As a young CEO, employee retention is surely on your mind and the single largest factor affecting your business. This will further be compounded with the rate at which baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) will retire over the next decade. While the perception is that the youngest, newest members of the workforce – the Generation Y, Generation Next or the Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) – are less loyal to employers than their predecessors, the fact of the matter is that the new generation is as committed and loyal as prior generations provided they are engaged, empowered and inspired to solve business issues and optimize their productivity.
Attracting and retaining young talented individuals to replace the top, older professionals will be costly, time-consuming and even exhausting. This is a generation that wants to continually learn and grow though challenging assignments and training. They also want to be recognized for their efforts and rewarded for their results. All of which is crucial for business success and profitability.
Since the retirement of experienced workers is inevitable, young CEO’s need to develop and retain less experienced employees while paving their career growth so they can assume additional responsibilities and seamlessly move into management roles in the near future.
- A 2007 report on employee loyalty from Walker Information indicated that 36 percent of American employees will leave their current organization within the next two years – a 5 percentage increase from 2005. Almost a quarter more said they feel trapped in their jobs – and four in 10 Gen Y’s is at high risk of leaving their companies.
One of the most common reasons younger workers leave their jobs is lack of full engagement with the company’s objectives. While the young generation has an insatiable appetite for growth and job success, they also:
- Strongly believe in their ability to make major contributions to the company’s success and growth.
- Dislike change as much as older workers, and want to help their organizations grow and prosper.
- Will leave one position for another to make a real difference, to fulfill their career potential, and grow personally and professionally.
- A Wall Street Journal study found that 97 percent of the 40 companies surveyed said they needed stronger plans to retain top talent across generations. In other words, most managers feel unprepared to deal with the high-turnover trend.
Reaffirming that continual development of employees leads to commitment and loyalty, the Wall Street Journal report verifies the need for corporate executives and HR managers to understand the younger generations’ value systems, priorities and unique needs. This will increase retention.
Generation Y become very committed and loyal employees when:
- Are connected to the vision and purpose of the organization.
- Clearly see how their individual efforts contribute to moving that purpose forward.
From the very beginning of their careers, this generation has been very clear and straightforward about their desire for their work efforts to make a real difference while providing personal fulfillment.
- A recent survey, conducted by BusinessWeek, determined that the companies with the highest retention rates were the ones most transparent, flexible, responsive, and even nurturing. They wisely meet the needs of the younger generation.
The BusinessWeek survey ranked accounting firms Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young as the top three and the first to rethink how to recruit and retain new college graduates. The accounting firms, which as a group are not known for providing engaging or inspiring work, transformed their recruiting and employee retention programs to attract and retain new talent – a critical attribute to their future growth and success.
This generation has lofty goals and dreams, and they believe they can achieve them. They are optimistic about the future and realistic about the present.
In managing young employees in the workplace:
- Clearly outline the goals, objectives and deliverables for the organization.
- Provide the structure, guidance, direction and flexibility to get the job done.
- Customize training, mentoring, incentives and responsibility — to retain this generation.
A Pew Research Center Study on Generation Y outlined many of these ideas. Asked about their top goals in life:
- 81 percent said being famous and getting rich is their generations’ most important life goal
The desire to be famous and rich may sound shallow, but the reason why is rooted firmly in reality: The Pew Study said this is a generation that is hyper-aware of what it takes to keep pace with the costs of housing, insurance and education, all of which are considerably higher than at their parents’ generation.
To transform this mobile young generation of workers into seasoned, long-term employees, who will stay with the organization and become valuable, productive managers of the future – you should:
- Help meld their personal goals with the company’s goals — paid time off to volunteer or encourage incorporating outside interests into the workplace.
- Ensure continual growth — personally and professionally.
- Treat individuals equally.
- Establish mentoring programs – younger generations want to learn from various individuals.
- Respect their intelligence, energy and optimism.
- Establish team-oriented projects.
- Listen and understand their value systems.
- Ask for and be ready to implement their ideas.
- Be prepared to explain the rationale behind thoughts and decisions.
- Provide two-way, open communication.
- Explain why or why not certain suggestions can be implemented.
In summary, show respect and appreciation for all generations of employees – and you’ll secure a loyal, dedicated employee base that will empower your organization and secure its profitability.
Dianne Durkin is the president and founder of Loyalty Factor LLC, a training and consulting firm that specializes in change management and employee loyalty and customer loyalty programs. She is the author of The Loyalty Advantage (AMACOM, 2005).