How to retain Gen Y staff

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Big Day Out crowd 2014

If you happen to think people from Gen Y are smart, hard-working and socially adept then read on.

(AND If you happen to think Gen Y is uniformly lazy, self-centred and useless – no problem – but there are plenty of better articles out there on that than this one).

Ok good – that means we don’t now need to convince you that Gen Y is worth developing.

Here it is: the formula for retaining Gen Y is about conversations. Why? Because Gen Y love talking about their own career aspirations in an environment free from threats, judgement and ridicule. Talking about where we want to go in our career is a basic building block of real engagement because it goes to something very deep in the psyche of all us (not just Gen Y): to need to do something that we are really, really good at. If an organisation can provide an environment in which we can excel, we’re going to stay. Think back to jobs you’ve had and why you’ve left. Enough said.

Now conversations are great. But just talking with someone about where they might like to go in their career has a good chance of resulting in:

  • a blank stare
  • an aimless wishlist
  • extreme optimism
  • extreme pessimism
  • a manufactured answer just to please you

Some of the above are fun but none are all that useful for a career conversation. What is the answer then? There is no simple formula but these things in our experience have been shown to work:

Don’t put it off – talk! Now! There is often a fear that even raising future career prospects is dangerous as an individual might realise that the organisation might not be the place to develop their talents. (Trust me, if an individual thinks this, they would have come to that view well before having a conversation about it with their manager – given that, isn’t an honest conversation always better than none?)

Identify & understand individual talent rigorously Think carefully about a methodology that will capture individual talents. Some things are easy to capture (like typing speeds, ability to use Excel), others can be difficult (like leadership potential). Do your homework – what is actually being measured? In terms of service providers, has it been validated? Can you test it out yourself? Is there personalised service?

Link talent identification to your recruitment, succession planning and other people processes & systems Consider carefully how your recruitment strategy links to retention. If you are serious about retaining talented people, you are not just recruiting for a role, you’re recruiting for innovation, dedicated service and a fully engaged staff member for the long term.