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It’s not just about the salary

It takes a lot more than money to attract and retain the latest generation of young professionals

To hold on to them, employers need to align their values with those of their younger workers, the research suggests. These include tolerance and inclusivity. Photograph: Getty Images

To hold on to them, employers need to align their values with those of their younger workers, the research suggests. These include tolerance and inclusivity. Photograph: Getty Images


It was always likely to happen. Millennials started out in their careers determined to make a difference, workers in search of purpose. Then they joined the workforce.

The result? When it comes to engaging and retaining staff, it seems money is no longer enough. Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey sounds the alarm for businesses to step up their efforts to make a positive impact on the broader world.

Based on the views of 10,455 millennials across 36 countries, it finds that after years of feeling increasingly positive about their employers’ motivation and ethics, their high opinions have slumped.

Today, fewer than half of millennials believe businesses behave ethically or that business leaders are committed to helping improve society.

Remember, this is a cohort of workers that is finely attuned to business’s wider role in society. It’s one which feels overwhelmingly that a business’s priority should be job-creation, innovation, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and the environment.

Yet when asked what their organisations focus on, they cited generating profit, driving efficiencies, and producing or selling goods and services – the three areas they felt should have the least focus.

Sure, they recognise businesses must make a profit to achieve the priorities millennials desire, but they also believe businesses should set out to achieve a broader balance of objectives along with financial performance.

Where a business doesn’t achieve this balance is right where the rubber of the millennials’ Allbirds hit the road: the other defining characteristic of this cohort is its job-hopping.

“The results of this year’s survey indicate that the rapid social, technological and geopolitical changes of the past year have had an impact on millennials’ and Gen Z’s views of business, and it should be a wake-up call to leaders everywhere,” says Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global chief executive.

“These cohorts feel business leaders have placed too high a premium on their companies’ agendas without considering their contributions to society at large. Businesses need to identify ways in which they can positively impact the communities they work in and focus on issues like diversity, inclusion and flexibility if they want to earn the trust and loyalty of millennial and Gen Z workers.”

Loyalty levels are falling, with 43 per cent of millennials envisioning leaving their jobs within two years. Only 28 per cent are looking to stay beyond five years. This represents a 15-point gap, up seven percentage points from last year’s survey.


They’re not going for money, but for flexibility – and maybe the chance to be master of their own destiny. Among millennials who would willingly leave their employers within the next two years, 62 per cent regard the gig economy as a viable alternative to full-time employment.

Loyalty is even lower among the emerging Gen Z employees – millennials’ younger sisters – with 61 per cent saying they would leave their current jobs within two years if given the choice.

To hold on to them, employers need to align their values with those of their younger workers, the research suggests. These include tolerance and inclusivity, respect and different ways of thinking.  

“While pay and culture attract this cohort to employers, diversity, inclusion and flexibility are the keys to keeping millennials and Gen Z happy,” the report says.

Those working for employers perceived to have diverse workforces and senior management teams are more likely to want to stay five or more years. And among millennial and Gen Z respondents who say they intend to stay with their current employers for at least five years, 55 per cent note greater flexibility in where and when they work now compared to three years ago.

Investment in training and development helps too. Up to a third of millennials surveyed, whose organisations already use Industry 4.0 technologies extensively, fear part or all of their jobs will be replaced.  

Fewer than four in 10 feel they have the skills they’ll need to succeed. That they are looking to business to help ready them to succeed in this new era is an opportunity for canny organisations.

Young professionals are especially seeking help building softer skills like confidence and interpersonal skills, it found. Unfortunately, it appears businesses are not being responsive to their developmental needs. Just 36 per cent of millennials reported their employers were helping them understand and prepare for the changes associated with Industry 4.0.

Is it any wonder millennials are starting to lose faith? In Ireland, research from PwC indicates that fewer than one third (31 per cent) of Irish chief executive’s are addressing the impact of automation on future skills needs, for example. “The reality of lifelong-learning is biting among today’s workforce, no matter what age you are,” says Ciara Fallon, director PwC Ireland People & Organisation, at the launch of its Future Workforce report.

The report found that 60 per cent of respondents believe few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future. “People are shifting from a qualification that would last a lifetime to thinking about new skills every few years, matched with ongoing development of personal skills such as risk management, leadership and emotional intelligence,” she says.

For employers, providing support through this is vital, not just for recruitment and retention, but for overall business success. “Anxiety kills confidence and the willingness to innovate,” Fallon adds.

Providing opportunities for training and development needn’t be expensive, points out Mary Connaughton, director of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Ireland.

Moocs, or massive open online courses, are free online courses available to all. They provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, allowing the individual to advance their career. They deliver quality educational experiences at scale, but in highly targeted, bite-sized chunks.

Staff at CIPD use Future Learn, an alternative that provides free online courses from top universities and institutions.

Remote working

Getting smarter about remote working can also help organisations attract and retain staff, including millennials, according to Vanessa Tierney, co-founder of Irish start-up Abodoo. It’s a careers platform that matches organisations with specialist talent that, for a variety of reasons, wants more flexibility in their work life, and who often take a pay cut to get it.

Speaking at The Future of Talent, part of MoneyConf in June, she pointed out that not alone can such people work from home, but that Ireland has more than 200 co-working spaces which can also provide a good solution for remote workers.

It’s not just millennials organisations can attract this way either, she points out. Remote working has the power to attract the Irish diaspora priced out of major cities, as well as disabled people, parents who have left the workforce for childcare reasons and older workers who don’t want to stop working completely at age 65.

The biggest barrier to smart working is an outdated employer mindset that is reluctant to trust remote workers to actually work. It’s typically the same mindset that is wedded to outdated notions about the office being the crucible for corporate culture.

Not so, says Tierney, pointing out that not only is Apple rolling out remote working teams, but that Canadian ecommerce giant Spotify is already successfully employing 300 staff along Ireland’s western seaboard, with no office.

But sometimes a change can be as good as a rest. Speaking at the World Employment Conference in Dublin in June, Johnny Campbell of Social Talent, a developer of e-learning training courses for the recruitment industry, told how a client’s client had aced retention and engagement, simply by redeploying a long-standing staff member from one part of the operation, logistics, into something completely different, new product development, supporting the transition with training.

The result was a staff member delighted with an opportunity to learn new skills; a new product department that benefited from fresh, but informed, thinking; and a company “delighted because they couldn’t get enough product developers”, says Campbell. It was a win, win, win.

If employers are to win back the trust of disenchanted millennials, who, after all, started out with such high hopes for their employers, it’s going to take more than pay to do it. It’s going to take a whole new approach to work.