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Effective Retention Strategies

We all know how important it is for businesses to find, attract and retain a talented workforce. In today’s world, workers, especially younger ones, change jobs much more frequently than they did 10 years ago. Turnover has a huge financial and organizational cost as businesses struggle to recruit and train new employees. So what are the secrets to retaining quality employees? Do younger workers want different things than more seasoned workers? How do you keep young talent from jumping ship?

What’s the problem?

The problem is that, in large measure, today’s workforce is restless. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that nearly three-quarters of any given workforce is looking for employment elsewhere. SHRM reported that 41 percent of employees were passively job seeking, 31 percent were actively job seeking while just 28 percent were not searching at all.

A full 50 percent of workers polled said they were likely to increase or begin a job search as the job market continues to improve.

And that’s one of the root causes of the problem; a strong job market and strong economy make workers restless, as they seek other, better employment opportunities. At the same time, a tight labor market means there are not enough skilled workers to go around.

The highest turnover is in middle management and non-management, and turnover is highest among the youngest workers, those in Gen Y and Gen X. Younger workers are much more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere if they are not getting what they want at an organization. And this is a problem because if you don’t keep your pipeline of talent happy, productive and retained, you won’t have much of a pool to draw from.

Retaining talent is a bottom-line issue for all companies, and 75 percent of human resource directors say they are concerned or very concerned about it. Keeping workers happy and productive is imperative, especially among the youngest sector. Here’s how to do it.

What’s the best way to retain young talent?

Obviously, money and benefits are very important to employees, and companies with good pay packages will do a good job of recruiting and retaining employees. But all things being equal, your competition probably has similar pay packages, so the question is, what sets your firm apart? How do you make your company a preferred employer?

This comes down to one, simple, yet complex factor—how your employees feel about working for your organization. And with the Gen X and Y workers, where turnover is the highest and where retention is a problem, companies have to understand what those workers need, and give it to them.

While, most people want similar things out of work: to be respected, to contribute positively and to be paid well. Younger talent places a higher value on things like professional development, relationship with their boss, and opportunities for advancement. Remember, young folks want to launch a career. Therefore if you want to retain them you should integrate some retention strategies that are aligned with their goals and your goals. I recommend the following retention strategies:

I. Onboarding

Employee retention begins on day one. Studies show that new hires begin to question their decision to join your organization after their very first day, which is why employee orientation is absolutely key. The most frequent complaint about employee orientation is that it is boring, overwhelming or non-existent. This is where onboarding comes in. Onboarding differs from conventional orientation in that it is a comprehensive approach that serves to introduce and integrate new employees.

This approach is extremely important for young talent. Onboarding is your first opportunity to deliver on recruitment promises; you must reaffirm their decision to “buy” into your employment. In it, you must build cohort, solicit their input from day one, provide an authentic overview of your organizational culture, and get senior leaders involved. Show them how their work contributes to the organization. Use career and organizational success stories.

Young workers want to see how they will fit in, they want to be part of a team, and they want to be assured that their work is meaningful. Give them that from day one and your retention task will be a lot easier.

II. Professional Development

This is all about training. Employees want to have the skills to succeed. This is especially true for young talent. The problem is that traditionally, organizations offer professional development as a “reward’ for service. Why do they wait? Remember, this is about career launching. Training and development is a critical investment for individual and organizational success. If they are lacking skill or certain professional “sensibilities” then find them appropriate training. Don’t wait until the gap becomes a festering wound.

Training must be facilitative, interactive, and fun. Young people today need the “soft skills” as well as the hard, technical skills. Gen Y does not learn passively; they learn through active engagement, so be sure that your training is tailored to what works best for them.

III. Manage, Coach, & Mentor

Managers and supervisors of young talent must become adept at managing, coaching, and mentoring them. Gen Y is used to having adults invested in their success. They are used to being coached and mentored at home and at school, so they need this in the workplace as well. Gen Y has defined expectations from their managers: They want respect. They want to be treated as colleagues not “kids” They want their managers to take an active interest in their well being. They want consistent and honest feedback. They want reward and recognition. They want a clear delegation of task with a flexible process. Again, recognize what they need and give it to them. If you don’t, someone else will.

Your organizational culture must support personal and professional development. In order to make this work, you have to provide your managers with the skills they need. And you need to hold them accountable. If your managers aren’t ready consider outside sources or structured coaching and mentoring programs

IV. Meaningful Work

Meaningful work means people feel like they are making an important contribution to the organization’s mission. For young talent it is an opportunity for them to showcase their talents and skills and develop professionally. Young talent will not be happy only doing menial labor; they want to contribute something they believe is meaningful. You must find a way to give them substantial work. Give them a seat at the table.

Create strategic initiatives for them to tackle. Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Show them how their work contributes to the organization. Recognize and reward contributions. This is the groundwork you laid in your onboarding; now you have to deliver.

V. The Stay Interview

I am convinced that if more companies did this, turnover would be much lower. The stay interview is a situation in which you find out why your employees are staying. It’s an interview where you find out what your employees love or hate about your organization, sort of a how’s it going, state of the union sort of thing. Stay interviews are a great way to find out what your organization is doing right so that you may leverage it to make better strategic retention strategy decisions.

Rather than waiting for the exit interview, why not find out now what is working and what isn’t? It seems kind of insane that we ask people why they leave—as they are leaving! This information doesn’t really help us in real time, does it?

Stay interviews should be focused on the positive. They shouldn’t just be a bitch session, though you do need to find out if something isn’t working. Use appreciative inquiry, like:

  • What will keep you here?
  • What might entice you away?
  • What is most energizing about your work?
  • Are we fully utilizing your talents?
  • What is inhibiting your success?
  • What can we do differently to best assist you?

By using these strategies, your company can build a retention strategy that will keep all your workers longer and happier. The key is to understand that your youngest workers approach their careers differently. Once you understand this, you can be proactive and accommodate theses differences, and that will help you retain them.

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