How to Attract and Retain Young Talent

This blog was originally going to be called ‘How to Attract and Retain Millennial Talent’, but after reading Alex’s post on the subconscious stereotypes of labelling, I think ‘Young’ is more appropriate as there seems to be lots of negativity surrounding the word ‘Millennial’ - mostly from tabloid/clickbait media keen to portray today’s youth as lazy dreamers.

In reality, millennials (those born from the early 1980s to early 2000s) are the first generation in history to be worse off than their parents, entering the world of work at a time of economic decline and facing huge levels of university debt.

Is it any wonder, then, that young people might have an outlook that goes against the status quo? The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 certainly suggests employers need to change the way they operate if they want to attract and retain young staff.


Key findings from the 12,000 respondents include:

  • 43% of millennials plan to switch job every two years, but are more likely to stay with companies that demonstrate a strong corporate social responsibility

  • Only 28% plan to stay in the same role for five years or more

  • Increased flexibility and diversity are key to generating long-term loyalty

  • Only 36% of millennials and 29% of Gen Z (the next generation) feel prepared for Industry 4.0, highlighting the urgent need to teach students the language of tech


Future-proof Your Recruitment

The notions of career and identity are deeply intertwined for many people, especially ambitious youngsters trying to find their way in the world.

They want to feel proud of what - and who - they work for, but the Deloitte survey indicates growing pessimism amongst about how socially conscious employers are. As the official report states: “This is an ideal time for business leaders to prove themselves as agents of positive change.”

When it comes to talent attraction, money isn’t the only driving force for young candidates, so it’s crucial to offer more creative incentives that align with an inspirational company culture.  

A great way of proving your organisation is serious about making a positive impact would be to sign up to a platform like Neighbourly, which connects communities and charities with businesses all over the UK.

If you can offer a ‘Charity Day’ as part of your company benefits package - whereby staff receive full pay, but their time is donated to community projects - you’ll set yourself apart as an organisation that cares about the wider world.

While some in the C-suite may shudder at the prospect of paying people to not be in the office, it’s worth factoring in the PR value that comes with employees volunteering work time elsewhere; it’s the kind of initiative local news outlets love, and you’ll receive plenty of goodwill on social media.

Moreover, you’ll create a wonderful team spirit and empower staff with a real sense of pride, boosting productivity when they’re back at work.


Competitive Edge

As the Deloitte study notes, diversity and flexibility are key to keeping young employees loyal.

The advent of cloud computing and superfast broadband has certainly changed the way in which businesses operate, making remote working a distinct possibility for many. Allowing this freedom - even if only occasionally - can help satisfy the flexibility that is craved.

Going one step further, accountancy giant PwC has established a Flexible Talent Network, whereby some new recruits are invited to state their preferred working patterns, allowing them to avoid the traditional 9-5. In its first two weeks since launch, 2,000 people registered for the scheme, giving the firm a competitive edge in attracting new talent.

Another way to mark yourself out from the crowd would be to follow in the footsteps of BrewDog, who offer ‘pawternity leave’ for new pet owners.


While initiatives such as this make sense for BrewDog’s brand, many other companies are following suit, and it’s increasingly common to see pet-friendly policies that allow staff to bring their pups into the office.

While this may sound gimmicky, it’s worth noting the average age of first-time mothers is rising - 28.6 in the UK (based on 2015 data), 31 in San Francisco, and 32 in New York. So, offering ‘pawternity leave’ could be a great way to engage a young crowd that may not necessarily have parenthood on their minds.

Additionally, some organisations now offer ‘duvet days’, essentially allowing staff to take a day off - no questions asked.

The merits for doing so may be debatable, but research from the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests employers should: “Make greater use of flexible working practices, underpinned by a robust absence management system, and [have a] greater understanding of ‘reasonable adjustments’ within a mental health context.”

At Opus, we’re very conscious about the wellbeing of our workforce, and 10 members of our team recently completed their Mental Health First Aid training.

We’re committed to safeguarding the mental health of staff, and our newly-qualified mental health first aiders are on hand to help ensure colleagues don’t suffer in silence, which is key to a successful performance management strategy.

Our wellbeing programme extends to fully-equipped on-site gyms, and a beautiful villa in Tuscany, which is free for staff to use throughout the year; perks that help prove we’re passionate about our people.

If budgets permit, company retreats in foreign climates are a great way to attract young staff, satisfying their split desire to see the world as well as excel in burgeoning careers. Many organisations have recognised this, cancelling the traditional Christmas party in favour of taking the team away for January kick-off meetings to map-out the year ahead.


Breeding Loyalty

Despite the ‘lazy’ stereotype, research shows younger staff simply desire the same benefits they’ve seen previous generations enjoy, and they share many of the same career goals. There may be an apparent urge to embrace the gig economy, but young workers still crave a sense of security.

Feeling valued sustains the desire to be productive, so facilitating a collaborative environment where people are confident asking questions and seeking advice will go a long way to encouraging long-term talent retention, as will simply showing your appreciation for a job well done.

Implementing novel, Silicon Valley strategies - such as funky office design with built-in ‘nap pods’ - could certainly help catch the eye of bright young prospects, but giving them the opportunity to flex and improve their skill set will reassure them you’re serious about thriving together.

With the Deloitte survey highlighting fears about Industry 4.0, if you were to offer new graduates tech conversion courses to fully-prepare them for the world of work, and continue to invest in L&D opportunities, you’ll reap the rewards of long-term loyalty.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you may find our other staff attraction and retention tips useful, and if you’re keen to hear how we can help you form future-proof talent strategies, contact our team today.

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