Leaders are struggling to retain talented younger employees. Many leaders are quick to decry what they see as Generation Y’s lack of loyalty and commitment. As I’ve noted elsewhere though, generational differences are often overstated and don’t necessarily help in predicting or explaining individual preferences. However it’s easy to see how the corporate downsizing that has impacted family and friends has taught this generation that employee loyalty may not be reciprocated by employers. Add to this Generation Y's high levels of education and mobility, and you have a recipe for high turnover.
So is it all about bean bags, bright colours and free food? Well, making offices more ‘cool’ only goes so far. Some organisations try to take these surface elements (from organisations that are known for their ability to attract and retain Gen Y’s) and inject them into their own offices. Like all transplants though, they’re often rejected. Cool offices are an outworking of the culture of organisations – they’re not the driver of the culture. Likewise pay doesn't guarantee longer tenure – you can read more about why here.
There is a practical way to help retain Generation Y employees. While it sounds counterintuitive, helping workers to grow and build their CV can make them more likely to stay with your organisation. 'Mastery', or developing additional skills and experience, is a major source of workplace motivation (see more here). As a manager, you can consciously help your people to develop skills and experience that matter to them. In addition, you can help employees to recognise the development and progress that they are making.
During your regular meetings with your people, make sure you set aside some time to identify what further development is of interest. Also spend time looking back at the previous month or quarter to identify the new skills and experience that they have gained. Help them to summarise this experience in a way that will fit into a CV or LinkedIn profile.
By highlighting and increasing their employability, you will be able to demonstrate the value staying with the organisation will have on their development. And the approach also works across all employees. For example, as people approach retirement, providing them with skills that will help them to pick up part time roles (if that's what they want) will also be attractive.
Achieving this at an organisational level requires managers who can have skilled discussions with employees. This is likely to involve some investment in skill development for managers as well. But, as we’ve seen, this development may also help to retain your managers.