How Can Your Company Retain its Gen Y Workforce?

By Jessica Johnson

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A hot topic in 2013 that will continue in the months to come is building an employment brand that will give your company a competitive edge in recruiting generation Y candidates. As studies show, 85 percent of employers believe that a strong employment brand determines its ability to hire top talent. With such a large majority, employers will continue to research and invest in the development and promotion of their employment brand this year. But what happens once you’ve successfully brought on quality hires? How will you ensure you’ll be an organization that ensures gen Y hires will continually grow and develop? According to a Forbes article, 70 percent of gen Y employees leave their first job within two years of joining. So, what does it take to retain these employees?

There are multiple reasons for employees leaving their employer. However, if you’re able to provide what generation Y values, your organization will be able to retain these employees. As a result, this will mitigate the adverse effects that turnover has on your company. To do this effectively, we must determine what drives gen Y employees.

Generation Y, which is also known as the millennial generation, (although dates seem to vary among multiple resources) is defined as those born in the 1980s and 1990s. With this classification being so large, it’s easy to see why you should be targeting this generation. These individuals range from the latter part of high school through mid-career, which provides an assortment of experiences to recruit from.

In terms of what gen Y employees look for in an organization, a top value is the opportunity for career progression. To some millennials, a career advancement opportunity is important because it means growth, stability and more money. Although this came in first, compensation is ranked as a close second, as well as flexible working environments, training and development programs, great leadership, diversity, being able to do interesting work and knowing that they add value to the company.

So, how can your company successfully match these values in order to retain the gen Y workforce?

Career Advancement

In considering how employees are going to advance their careers, why not have a career customization program? This can be similar to college students working with advisors or counselors. Employees could work with a mentor or someone in HR designated to discuss all the opportunities at the company. For instance, if you want someone right out of college, how are you going to get them to see your company as a long-term choice? A suggestion would be to present relevant job opportunities that make the most sense at different stages of their career, given the pace, workload, location and level of responsibility they are willing to take on. Giving employees a sense of choice in how they shape their careers is empowering. For a great example of this, check out Deloitte’s recent study on one of their initiatives.

Professional Training

The chance for continuous learning that is well supported with training is repeatedly mentioned by younger employees as a primary reason they stay with a company. Giving employees options for shaping their careers is empowering only if they have the skills and capabilities needed to take advantage of new opportunities. It is important to make sure employees have easy access to the training and development resources they need. Provide your professionals with trainings on technology, leadership, mentorship and presentation skills to ensure they have the resources they need to grow their careers accordingly.

Company Culture

Gen Y values a multitude of perks in regard to company culture, such as the ability to have a flexible working environment. Arrangements like part-time work, job sharing, compressed work weeks and telecommuting focus primarily on an individual’s need to adjust their work situation. This can make it easier for candidates who have unique personal responsibilities; they have the flexibility to create a satisfying work-life balance.

In addition to flexibility, building a company culture that promotes engagement and retains employees goes back to its leadership. A transparent management team helps gen Y employees connect to their company. They want to hear candid communication about the state of the company and its goals for the future, for example, from executives. Along with this, transparency around difficult issues is essential to building trust with newer employees.

Of course, these are not the only values in terms of company culture that are important. In order to retain gen Y employees, the culture must promote collaboration and idea-sharing. Many millennials indicate that they need to feel like they are contributing and adding value to an organization. The use of games and contests may also get them engaged and highlight how their contributions are specifically impacting the company. Rewards and recognitions may also increase positivity in the culture.

The irony of building a culture that retains gen Y is that, in the process, it may uncover similar values found in other generations. By listening to this new generation of workers and creating a culture that attracts and retains gen Y, companies will become more appealing to employees of all ages.

Jessica Johnson is a recruitment consultant at WilsonHCG. Connect with Jessica on Twitter!


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