Crash Course #7 – Retention

One of the first things we mentioned in this Crash Course series was that students are career-focused, hardworking and professionally minded. Rising tuition fees and uncertainty about the future has led to a generation of students more focused on employability than ever before.

This is great for attracting skilled young employees, however it poses a challenge: once you have taken on a talented student, how do you keep them? You will likely be dealing with a mix of generations Y and Z – often referred to as millennials – and this demographic is motivated by different things than previous generations.

We talked about retention briefly in our guide to consideration, as it is something you should think about when you’re getting ready to take on students into a work placement year or something similar. Here, we will go through the strategies you can utilise to make sure your new hires stay as long as possible.

Make sure you’re offering a competitive salary

salaryIt might sound simple, but the first step to retaining young professionals is to make sure you’re compensating them fairly for their work. Not enough companies pay people enough for entry-level jobs, which might make sense in some circumstances but not when you’re trying to retain young workers.

Salary is not the main motivator for most millennials, but it is still an important factor for them to consider when looking to move jobs. If they are being paid a good amount, the security that provides will keep them from looking elsewhere for jobs, at least for a while.

Moving to another company is stressful. It means getting used to new colleagues, processes and responsibilities, and often involves an increase in stress.

All that is not going to be worth it if the financial reward isn’t high enough, so paying your new hires more is a good way of keeping them around.

It’s not just about money, of course. You should also make sure you’re offering other benefits, such as holiday, office tea and coffee, social events and similar incentives. Speaking to, Cornell professor of management Dr Ron Piccolo said: “When all of these perks are in balance, [millennials will] fiercely embrace your mission and goals.”

Mentor them and help grow their skills

Writing for Forbes, Kaytie Zimmerman described the key to retaining young, talented employees as “modern mentoring”. We’ve talked about providing your students with career opportunities so they don’t have to look elsewhere for them, but sometimes that isn’t enough. If you really want to keep hold of your top talent, you will need to invest in their professional development.

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 63 per cent of young professionals don’t feel like their leadership skills are being fully developed, and it is here that you can make your new employees feel valued. Training them up to be future leaders shows them you think highly of their skills, as well as convincing them there is value in staying with your organisation.

So what is the ‘modern’ aspect of the mentoring Zimmerman mentioned? Well, there are a number of different ways of going about it in a way that will engage with a younger audience. One thing you could do, for example, is get your new hires to mentor your senior management in areas such as technology and social media use, while they return the favour by teaching leadership skills.

This not only teaches your student hires, it also ensures they get to feel like a valued expert, which goes even further towards convincing them not to job-hop. You could also opt for peer-to-peer mentoring between recent graduates or interns.

This is often seen as a more open, honest and trustworthy form of mentoring, as people beginning their career might otherwise feel like they are being talked down to. Mentors in a similar situation to their mentees might also spot areas that could be developed that a more established employee might miss.

Make sure their input matters

If you have a large organisation, it can be hard to make sure your employees don’t feel like a cog in a machine. However, if you want to retain your student staff, you need to ensure they feel like what they have to say matters by giving them an input into the goings-on of your business.

This is hugely important to millennials. LinkedIn’s Purpose at Work study found that 74 per cent of this demographic preferred to work somewhere where their input mattered over somewhere with a good salary. As such, you need to make sure you are providing opportunities for your employees’ voices to be heard.

This can be as simple as having a monthly group discussion over changes they would like to make to their teams, offices or the company in general. You can also give people an equal say in projects, and welcome input on how they could better go about their day-to-day job.

However, this is not just a box-ticking exercise. You need to be prepared to listen to what they have to say and properly consider it. This does not mean saying yes to everything; engaging them in a discussion is far better than simply telling them “good idea” and proceeding not to take any action over it.

Give them regular feedback

feedbackFinally, make sure you are providing your younger employees with frequent feedback so they know how they are doing at your business. A Robert Walters survey found that 38 per cent of Millennials report that they only receive formal feedback from their manager once a year, despite the fact that 91 per cent would prefer to receive formal feedback at least every six months.

This is a clear failing on the part of employers, and one that is easily fixable. All you need is a formal feedback process that occurs regularly. Ideally, this would involve at least one appraisal every three months, although if you do not have the time across your management team then it might have to be every six months.

This shows your student employees several things. First of all, it allows them to see their progress and feel like they are moving forwards.

It is also a great time to share positive feedback and show that they are valued, as well as proving that you are invested in their professional development.

Next guide: The conclusion

If you’ve been following along so far, you should have a good idea of how to attract students, engage them with your brand, keep in contact with them, bring them onboard and retain them as valued members of staff. If you can master all of these steps, you’ll be well on your way to having an efficient early talent pipeline.

To finish off, we’re going to share our personal tips with you, as well as summing up what you have learned so far.