7 Proven Ways to Attract & Retain The Next Generation

7 Proven Ways to Attract & Retain The Next Generation

At the 2013 NorthCoast 99 event, Craig Keilburger, activist for the rights of children and cofounder of the Free the Children charity and Me to We social enterprise, touched on the importance of social responsibility in attracting the younger generations of talent, namely Millennials (otherwise referred to as Gen Y).

Lately, the workplace is buzzing about this generation in terms of how to best attract, retain, and develop them and how they will impact the future of our organizations. Fortunately, many employers of choice are already leading the way. Here are seven (7) proven ways employers can attract and retain this generation.

1. Provide opportunities to make a difference.

Younger employees, especially Millennials, are driven to make a difference in their workplaces and in their community. They are civically engaged, think they can make the world and their communities better, and display a strong desire for social change. As a result, employers that provide opportunities to help the community, volunteer, and give back and that tailor their business practices to a social cause are more likely to attract the younger generation.

2. Give them meaningful work.

Work that is meaningful and purposeful is critical to attracting and keeping younger workers. The younger generation wants to work for a compelling purpose with which they are passionate.

This involves giving them meaningful work which is enriching to them personally (consistent with their passions and values, challenging, etc.), but also enriching to the community and world in which they live. It also involves promoting this type of work in your recruiting endeavors, and then delivering on those promises once they are employed.

3. Change your focus and communications.

Younger employees are more motivated by the mission and values of an organization than by profits and money. So your mission and values should be authentic, altruistic, and motivating. Leaders must bring that mission and vision to life and allow younger employees to help mold and carry it out day to day.

As a result, your focus as well as what and how you communicate to this generation will need to change. What you emphasize in staff and town hall meetings, memos and staff communications, marketing and employment branding collateral, your employee handbook, and even your website will signal what you care about, stand for, and focus on in your business.

4. Create a collaborative, interactive, and fun work environment.

The youngest generation thrives on relationship-building, collaboration, interacting with, and receiving feedback from others – and not just with their coworkers. Open-space, collaborative work environments which encourage camaraderie are very attractive to them. This generation also likes to have fun at work by engaging with team members in events and group activities.

Millennials also desire feedback, attention, and interaction with seasoned and more experienced professionals from whom they can learn. They value knowledge sharing and mentorship across the generations. Mentoring as well as “reverse mentoring” (where young professionals develop capabilities of older workers) are highly sought after by this group of employees and will be essential in engaging this generation in the future.

5. Foster intrapreneurship.

The youngest generation is very entrepreneurial and a natural fit for start-up ventures. They view entrepreneurship as a way to achieve the independence, idealism, and flexibility they want in a career and as a way to create their own path, achieve their goals, and follow their true passion. According to one study, 54% of Millennials want to start a business within the next five years, or have already started one.

Nowadays, businesses aren’t just competing with their competitors for talent anymore, but also younger employees’ dreams of running their own business or non-profit, which is why creating a culture of “intrapreneurship” is becoming critical. Organizations that wish to attract and keep this generation must not only create a more entrepreneurial atmosphere that allows younger generations to truly build and “own” something that they care about, but also  provide the flexibility, autonomy, and opportunities for them to do that.

6. Enhance technology and participate in social media.

The younger generation is digital-minded and technology-savvy. They consume almost all of their information online, and digital technology is integrated into almost every facet of their life. They also use social media frequently and are not tolerant of antiquated business practices. As a result, continuing to enhance your business practices with the latest and greatest technology, involving younger workers in the development of new business strategies and practices, and participating in social media will help attract and keep young talent.

“Gen Yers are sometimes jokingly referred to as Gen Why-ers, since they tend to be vocal about questioning strategy, processes, and/or entrenched business practices.  And they can be tenacious about it.  But organizations and their leaders should actively leverage and embrace that curiosity and that energy to continually question, evaluate, and assess how we do things today versus how we could do things later today (not tomorrow), ” says an ERC Trainer.

7. Invest in their development.

Younger employees desire to develop themselves and their careers, and are attracted to organizations that provide continuous development opportunities to learn, grow, and expand their capabilities. Consistently, younger employees rank career development higher than other ages and generations. They are loyal to employers that make investments in their careers.

Employers of choice are taking the time to understand the younger generation and put into practice strategies to attract and keep them, and develop them into the leaders they need. If your business is not thinking about the next generation and how it will attract and keep future leaders, it’s time to start or else you may face significant talent and business challenges down the road.

Additional Resources

Generations in the Workplace
This program gives participants a new perspective on the generation gaps and generational differences that exist today and their impact on the workplace and provides tips for motivating different generations.

2013 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report
This FREE benchmark report summarizes best practices and innovative trends in the workplace among the 2013 NorthCoast 99 winners in recruiting, selection and on-boarding; compensation, rewards, and appreciation; training, development, and performance management; work/life and wellness; leadership, empowerment, and involvement; and community impact.

In addition, check out our NorthCoast 99 blog for articles, case studies, stats, and other information about the NorthCoast 99 winners and creating a great workplace.


  • Liz Maier-Liu

    Liz Maier-Liu specializes in writing high-quality, engaging copy across all channels, including email, web, blogs, print, and social media. She is passionate about helping ERC build long-lasting relationships with clients and members through storytelling and delightful copy that calls them to action.Since 2019, Liz has supported ERC’s marketing team. She currently manages ERC’s email marketing campaigns, social media accounts, marketing automation, and websites. Liz also executes content strategies that drive engagement, leads, and customer retention.