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How to attract and retain younger talent

Published 27 August 2021 in Leadership ‚ÄĘ 4 min read

The rising generation is willing to take salary cuts in order to work with companies they believe in ‚Äď here¬†are three ways¬†leaders¬†can attract the next generation of business leaders.¬†

The younger generation has a whole different set of values to those that came before them.   

Whereas career ambitions for Baby Boomers and Generation X revolved around pay, prestige and promotion up the ranks, for both Millennials and Generation Z (roughly speaking, anyone 35 and under) the definition of success has shifted.  

Some¬†83% of younger workers¬†say that what matters¬†to them¬†is working¬†for an organization where they can make a positive impact on the world. Yes, they‚Äôre still fiercely ambitious ‚Äď 79% say they‚Äôve got a strong drive to get ahead on their chosen career path ‚Äď but they want to do¬†so¬†with a company that reflects their¬†values, and¬†makes a difference.¬†¬†

Even if that comes at the expense of a big pay check. Nearly 90% of millennials say they would consider taking a pay cut to work at a company whose mission and values align with their own, according to a recent report by LinkedIn.  

Significantly, many young people don’t feel this is being delivered by their current role. Only a third of young business professionals have a deep interest in the work they currently do, and shockingly just 16% say they enjoy it.   

So, what does that mean for the organizations looking to recruit the next generation of exceptional business leaders?  

Keeping a younger generation engaged and fulfilled within their careers is about reflecting back at them, their ethics and values, as well as their desire to make a difference in the world.

Of course, securing the best candidate for the role is just the start of the journey. So, what about retention? This is, after all, a major challenge when it comes to a younger workforce that have rejected the ‚Äėjob for life‚Äô mentality of their parents. In fact,¬†21% of millennials say they‚Äôve changed jobs within a year, three times more than the average. That level of turnover is¬†known¬†to cost companies billions every year¬†and up to 25% of salary in the first year if a new hire doesn‚Äôt work out.¬†¬† That‚Äôs¬†why a proper onboarding coaching program is crucial to ensuring success of new hires¬†in the first 90 days.¬†

It isn’t enough to lure in candidates with talk of purpose unless this is reflected in the reality of their day-to-day roles. You’ll end up with, at best, disengaged and unproductive staff, and at worst, high levels of staff turnover that disrupt the overall performance of the business.  

So, ensure all employees are given opportunities to integrate impact into their role: 

  • Regularly check in with young employees and ask them directly whether they feel a sense of purpose in their current job.¬†¬†
  • Involve everyone in progress toward targets on sustainability¬†and social impact¬†via regular updates.¬†¬†
  • Give the most engaged the chance to join specialist groups¬†as Green Champions¬†or act as impact ambassadors¬†for the corporate foundation¬†so they can proactively contribute to change.¬†¬†
  • Highlight opportunities to upskill, diversify or lead on new initiatives.¬†¬†
  • Add impact¬†and sustainability targets¬†to the core KPIs for all middle and senior leaders.¬†¬†
  • And celebrate big wins on ESG as much as revenues and profits.¬†¬†

It’s no easy task. Keeping a younger generation engaged and fulfilled within their careers isn’t as easy as squeezing a pay rise out of the annual budget. It’s about reflecting back at them their ethics and values, as well as their desire to make a difference in the world. In other words, it isn’t only about rethinking recruitment, it’s about fundamentally rethinking how we use business to shape positive impact.  



Shannon Houde

ICF-certified executive coach & Founder of Walk of Life

Shannon Houde is¬†an ICF-certified¬†executive coach with more than two decades mentoring and training¬†master‚Äôs¬†graduates, change leaders, and C-Suite executives¬†to shape environmental and social impact in their¬†organizations. Founder of Walk of Life (, she is the author of‚ÄĮGood Work: How to build a career that makes a difference in the world.


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