. NextGen employees need more exposure to possible career paths to understand how to grow and learn the right skills. 

So what’s the solution?  

We wanted to find out what NextGens themselves see as possible solutions. We boiled down their responses into four key areas. 

1. Create connections & increase visibility  

Conduct informal NextGen listening sessions. Implement a NextGen Board, Hub, or Resource Group. Conduct role swaps to create reverse mentoring opportunities.  

2. Be flexible about flexibility  

Embrace flexible hours and remote work. Enable office rotation days across the company.  

3. Diminish the hierarchy  

Reduce organisational layers. Become more transparent with decision making. Implement agile communication practices like Ask Me Anything sessions. Implement alternative career ladders.  

4. Enable career exploration  

Showcase role models with functionally diverse backgrounds. Implement career coaching. Create a practical, accessible overview of your company’s career paths. 

 Thank you to everyone who worked on this research, in particular our NextGen Chapter, co-chaired by Radia Ahsan and Frederique Rautureau, Lidia Timkovskaya, the Gradus company, and Sarah McGowan, strategic advisor to LEAD Network.

Access to the full NextGen Report is for LEAD Network Partner Companies. If you’d like more information about becoming a Partner Company, visit our website

About LEAD Network 

The LEAD Network is a non-profit organisation with a mission to attract, retain and advance women in the Consumer Goods & Retail industry creating sustainable business value.  With over 19,000 Members and 66 corporate Partners, we are committed to building a diverse and equitable workforce where everyone can contribute and grow, and organisations thrive. It’s free to become a Member, and you can sign up by visiting our website 

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