From Gen Z to Baby B: How to Retain New Hires

new hires

Congratulations! You’ve hired a group of great new employees whose resumes check all the boxes. Go-getters with great mind-sets, skills and experience, their references check out, and former bosses describe them as team players and self-starters. Those newbies who are brand new to the working world got great recommendations out of their internships and teachers. They start in the coming weeks, and you and your recruiting team are breathing a collective sigh of relief.

There’s just one question: Will they stay?

There’s no crystal ball on retention. But no matter what generation you’re hiring, if you can’t keep them, your investment won’t pay off. While HR teams often focus on how to retain the youngest new hires, they may be blindsided when millennial, mid-career and even senior new hires do an about-face and head for the door. In those cases, the loss in ROI and the cost of replacing them are even higher. Each generation has its own needs, wants and exit trends — and a best practice for any organization is to attend to all.

Just to recap: the unemployment rate is still at record lows, and the median stay of an employee in the U.S. is 4.2 years, but this depends on the generation:

  • The median tenure for 55–64 year olds is 10.1 years.
  • The median tenure for 45-54 year olds is 7.6 years.
  • The median tenure for 35-44 year olds is 4.9 years.
  • The median tenure for 25–34 year olds is only 2.8 years.
  • 57 percent of workers ages 60–64 had at least 10 years with their current employer in January 2018.
  • This was only true for 12 percent of workers ages 30–34.

It’s no surprise that tenure is longer for older workers or that it’s exceedingly rare that a 20-year-old joins a company and lasts a decade. But here’s the other side of the equation: senior-level talent is going to be even harder to find and keep. They’re in shorter supply and higher demand, frequently scouted, approached and in some cases poached by your competition — unless you can give them a reason to stay. That includes new hires.

Take these measures to keep your hires longer, or at least get a better perspective on why they leave. Some of these may surprise you, but given how disrupted our world of work is these days, that’s probably a good thing:

1. Employee experience is crucial even for those who leave

Changing expectations about work may mean that shorter tenures are (to some extent) a fact of life these days. For instance, Deloitte’s “foot out the door” survey revealed that one in four millennials would leave their job within one year to take another one or do something different; 44% would leave within two years; and 66% would leave within four years. Considering the survey was done in 2016, that’s now: so some of the people who answered that survey may well be scoping out new prospects as you read this. But given the BLS statistic on average tenures, they’re not that far off. You may not be able to stem the exodus, but you can make sure they think well enough of your company that they’re open to returning or consulting in the future.

2. Learning and development keep employees engaged

Next year, 2020, will see more baby boomers retiring, opening up room to promote others. But boomers take formidable skills, experience and perspective with them when they leave. You may also face inadvertent risk as you hire Gen X talent to fill those vacated roles. Gen X is a smaller generation facing increasing demand. As they move into the peak of their careers, they’re looking for employers that provide optimal compensation and bonuses — material acknowledgment of their decades of work experience. They tend to prefer positions that allow them to innovate and work independently, with plenty of room for growth. Don’t bring a seasoned Gen Xer into a job with no room to maneuver or you may lose them to a competitor faster than you can say learning and development.

3. Management makes all the difference

As far as engagement goes, managers are critical: according to Gallup, 70% of a team’s engagement depends on its manager. We know engagement leads to retention, so problematic managers may cost you in new hires. Finding the strengths and weaknesses could start with tracking the attrition, absence and productivity rates per department or section; running pulse surveys on employee sentiment; and cross-referencing the data that results. Keep fact-finding anonymous so new hires don’t feel uncomfortable expressing any concerns, and don’t treat it like a hunting expedition, which could damage morale. Provide opportunities for more in-depth feedback, and reach out to the managers themselves for their points of view: what could they use from you to better do their job? You may be surprised by what emerges.

4. Live up to the promises you make about culture

Candidates love when a company page offers a glimpse into its own work environment. But you’d best live up to the promises you make. Are those enthusiastic employee testimonials about your immensely supportive atmosphere a reality across the board or just in one specific division? Collaborative, friendly atmospheres are going to appeal particularly to Gen Z: these digital natives tend to greatly appreciate one-on-one interactions and personal connections. In fact, 37 percent of Gen Zers are concerned that technology weakens their interpersonal relationships and skills. If you advertise a work environment that supports collaboration and relationships but your new hires are placed in remote cubicles on a floor where everyone works alone, you may lose them. Everyone’s a consumer now, and candidates spend plenty of time and energy looking for employers that seem to be the right fit. If they land in the wrong place despite their best efforts, just as with any consumer, they may experience buyer’s remorse and opt to bail ASAP. Unfortunately, they will also broadcast their disappointment on social media and job boards.

5. Didn’t you promise growth?

As companies try to present themselves as a best place to work, they may try to shortcut the actual work of becoming that. But the phrase “no room for advancement” in employee reviews has long-reaching consequences for attracting further new hires.  Advancement opportunities should extend beyond the needs of a given job and your organization: if you can’t demonstrate that you value your new employees’ personal and career growth journeys, they may not want to spend much time supporting your journey as a brand.

Survey your new people to find out what they’re getting and not getting: Are their managers giving them challenges to stretch their abilities? Are they learning new technologies? And how are you promoting people? Not everyone who is good at their job will be good at managing others in that same job, yet that is one of the de facto ways organizations “promote.” If all you’re doing is pushing your best talent into supervisory roles, are you embracing their strengths or just filling your own hiring needs? Organizations that offer learning opportunities that have nothing to do with company goals are the ones that get praised for being truly supportive. 

6. Provide autonomy and flexibility  

Not every new hire considers leaving for another employer. Some consider leaving for themselves — craving more flexibility, autonomy, exposure to different work situations and contacts, and perceived better work-life balance. In reality, you are vying to keep your new talent not just from your market competitors but from the hires themselves. A recent report by Intuit predicts the gig economy will be 43% of the current workforce by 2020. To offset losing a new hire to the gig economy, restrategize your offerings by providing more opportunities that emulate the gig model: flexible schedules and telecommuting; more autonomy, learning and development opportunities; and meaningful work. One common gig worker lament is that they jump from project to project without a sense of larger meaning and purpose. That’s where employers can actually do one better.

Don’t overpromise

The recurring theme here is don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Misleading job descriptions, hiring that mismatches skills to jobs, friction-filled candidate experiences and inflexible workplace policies can set the stage for abrupt exits. A survey from Jobvite found that 3 out of 10 new hires quit within the first 90 days, and 43% of them leave because their day-to-day roles include some rude surprises.

Heading into your next hiring streak, inventory your career page, marketing materials and recruiting functions. Survey recent hires on their early impressions, and address any concerns proactively for the next round. Finally, consider your own authenticity. Speaking from the employee perspective, Carmen Bryant at Indeed said, “Too often we try to shape ourselves into what we think the employer wants.” But authenticity is a big issue for employers as well. Don’t get stuck trying to torque your presentation or shoehorn your employer brand to meet employee expectations. Matching the right candidates with the right employers isn’t just a matter of searching for the best hires. It’s also a matter of knowing who you are and what you can offer — and then making sure you’re offering the best you can given who you are as an organization.

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized analyst, author, speaker and brand strategist. The founder of TalentCulture, she hosts #WorkTrends, a popular weekly Twitter Chat and podcast. Her career spans across recruiting, talent management, digital media and brand strategy for hundreds of companies, from startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She also serves on advisory boards for leading HR technology brands. Meghan can be regularly found on Forbes, SHRM, and a variety of other outlets. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.

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