How to retain young professional talent
“How do I keep my young employees from leaving the company so quickly?” If you’re a business owner asking yourself about retention tactics in 2022, you’re not alone. In order to answer that question, however, we’ll need to do a quick recap on the state of the young employment market right now.
With millennials rapidly graduating into home-owning adults with stable careers and life trajectories, a new generation — Gen Z, as most people call them — have taken over as the nation’s fastest-growing young talent market. Much like their millennial counterparts, Gen Z young professionals are known for their quickness to change jobs, citing better career opportunities, greater pay, advancement opportunities and a more compatible work environment as primary reasons for leaving.
Some organization owners are saying this revolving-door employment culture is the way of the future, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true. After all, Gen Z workers do want to work somewhere, and if the criteria for a positive work environment are met, there’s no reason to worry about younger workers up and leaving the business you’ve worked so hard to grow.
What’s more, there’s major benefits to keeping young professionals around. Constantly having to hire new talent takes time, effort and ample resources — and even if you’ve found someone to replace your previous employee, there’s no guarantee they’ll be a great fit for the job.
On top of that, young professionals are full of new, exciting ideas. They’re far more in-tune with the current cultural market than older employees, and have a greater understanding of technology, social media and other of-the-moment inventions. That’s good news for any business trying to stay with the times, and it’s all the more reason to work hard to keep your young employees from leaving.
If you’re interested in keeping your young professionals on the company payroll, here’s some retention tactics to try.
Adopt a more flexible work schedule
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet looking up “Gen Z trends,” this one has probably come up before: young workers are crazy about flexible work schedules. And why shouldn’t they be? With major workforce changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become clear that many large-scale businesses can operate just fine on a non 9-to-5 schedule.
That’s helpful for young professionals, who value free time and are more conscious of “burnout culture” than any previous generation. Gen Z workers want to spend more time with friends and family, and they also want a job that allows them to travel and explore their surroundings while still earning an income.
One thing to note: while many business blogs will say young professionals want a greater “work-life balance,” we’d actually argue the opposite. From our experience, young workers don’t want a balanced life, because balance is… well, boring. Instead of a balanced or “less intense” approach to the job, young employees still want to work hard, perform at a high level and feel extremely valuable at their jobs. It’s just that they also want to play hard and feel extremely valuable while off the job, too.
For these reasons, giving young professionals the opportunity to be their truest selves on and off the job with a flexible schedule that supports their goals and dreams is one of the BEST ways to keep them on your employee roster for years to come.
Offer opportunities for professional development
If your company isn’t suffering from any particular drawback — such as notoriously difficult middle management or a lack of benefits programs for new employees — then chances are good the reason your young employees are leaving is because they feel stagnant in their development.
Gen Z is a curious generation, and they want to feel truly passionate about the work they do. If they’re not constantly learning new things about their line of work, they’re bound to feel bored, listless or disengaged on the job. At the same time, if your company doesn’t provide a clear path toward advancement, young professionals will start to see you as a “dead end” employer. After all, why would someone at the start of their career stay at a job that doesn’t help them improve their skills?
Giving new employees opportunities for professional development such as seminars, conferences, one-on-one training and coaching are all ways to help them feel engaged and proud of their work for you.
Give young professionals lots of feedback
With older employees, feedback is important, but it’s not crucial to their development. Young professionals, however, need a lot more guidance than seasoned workers — what’s more, they’re eager to receive it.
That’s right: giving out evaluations to your new workers and providing them with the tools to build on what they know is one of the number one ways to keep them invested in their careers. If you haven’t already, offer a communication channel or formal means by which your young employees can ask for an evaluation at any time.
Another thing employers often neglect is the fact that young professionals also crave the ability to GIVE feedback. Gen Z is full of new ideas and insights, and they want to share them. So why not use that same communication channel as a way to allow employees to provide reviews of your business operations?
It might feel uncomfortable to receive an evaluation from your least-seasoned employees, but young professionals might actually be able to spot chinks in your organizational armor that others could miss. The truth is, your newest employee just might know a better online communication system or have an ingenious idea for hitting deadlines more efficiently… but you won’t know about it until you ask them.
Put your money where your mouth is
Nobody likes to hear this, but better pay is a giant motivator when it comes to retaining young talent. That’s because most young professionals are more likely to receive a raise by changing jobs than by staying at their current employer, and they know it.
Does it have to be that way? Certainly not. Instead of simply offering annual reviews and salary increases, look to offer semi-annual performance reviews and more frequent raises or bonuses. While it might feel like a steep cost to increase the rate at which you promote your young professionals, chances are good you’ll spend less money promoting young talent than searching for, hiring and training a whole flock of new employees after your last batch leaves.
Offer ample mental health resources
Young professionals are dealing with a lot. Between the aftermath of COVID-19, a stagnating housing market, rising inflation, climate change and more, many new employees are feeling burnt out. For these reasons, recognizing the difficulties young employees are dealing with and formally providing resources to help them tackle those challenges will go a long way toward improving your retention rates.
What do mental health resources for young professional resources look like? First, it’s important to start conversations about mental health in the workplace — talking openly during conferences about struggles with depression, anxiety and other mental illness can make a young employee who’s struggling feel seen and supported. For those who need serious mental health support, try offering health program benefits, such as resources for therapy, counseling, and psychiatric assistance.
For employees who aren’t dealing with a severe mental health episode, you might instead want to turn to professional coaching resources. Resources like these are a great alternative for young professionals coping with the struggles of everyday living — including relationship, financial, career and familial problems — but who don’t need intensive therapy to overcome them. What’s more, services like these can help young professionals think more critically about their future, including how they want to shape their career trajectory.
Giving young professionals the tools to think about how they want their career to look will help immensely when it comes to improving retention rates. Your employees will be thankful that you’re interested in helping them shape their job and life path, and you’ll reap the benefits of an employee who’s more certain about how they want to contribute to your company going forward.
Retaining young professionals is as simple as engaging them
You’ll find a lot of articles about “new employee retention hacks” and “young professional employment secrets” online, but the truth is, there’s no hack or secret to prevent Gen Z employees from leaving your business. Simply put, in order to keep young professionals around, you have to give them what everyone who’s ever worked a job wants: a stable income with employers who are genuinely interested in their development, financial security and contributions to the organization.
While those things might look a little different to Gen Z than they did to previous generations — like being more flexible about scheduling or offering more frequent employee reviews — the truth is that nothing has fundamentally changed about the job market. If you continue to do what great employers in the past have always done, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about regarding young professional retention.
Of course, it never hurts to have help along the way. If you want additional advice about how to navigate the current young employee talent market, drop us a line!