Here’s What You Need to Attract and Keep Your Young Talent

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Jun 1, 2018

Are you having trouble recruiting and retaining young talent? Recruitment has been an ongoing concern for human resources for a number of years, particularly with regards to the younger generation. It has recently come to light that more and more employees are abandoning the traditional 9-5 office job to explore the gig economy, leaving CEOs and business leaders everywhere anxious about the future of their organisations.

Though this might sound disheartening, be comforted by the knowledge that there are a great number of high-performing millennial and Gen Z employees who are eagerly looking for a stable company to build a long-lasting career with. We just have to know what they are looking for in a company, in a manager and in a career in order to retain these top players. If we refuse to adapt and provide the younger generations with what they’re looking for, it is altogether too easy for them to jump ship for a competitor that is more willing to move with the times.

So what exactly do millennials and Generation Z look for in a career? Though there are significant differences between these two cohorts, there are prevalent themes that keep reemerging, which we will explore below.

Authentic, meaningful communication

Young employees don’t just want to turn up to work, complete their assigned tasks and head home at 5pm. They want to know how they are performing and they want regular, meaningful feedback from their managers. In fact, it has been shown that a good relationship with a manager can account for as much as a 70% variance in engagement levels.

It is for reasons such as this that many companies have been transitioning to a model of performance management known as agile performance management. This involves the abandonment of single annual appraisals in favour of more regular performance discussions. Such check-ins occur on at least a monthly basis and allow managers and employees to properly discuss any pressing performance issues, any employee concerns, or opportunities for advancement. This can be backed up by an open-door policy and real-time communication, which can be provided by modern software. This helps employees feel a more valued part of a well-functioning team, than a cog in a machine.

Mentorship and coaching

The days of the tyrannical leader are now over. Young employees are repelled by such managers and are now seeking authority figures who fulfil more of a coaching role.

One survey of over 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 found that, more than anything, these young employees wanted a mentor. They grew up in families who supervised them, but who also provided constant support, rather than micromanaging their every move. As such, this is exactly what millennials seek in an office environment. This has been backed up by a Deloitte study that has shown that millennials who have a mentoring relationship with their managers report high satisfaction rates with regards to motivation, which in turn affects employee retention.

With this in mind, managers must learn to be forward-thinking and helpful, rather than retrospective and critical. Instead of informing an employee of how they have underperformed, work with them to show them how they can improve and what the company can do to assist. In addition, managers need to take a step back and allow employees to develop their own approach to their work, while providing guidance along the way.

The importance of trust

New research indicates that as much as 25% of UK workers have quit their job in the past due to issues relating to trust. Trust can be hard to build, but it is invaluable in terms of recruiting and retaining young employees, who want to feel part of a tight-knit team. Employees want to trust their colleagues, they want to trust their managers and they want to be trusted in return.

The same study, which surveyed over 2,000 people, revealed that over half of employees considered trust was a major element that determined whether or not they stayed with an employer — far more important than other extrinsic motivators such as a free gym membership.

So how can you adapt your performance management system to allow trust to flourish? It all begins at the top — employees need to be able to trust their leaders. Leaders need to set an example during one-to-ones, they need to be authentic and they need to personify their company’s values. Most importantly, leaders need to demonstrate clearly that they trust their employees. Ultimately, this will have a trickle-down effect and seriously impact company culture in a positive way.


One of the major reasons why young employees are abandoning traditional office work for contract work is due to flexibility. In fact, according to one study, 60% of the recipients claimed that this was the most compelling reason to join the gig economy.

Flexible working makes a lot of practical business sense when you take time to really consider it. Employees can work with their own productivity rhythms, they can be mindful of commitments at home and they can avoid the dreaded rush hour to work — this ultimately results in an employee who is happier and more productive, not to mention far more appreciative and loyal.

Modern technology

It is becoming ever clearer that technology has a huge role to play when it comes to retaining young employees, which should come as no surprise. After all, millennials grew up with technology and Generation Z won’t remember a time without it. These young groups of people are proficient and comfortable with technology, making it a huge draw for any business.

According to a roundtable held at The Yorkshire Post, software can make employees feel more engaged, retaining promising young talent at a company. This sentiment is echoed by an employee experience study by Adobe, which named technology such as performance review software “the future of work.” The survey showed that 50% of the recipients rated technology more important than office perks such as free food or modern office design.

Meaning and purpose

The days of employees turning up at a job simply in return for a payslip are long gone. The fact of the matter is that millennials aren’t extrinsically motivated by money or other financial perks. Rather, they are incentivised to work due to a sense of purpose and meaning. They want to know they are making a difference to their company and in order for this to happen, their role needs to be given context. Employees should be given clarification on why they are important to the organisation and how their objectives feed into company goals.

Companies that tap into this drive are far more likely to retain their young, top performers than those who insist on pushing extrinsic motivators above all else.