5 Ways to Retain Gen Y Workers

To keep young talent, you need to understand their values and how they work.
August 29, 2012

Retaining young workers is one of the biggest challenges many companies face. Several research reports over the past five years have concluded that Gen Y workers leave their jobs after two years. According to a new CareerBuilder study, 77 percent of workers are either actively searching for a new job or are open to a new opportunity. This number jumps to 81 percent for millennials and is lowered to 70 percent for baby boomers. Additionally, job seekers consult about 15 resources for each job including career sites and Facebook. Why is Gen Y worth your time? They will comprise 36 percent of the workplace by 2014, 40 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025. They bring fresh skills, are the most diverse generation and always connected, and thrive in a team environment.

Here are five ways to retain your Gen Y employees:

1. Create an internal hiring program. Gen Y employees will leave your company if they aren’t given career opportunities. If they see no path to the top, or no way to gain new experiences, they will leave. Aprimo, as highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, guarantees recent college graduates a promotion within a year through its OnTrack program. As a result, they have increased their retention rate to 85 percent for a five year period. Hiring internally can save a company thousands of dollars on recruiting fees, job advertising, training and on boarding. Overall, it costs 1.7 times as much to hire someone externally. Companies need to provide mentoring and reverse-mentoring opportunities so that Gen Y can network with executives, while learning about the industry and what it takes to be successful.

2. Permit social networking use. Over half of U.S. companies block social networks, reports Robert Half Technology. Companies see social networks as productivity drainers and as a security issue yet employees think differently. More than half of students and young professionals wouldn’t work at a company that blocked social networks, reports Cisco. Social networks are a way of life for Gen Y employees and they want to be always connected to their friends and family, even during work hours. Since employees are answering e-mails and having calls outside of work hours, they should be able to be more social at work. There needs to be a new employment contract that allows for more flexibility, where work is more focused on results rather than time spent in the office.

3. Provide constant feedback. Don’t use your annual performance reviews as the only time to provide feedback to Gen Y employees. They want managers to give them feedback daily. A recent survey of over 1,000 Millennials showed that over 60 percent of them want to hear from their managers at least once a day. The more you communicate with them, the more they will feel like you care, the more they will learn and the more they will be engaged with their work. While older generations want a hands-off approach, millennials want constant feedback.

4. Gamify your workplace. Gen Y grew up playing video games such as Mario and Zelda and now play Angry Birds and Call of Duty. A recent MTV report shows that 74 percent of Gen Y agree that if the workplace were like a game, they know how to level-up faster than others. At Bluewolf Consulting, as reported by Forbes, employees earn points by posting creative new topics for discussion or responding to posts of others. Points can then be traded in for prizes including lunch with the CEO and an iPad. As a result, website traffic has increased by 80 percent. Gartner predicts that over half of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify them in the next three years.

5. Focus on your community instead of profit. Profit as the sole measure of success is rejected by 92 percent of Gen Y and over 50 percent believe that the purpose of business is primarily innovation and societal development, reports Deloitte. Make sure that your company is giving back to your community and that your employees gets to be part of the process. Gen Y is attracted to non-profit companies because there is a purpose behind them over just getting donations. All businesses should try to make a positive impact on society.

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