Keeping Talent: How to hold on to your youngest workers

May 18, 2008 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

We’ve already written about how to attract Gen Y workers — or Millennials, as they prefer to be called — but keeping them is an entirely different story.

“Millennials may be defined by the fact that they will never stop marketing themselves. Their resumes will be constantly updated online at social networking sites,” says Libby Sartain, senior vice president of HR for Yahoo!, which employs a large number of Gen Y professionals. “This poses a real challenge to organizations and HR. Our role will be one of constant re-recruiting of our own employees, while at the same time recruiting new employees.”

Last month, Sartain’s company and Robert Half International released the results of a new study they cosponsored, “What Millennial Workers Want: How to Attract and Retain Gen Y Employees.” After polling more than 1,000 adults ages 21 to 28 (the oldest slice of the generation), researchers compiled the following tips for boosting retention of these younger workers:

Don’t offer gift certificates as rewards for performance and expect the incentive to still motivate Gen Yers a year later. “In fact,” the authors write, “don’t bother offering gift cards or any other small-scale rewards and incentives at all if you haven’t adequately addressed their fundamental needs.” What’s fundamental? Money, benefits, and growth opportunities — the top three things Millennials say would lure them to another company.

Consider restructuring entry-level jobs. Could the jobs be made more interesting or complex? Do the employees in those positions have sufficient interpersonal contact with coworkers? Is the manager or supervisor available on a consistent basis to provide them with guidance and direction? Do the jobs involve varied and challenging assignments, or do employees in those positions perform repetitive tasks? “Those who are just starting their careers want to know that their contributions matter and their skills are improving,” the researchers explain.

Create a collaborative, collegial work environment. All professionals want to feel rapport with their colleagues. Study participants said that these minor but high-impact steps could give your workplace a boost:

  • order a pizza lunch once a month for your staff so they can share a meal and get to know one another better;
  • feature an “employee-of-the-month” in the company newsletter or on your corporate intranet;
  • encourage employees who have put in a significant amount of overtime to take a longer lunch or leave early on a Friday afternoon; and
  • plan off-site activities where employees can have fun and get to know one another better (such as a group charity walk or a miniature golf competition).

The good news, say study authors, is that “many of the perks Millennials seek — such as education, training, and advancement opportunities — not only will help firms attract and retain these professionals right now, but also will position these workers to tackle new business challenges and help their firms grow and prosper in the future.”
Download the full study at

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