Staffing Management

Retaining Young Talent Won’t Be Easy

By Staff Report

Sep. 16, 2011

Employers can expect a struggle trying to retain young talent for the long haul, as 61 percent of survey participants say they will stay at their first job for less than three years.

About 250 college students and recent grads from across the country participated in the June study by Manpower subsidiary Right Management.

“There is a definite shift in mind-set taking place among employees,” says Shelly Funderburg, a regional practice leader for the Philadelphia-based talent training consultancy. “We are transitioning from a worker mentality of ‘Show me a reason to leave a company’—where people remained at their jobs for a long time—versus ‘Show me a reason to stay.’ ”

The new mantra may cause problems for employers, given the soaring cost of employee turnover. On average, companies spend 2.5 times an individual’s salary to find a replacement, which includes recruiting, training, lost productivity and severance payments.

Funderburg, who has been an HR executive for 15 years, recommends developing a plan that specifically addresses the needs of young workers.

“Companies are going to have to put themselves in the shoes of Gen Y’ers so they can create programs that resonate with them,” she notes of the most recent wave of people joining the workforce.

According to survey respondents, there are three incentives employers can offer to make staying at a company worthwhile—the ability to grow from within, a workplace that offers flexibility and an environment where there is camaraderie.

Having sufficient career development opportunities is important for any company that wants to hold on to Gen Y’ers.

“This is a young group of people that is driven and very eager to advance professionally,” Funderburg says.

Companies should delineate career paths for entry-level positions, she says, so these young workers won’t feel as if they’re stuck in a rut. She also recommends offering ample training and skills-development initiatives.

Gen Y’ers also are drawn to an employer that offers a positive work/life balance, the survey reveals.

“Work/life balance is not only for being able to spend time with a family,” Funderburg says. “This demographic wants time to pursue personal passions, whether it’s volunteering for an animal shelter or setting up a rock band.”

Survey respondents also value a workforce environment where they enjoy good rapport with bosses and co-workers. Funderburg says this should give employers a lot to think about when promoting individuals to managerial roles.

“You can’t just look at their technical abilities,” she notes. “There are other elements, such as leadership abilities, that matter more when it comes to getting along with other people.”

—Gina Ruiz

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