I had the privilege again of opening the annual Chief Housewares Executive SuperSession (CHESS) by moderating the Housewares Hot Seat panel discussion.
These discussions have engaged housewares leaders on myriad issues impacting a fast-evolving business. This year’s Housewares Hot Seat discussion looked into the future of the industry… specifically the recruitment and development of the next generation of housewares leadership.
Securing the next front line in home and housewares is becoming an urgent matter for an industry not always viewed as among the most progressive career preferences for those entering the workforce.
The panelists were Lauren Greenwood, president of specialty storage supplier YouCopia; Daniel Seehoff, CEO of tableware and baking accessory supplier Sophistiplate; and Scott Felsenthal, executive vp of home organization supplier Whitmor.
That the panelists have risen in family businesses reinforces their respect for traditional entrepreneurial values they believe can also be shaped as progressive values by all companies to attract new talent.
That they are all Millennials— which will comprise about 50% of the workforce in a couple of years— validates their first-hand credibility in evaluating what it takes for housewares companies to invite younger job candidates.
Ideologies & Incentives
The panel discussion illuminated common themes regarding the priorities of this fledgling professional class that often is swayed by ideologies and incentives beyond income. These include transparent communication of a company’s purpose and “story”; empowerment, autonomy and accountability within a well-defined position; a voice in a company’s authenticity; steady feedback and recognition of achievement; a sense of team and community; and an emphasis on innovation across all aspects of a business.
This is generally when eyes start to roll among some older-school executives who grew up in far less democratic workplaces and view such prerequisites as typical of the younger generation’s naive sense of entitlement.
Adapting to such preferences doesn’t have to compromise traditional chain of command and hard-working values of a company. Refusing to embrace new-age values, though, could compromise a company’s ability to attract, retain and promote the brightest new talent.
The housewares industry actually checks off a lot of the boxes for a picky younger generation that relate to businesses whose products positively impact everyday life; businesses that encourage imaginative design and marketing; and businesses that apply leading-edge technology.
A veteran industry defined through the years by a reputation for inventive solutions could do more to call out its most progressive qualities as a recruiting advantage.
Industry leaders are on the housewares hot seat when it comes to securing the next generation of leadership. They have a choice. Embrace the priorities of the newest workforce, or risk losing out on the best young talent.