Episode 19 | 21.05.2024

Retaining Gen-Z Employees: The Generation That Expects More

This week we’re joined by James Skirrow, Head of Customer Sustainability at Futureproof and a dedicated advocate for sustainability in business. James offers his expertise on engaging and retaining Gen-Z employees, highlighting the importance of aligning company values with the expectations of younger generations. He discusses innovative strategies for creating a loyal workforce and shares insights from his career transition from the ad industry to sustainability.

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In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, retaining key employees has become increasingly challenging, particularly with the growing presence of Gen-Z in the workforce. As businesses strive to keep their workforce engaged, productive, and loyal, it’s crucial to explore effective employee retention strategies that align with the values and expectations of the younger generation. In a recent episode of The Responsible Edge Podcast, host Charlie Martin engaged in a conversation with James Skirrow, Head of Customer Sustainability at Futureproof, to delve into this pertinent topic. This article explores insights from their discussion and offers practical strategies for enhancing employee retention.

Understanding the New Workforce Dynamics

James Skirrow, who has transitioned from the advertising industry to a leading role in sustainability, highlights a fundamental shift in workforce dynamics. “We’re seeing a high turnover rate, particularly among Gen-Z and Millennials,” James notes.

“75% of Gen-Z and Millennial respondents in a survey said they would work with a company for up to two years before moving on.”

This trend reflects a broader change in career trajectories, where younger employees prioritise diverse experiences and rapid career progression over long-term tenure at a single company.

 

The Cost of High Turnover

High employee turnover is not just a matter of inconvenience; it’s a significant financial burden. The Society for Human Resources estimates the cost to hire a new employee averages $4,700. Moreover, the loss of institutional knowledge and the disruption caused by frequent staff changes can hinder a company’s growth and stability. James emphasises the importance of understanding why employees leave and addressing those factors proactively. “Learning about why people leave through exit interviews and employee satisfaction surveys is crucial,” he says. “It helps organisations understand what they can do better to retain their talent.”

Strategies for Retaining Young Talent

  1. Dynamic Onboarding Process:
    A robust onboarding process is crucial for making a positive first impression and setting the stage for long-term engagement. According to James, “The onboarding process should make new recruits feel welcome and informed. It’s about making them understand their role in the team and the prospects of a bright, long-term future.” Personalised welcome packages, mentorship programs, and a clear itinerary for the first few weeks can significantly enhance the onboarding experience.
  2. Flexibility as a Necessity:
    Flexibility in the workplace is no longer a perk but a necessity. A LinkedIn survey revealed that a majority of workers have left a job or considered leaving due to a lack of flexible work policies. James points out, “The UK government’s new flexible working policies, allowing requests for flexible working from day one, are a step in the right direction.” Embracing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and adjustable hours, can greatly improve employee satisfaction and retention.
  3. Thoughtful Promotion Practices:
    Promotion is often seen as a reward for good performance, but it needs to be handled thoughtfully. “A three-year survey by ADP found that 29% of people left their companies within a month of receiving their first promotion,” James mentions. This indicates that promotions without adequate preparation, compensation, or resources can lead to dissatisfaction. Regular performance reviews and timely, well-supported promotions can help retain top performers.
  4. Comprehensive Training Programs:
    Providing continuous learning and development opportunities is essential for employee retention. “People who are given more responsibility without adequate preparation are more likely to quit,” James warns. Companies should invest in training programs that equip employees with the skills they need to succeed in their roles and progress in their careers. This includes mentoring, executive coaching, and access to relevant courses.
  5. Creating a Compelling Mission and Values:
    A strong, clear mission and set of values can significantly enhance employee loyalty. Skirrow shares,

“We set a really clear mission at Futureproof, aiming to build a business that benefits people and the planet. It’s about being mission-driven, entrepreneurial, and a team player.”

Companies should articulate their mission and values clearly and ensure they are reflected in everyday practices and communications. This alignment can make employees feel part of a larger purpose, increasing their commitment to the organisation.

Measuring Success

To understand the effectiveness of these strategies, it’s important to track key metrics over time. James explains, “We launched a metric system that allows companies to track attrition rates, employee satisfaction, and other key indicators. This data helps us understand what’s working and what needs improvement.” Regularly reviewing these metrics and making data-driven adjustments can help companies refine their retention strategies and achieve better outcomes.

In conclusion, retaining young talent requires a multifaceted approach that addresses their unique needs and expectations. By implementing dynamic onboarding processes, embracing flexibility, promoting thoughtfully, providing comprehensive training, and creating a compelling mission and values, companies can cultivate a loyal and engaged workforce. As James aptly puts it,

“It’s about being curious and always looking to improve. That’s how you build a company that people want to stay with and grow with.”

By adopting these strategies, businesses can navigate the challenges of the modern workforce and create a thriving, sustainable organisational culture.

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