One of the most urgent issues for many organizations is the retention of younger employees, who are needed to fill the leadership gaps left by retiring Baby Boomers.

Many studies & surveys have shown that Millennials & Gen Z are difficult to retain: the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 43% of Millennial employees and 61% of Gen Z employees are expecting to leave their current company within two years, and a Ceridian study found that 63% of workers under 30 thought the optimal time to stay with a single employer is less than five years.

Are these generational differences irreconcilable? Not quite – we find that generational differences can be exciting opportunities to have purposeful and transparent conversations that increase engagement and productivity with all employees.

To improve retention, look inward

If your company is experiencing high turnover, it’s easy to blame external circumstances, generational differences, or growing pains. However, there are a few things you could consider exploring:

  • Are there systemic challenges creating the turnover?
  • Does the turnover seem to be concentrated in a certain area of the business?
  • Which roles are experiencing the highest turnover?
  • Are there themes in things said during exit interviews?


Why do younger generations quit so easily?

Before we think about Millennials & Gen Z specifically, it’s important to keep in mind that almost all turnover can be explained by the following general causes:

  • Poor relationship with immediate supervisor
  • Company culture that doesn’t fit with values or working style
  • No clear path for career progression
  • Lack of challenge in current role & no opportunities to take on special projects
  • Poor person/role fit
  • Desire to explore a different industry
  • Better opportunity / better salary offered elsewhere

In our experience, Millennials & Gen Z are most likely to consider making a move in order to accelerate their career progression, broaden their horizons in different industries, or to find challenges that don’t exist in their current role.

What does this mean for organizations?

Having more purposeful and transparent conversations with all employees can have an extremely positive impact on employee engagement, contribution and retention. Here are some conversation starters:

  • What do you love about your current role?
  • What about your current role makes you want to take the day off?
  • What skills or talents do you believe are being under-utilized?
  • If you could make any contribution to the organization what would it be?
  • If you were running the organization/department what are 3 things you would keep doing, stop doing, start doing?
  • There are a number of special projects coming up, what skills could you bring that would provide value to those projects?

Having deeper conversations not only gives employees more information about organization vision, growth and future career path opportunities but also sends the message that you care, which tends to create a deeper connection and commitment to the organization.