June 19, 2018

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How to Attract, Motivate and Retain Young Employees

I am pleased that this issue of our newsletter includes input from Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions. She is an internationally recognized expert on recruitment, retention, and creating intergenerational harmony at work. Roberta and I will be rolling out a new suite of services to help organizations maximize profitability by retaining key staff and enhancing customer loyalty. Our expertise in the generations will enable us to key in on those factors that solidify your relationship with your employees. This will be essential as labor becomes scarcer. Contact us today for a preview of what's to come.

My son Ben is about to enter the job market. He just graduated Clark University summa cum laude as a government major specializing in international relations. A few months ago he said to me, “I know that making money is important, but what I really want to do is make a difference in the world.”

My son is a typical “Millennial” (also called “Nexters” or Generation Y) (i.e., those born after 1980). What motivates them is different than what motivated my Baby-boom generation peers and me. Getting ahead and succeeding financially are important to them but other things are important as well. Here are a few characteristics of today’s millennials:

Millennials possess an earnestness and willingness to grapple with questions of ethics and morality that link them to the idealism once held by their Baby Boomer parents.

Ambition is not in their vocabulary. Millennials have grown up wanting very little. They haven’t had to compete heavily, like their predecessors, for those few plum jobs. They’ll move up on their own terms.

Work-life balance is more than just a buzzword. They have seen their baby-boomer parents work themselves to the ground and they know that there is more to life than work. They are seeking to have fun both at work and away from work.

Constant feedback is important to them. Millennials are accustomed to instant feedback. College grades are posted online as soon as tests are scored; bank account information is available 24/7. They want to know how they are doing on a daily basis.

Long-term organizational loyalty is not important. They embrace change and are not afraid of changing jobs and organizations frequently.


Millennials pose challenges for many organizations today. A good salary, the promise of bonuses and pay increases, promotions, and long-term job security are the currency upon which many organizations rely to entice employees to join and stay. But if new employees don't find these appealing, organizations must seek alternative methods for attracting, motivating, and retaining employees.

Organizations invest a great deal of money hiring and training young employees only to find that they are moving on after a year or two.


  1. Promote the values of your organization.

    Tell the world what your organizations stands for, what makes it unique, and what is your value proposition. Use this information in your recruiting. Also continually communicate and promote this information to your employees, especially new employees.

  2. Carefully examine the profile of those who are leaving.

    If many of your new employees are leaving, it may be that you've been using the wrong information to hire them. For example, let's say you find that most of the sales representatives you have been losing all graduated from Ivy-league universities or had grade point averages above 3.5. Maybe those aren't the people you should hire in the future.

    Conduct a systematic correlational study of the relationship between pre-hire information and both how long your employees stay and how well they perform. Pre-hire information includes entries on the job application, information on resumes, test scores, and facts gathered during the job interview.

  3. Fix what's driving them out.

    Want to know why they may leave before they actually do so? Conduct a survey of all employees or just the employees you want to keep. Ask them how they feel about their supervisors, management, communication, their compensation, career advancement potential, etc. Also, ask they if they intend to stay. Then correlate their views on these issues with their intentions to stay. This can help you identify what needs to be changed in order to keep your best employees.

  4. Brand your organization as a fun place to work.

    Younger employees are attracted to organizations where there are other young employees and where special attention is devoted to creating a fun environment. Organizations focusing on creating an enjoyable environment do things such as Friday afternoon pizza parties, intramural sports teams, dress down days, ice cream socials, ping-pong tournaments, and Thursday night informal gatherings at the local pub.

  5. Develop an "on-boarding program."

    Provide new, young employees with special attention during the first few months on the job. An on-boarding program for new employees can include special orientation sessions, opportunities to interact with other new employees, individual mentoring sessions, training programs, and surveys after 30, 60, and 90 days to find out how they are feeling about the organization.

  6. Provide work life balance.

    Provide a work environment where Millennials can adjust their work hours to meet their personal needs and desires.

  7. Provide continuous feedback.

    Don't make Millennials wait for their annual performance review before providing them with feedback. Let them know how they are doing on a daily basis.

  8. Be a mentor, not a boss.

    Millennials want to keep learning. Share your knowledge and provide opportunities for their personal growth.

  9. Don't treat new employees like your kids.

    They are not your kids so don't treat them as such or they will act out . . . just like your kids.


If you continue to use the methods of the past for attracting, motivating, and retaining young employees, you will fail. Your organization will become a revolving door and your profits will surely suffer.

- Bruce L. Katcher

Bruce Katcher, PhD is President of Discovery Surveys, Inc. His firm conducts customized employee opinion and customer satisfaction surveys. Learn more at He can be reached at or 888-784-4367.