3 ways to hire the best young people and make sure they stick around

People from Eastern Maine Health Services distribute employment information at a job fair, April 11, 2016 in Brunswick, Maine.
Joel Page | Portland Press Herald | Getty Images
People from Eastern Maine Health Services distribute employment information at a job fair, April 11, 2016 in Brunswick, Maine.

The process of recruiting millennials can be difficult and resource-heavy in today's market. For one thing, HR managers have to be resourceful in their review of potentially hundreds of applications for each junior-level job posting, which can be hard since sometimes up to 75 percent of applicants are not even qualified for the job being posted.

Further, between reviewing potentially non-compatible applications, the lengthy interview process and all other components of recruitment, a company still has to wait about five months to expect a new hire to reach full productivity, which can cost months of time and tens of thousands of dollars. So companies want to retain as many good candidates as possible to justify the long process.

However, according to an Allied Workforce Mobility survey, companies lose 23 percent of new hires on average before the one-year anniversary.

Some reasons for turnover at this early stage of employment, according to the survey, are because some organizations do not employ even the most attainable onboarding practices. Having a basic education and training program, clearly setting job expectations and providing opportunities to meet new colleagues in a company are only a few areas where organizations fall short when integrating new hires.

So how can companies better retain young talent?

1. Allocate a budget to onboarding

When surveying five hundred HR professionals, 81 percent said that their company has no allocated budget for onboarding, which makes it hard to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing training and integration process.

"Allocating time and money to develop a robust and continuous onboarding program that goes beyond first-day paperwork is essential in helping new employees develop a sense of inclusion and loyalty," said Professor Ethel Badawi, professor of paralegal studies and the associate director of the Center for Professional Development and Career Strategy at The George Washington University Law School.

"The top factors in evaluating the attractiveness of an employer are career progression, pay and compensation, and professional development and training opportunities. Investing in onboarding and continuing with professional development not only hits one of these top factors on the head, but it's also a win-win for the organization and employees," said Badawi.

2. Set goals and targets for young hires

It is easier for employees to understand their roles and targets when they have clearly defined expectations set by their employer. Providing unique targets for employees to strive for, even in the forms of communication goals and learning goals, provide a great starting point for them to understand how they can excel.

"By clearly setting expectations such as learning and communication goals, our new hires have a sense of direction that enhances their performance and improves their employment experience," said Harp Athwal, Head of North America Professional Services at Adaptavist.

It is also important to have buy-in from the top executives in an organization when implementing a strong onboarding process.

The payoff can be a flexible and diversified group of young employees, such as Will Davis, who went from a background in archaeology to a position as a technical consultant by going through a process of gradual goal-setting and development.

Setting goals and giving new young hires gradual steps to help them enhance their understanding of their roles improves retention as well. Only two employees out of 40 have chosen to leave Adaptavist in the three and a half years the company has been in North America.

3. Measure productivity the right way

42 percent of surveyed HR professionals said their company does not measure new-hire productivity, which means there is no defined way to determine how well millennials are reaching the goals they should have for themselves.

Also, this generation thrives in environments that measure output and production as opposed to hours spent in the office.

"Many [millennials] thrive in a results only workplace environment (ROWE)," said Badawi. "Even if organizations are not prepared to shift to ROWE, adopting a workplace environment that values productivity over face-time can help to retain millennial talent and increase productivity."

While some organizations have successful onboarding programs that are able to retain the best talent, only 28 percent of surveyed HR professionals say their organization's onboarding process is highly successful.

And while large companies may have more structured organizational charts, a standardized onboarding process will have to be implemented in a number of companies if they expect to attract and keep the best young workers and new grads.

Lukas Pesa is an HR consultant in Toronto.

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