Attracting Young Professionals to the Workplace

How to attract, hire, and keep the best calibre young staff; both graduates and non-graduates.

It is becoming increasingly important to attract and retain young talent, whether they come from University or from a working / college background. Millennials — people who are 30 years old and younger — already make up a significant proportion of today’s workforce. In fact, by 2020 millennials will make up one-third of the world’s workforce – making them a significant world driving force.

As baby boomers retire and Generation X-ers age, employers will need to hire even more millennials to fill out their ranks. What should the conscientious company owner, who wants to see his or her business grow and develop in the future, be looking to offer the younger generation of jobseekers? If you want to attract the new talent to your company, what do you have to offer nowadays to be competitive and to receive the best quality candidates?

Young workers expect very different things from their employer than the generations before them. Let’s look at exactly what keeps these valuable workers engaged – and what constitutes their biggest workplace turn-offs.

1)   Promote Work-Life Balance

Businesses should focus on adapting their work environments to accommodate younger staff members and to reflect the shifting employment landscape. Some obvious examples here are early finish Fridays, team nights out and so on. Don’t expect an unfair amount of time commitment from your younger staff, instead make sure they’re spending a healthy amount of time away from the workplace and benefiting from living their lives.

2)   Companies issue tablets and smartphones

Millennials grew up with computers and mobile phones and are used to being connected to the internet no matter where they are. They expect their always-on devices to enable them to stay actively engaged in their professional and personal lives. A company that offers the latest technology as part of their employment package will be seen as an attractive option to the new wave of job seekers.

3)   Provide Growth Opportunities

An engaging management style is vital to keeping younger employees happy. For instance, they typically want regular feedback about how they’re performing, so managers who build conversations (face-to-face or otherwise) into their daily routines will be most successful with millennials.

As an extension of that, managers should encourage young staff members to grow within the organisation. Companies that don’t work hard to challenge these energetic workers may lose them quickly; with most preferring long-term to set up on their own rather than trying to adapt to a company environment that restricts their creativity or stifles their growth.

Keith Beekmeyer, of London firm Newpoint Capital, explains here: ‘We’re always seeking to provide opportunities for growth for our younger staff, because of course that’s how you keep them long-term. It’s so disheartening when you invest time in training and mentoring a young person who then leaves, and we like to prevent that here by ensuring we provide individual pathways and development plans for all our young staff.’

4)   Be Flexible and Family-Friendly

Family-friendly policies — such as paternity leave, flexible schedules, sabbaticals, job sharing, and telecommuting — are paramount.

In fact, most younger job seekers will now expect larger employers to offer a package reflective of the modern move towards flexibility and home-working, and may decline to even consider an opportunity that doesn’t offer these as standard.

Owners and bosses must also follow the family-friendly policies themselves — or risk implying that there’s an inherent penalty for taking advantage of them. For example, if you have a policy that everyone works from home one day a week; then all staff – including senior staff and senior executives – must be seen to take advantage of it or else new/junior staff may feel there’s a penalty for taking advantage of it themselves.

Leading by example is paramount, and critical to keeping this new generation of employees engaged and onside, vital to any company that wants to get the best out of its staff at all times.

5)   Development opportunities

A third of UK employees are dissatisfied with how their career has progressed to date, citing poor line management (39%), a lack of effective training (34%), and office politics (34%).

There are two issues at play here: the need for adequate management training, and the requirement for a defined path of development for employees themselves. Improved access to training – both internal and external – and a mapping out of career paths and timescales can make all the difference.

6)   More autonomy

While employees want more training opportunities and better leadership, they also want a greater level of autonomy. This autonomy, says research from the University of Birmingham, has a correlation with both increased well-being, and higher levels of job satisfaction.

Keith Beekmeyer expands on this point for us, saying: ‘It’s obviously well meaning to over-manage somebody, and especially easy to fall into the trap of doing it to a young person. Yet what you’re actually doing is stifling their development and losing any chance of them creatively adding something of benefit to the company along the way. Letting go of those reins is easiest if, from the outset, you consider yourself a mentor and guide to your younger staff rather than a manager in the traditional sense.’

7)   Mental Health and Wellbeing

Of increasing importance is your company’s attitude towards your employee’s mental health and wellness. It’s now expected that a company will offer a rounded mental health and employee wellness policy, for example – which could include gym membership and access to counselling for all employees.

8)   Social Consciousness

Younger employees are more conscious than ever before about our place in the world and how we treat it. Recycling policies, community engagement and support policies, even going so far as to sponsor or donate to local animal or homeless shelters – all of these things say ‘highly developed social consciousness’ to the young job hunter.

The biggest turn off to young employees nowadays? Stress, and the imposition of additional stress within their lifestyle by their employer.

34% of British employees are dealing with anxiety, depression or stress. Over a third of the UK population regularly gets under six hours of sleep per night, with sleep-deprived workers costing the UK economy £40 billion per year in lost productivity.

Stress, lack of sleep, working too many hours, taking work home and poor eating habits all impact negatively on an employee’s work/life balance. That makes them more likely to quit – or act as if they already have, becoming a toxic presence in the workplace and having a detrimental effect on the rest of your workforce – the exact polar opposite of the effect you hope and plan for them to have, in fact.

In conclusion, look after your staff and they will look after you. When considering a largely millennial workforce, you simply need to consider that the more modern and forward thinking a company you can be, the more high calibre staff you’re going to attract – and retain, to develop with you into the future.