Why and How to Attract and Retain Young Talent

profile_Publicity_photo by Katherine Gustafson on August 6, 2014
Smart leader

It is becoming increasingly important to attract and retain young talent. Millennials — people who are 30 years old and younger — already make up 36 percent of the U.S. workforce, and their ranks are only expected to swell. As baby boomers retire and Generation X-ers age, employers will need to hire even more millennials to fill out their staffs.

Chris Duchesne, vice president of global workplace solutions for Care.com, recently spoke with the Intuit Small Business Blog about how to recruit and engage these up-and-coming professionals.

Promote Work-Life Balance

Duchesne believes that businesses should focus on adapting their work environments to accommodate younger staff members and to reflect the shifting employment landscape. For example, Care.com provides access to quality caregivers, from nannies to geriatric nurses, as an employee benefit. He says helping employees find and maintain work-life balance make it easier for the company to retain talent.

“Millennials as a group expect a recognition of their personal lives as well as their professional lives,” Duchesne says. “They look at their parents, at how much they worked, how they dedicated more [to] the work side than the personal side. They’re looking for a different equation. They’re looking for employers that allow them to be engaged and present, not just in the workplace but [at home] as well.”

Millennials grew up with computers and mobile phones and are used to being connected to the internet no matter where they are. They expect their always-on devices to enable them to stay actively engaged in their professional and personal lives. Duchesne believes that being able to do so can be more important to millennials than traditional markers of career success, such as pay increases and promotions.

Provide Growth Opportunities

An engaging management style is vital to keeping younger employees happy. For instance, they typically want regular feedback about how they’re performing, so managers who build conversations (face-to-face or otherwise) into their daily routines will be most successful with millennials, Duchesne says.

As an extension of that, managers should encourage young staff members to grow within the organization. Companies that don’t work hard to challenge these energetic workers may lose them quickly.

“It used to be you go, you join a company, you’ll be there for 20 or 30 years and then retire,” Duchesne says. “Now people are at a job for a year or two. It used to be seen as an inability to hold down a job, now it’s that you’ve tried different things, gotten different skills, [and] engaged in different environments.”

Millennials often would rather strike out on their own than trying to fit in at a company that doesn’t offer what they seek. “They’ll leave to go start their own businesses to have more control of their own environment, their own work schedule, as well as what they’re contributing to society,” Duchesne says. “It’s a generation of entrepreneurs.”

Be Flexible and Family-Friendly

So what can businesses do to make sure their young employees don’t become the next upstart competitors? Family-friendly policies — such as paternity leave, flexible schedules, sabbaticals, job sharing, and telecommuting — are paramount.

“Employers that don’t demonstrate that kind of flexibility today aren’t going to be seen to be competitive,” Duchesne says.

Owners and bosses must follow the family-friendly policies themselves — or risk implying that there’s an inherent penalty for taking advantage of them.

“We have one client that has half-day Fridays in the summer, and the executive team leaves the office in order to make people feel like they can,” Duchesne says. “One executive goes home and does work, [but] he queues up his email and doesn’t send it that day.”

Survey Your Staff

To figure out which policies may best suit your staff, Duchesne recommends simply asking employees what they are looking for. Listen carefully to their answers, and try to draw out specific details.

Don’t assume you won’t be able to honor their requests just because you’re a small business with limited resources. You can offer many perks for little or no cost, whether it’s making a shift in company culture or harnessing technology to create more flexibility.

profile_Publicity_photo

Katherine Gustafson is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, who loves writing about small business and entrepreneurship. Her first book, Change Comes to Dinner, explores the way entrepreneurs and other visionaries—from greenhouse innovators to no-till wheat farmers—are changing the business of food.

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