There are approximately 16 million retail positions across 11.4 billion square feet of commercial real estate in the U.S. While this may be fantastic news for the youth workforce who play an integral role in filling local retail openings, finding staffing isn’t so easy for retailers. It’s one of the biggest and most expensive business challenges they face, as retention becomes a long-game strategy throughout the industry.

According to a recent NRF report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows a downward trend of teenagers and young adults joining the workforce through 2024. Of those who do enter the workforce, societal effects aside, today’s youngest employable demographic exhibit enterprising and resourceful traits as they find ways to make money. Entrepreneurially minded, millennials and Gen Z’ers are more likely to seek employers who align with their on-demand expectations. With this mobile-first and socially-savvy generation—they are unlikely to find joy in pounding the pavement with paper resumes for a part-time job.

That said, retailers that consider implementing new channels of lead generation are likely to attract an inquisitive and ambitious set of candidates. And, luckily for tenants, landlords are ramping up their CRE technology stacks to include tools—lease management, site compliance and even human resources—that ease the day-to-day operations. Many of these offerings also implement cloud applications with direct dashboard access from most internet-enabled devices.

Colliers Real Estate Management Services (REMS) recently launched a suite of technology-forward services for clients and tenants called Neighborhood Curated by Colliers, which includes a mix of innovative and industry-changing partnerships that benefit clients and bring new life to properties. As such, REMS will soon include a SaaS product called Wirkn, a mobile-first chat and video-based employment marketplace that connects the youth workforce to retail opportunities. On Wirkn’s platform, candidates create a 30-second video pitch on why they want to work for a specific retailer. Unlike traditional cover letters, the video captures an applicant’s personality and natural enthusiasm for a particular brand or product. Retail hiring managers pre-screen applicant videos in the app. With more than 2,200 brands on Wirkn’s platform, the online exchange minimizes friction in the hiring process so retailers can do what they do best: offer a seamless customer experience to sell their product.

“The Wirkn platform and the tools we offer help tenants reduce the barriers to finding qualified and suitable staff to suit their stores. A retailer can have the best products on display, but if the staff isn’t engaging with the customers on location, the impact to the consumer experience and ultimately sales per square foot will be equally affected,” said Devrin Carlson-Smith, Chief Digital Officer, Wirkn.

Wirkn is also an attractive addition to landlord tenancy services, by aggregating data and analytics to shed light into how consumers are traveling through shopping centers, where they may be lingering and, in the case of the Wirkn community, identifying which retailers are most popular with its users. “This data allows us to capture trends in real time,” says Karen Whitt, president of Colliers’ Real Estate Management Services, “and determine the impact of changes, or alert us early to issues that could impact multiple tenants. Anything we can do to eliminate guesswork offers big advantages.”

Not only are these insights relevant to REITs, as well as the shopping centers they own, they also help landlords better understand how to position themselves and how to reconfigure their tenant mix and reinvigorate their local community to be successful as retail corridors gradually re-emerge as Main Street community centers.

“Landlords want tenants to be successful, and tenants would prefer to be in a successful landlord-owned project. Having this technology at our fingertips to streamline everyday processes creates a stronger working relationship between the two,” said Anjee Solanki, national director of Retail Services at Colliers.

Anjee continues to be an insatiable enthusiast of all things retail. She’s a student of culture with a pulse on future shoppers and the fleeting trends constantly changing the retail landscape…driving retailers, landlords and developers crazy! Tweet @anjeesolankiCRE #colliersretail