Retaining talent

The old schoolyard chant goes: Finders, keepers, losers, weepers. It was something you used to assert your newfound ownership if you so happened upon a shiny fifty cent piece in the playground, or an abandoned drink/toy/chocolate bar. It was your way of fending off attacks from the other kids. It’s mine now! Too bad for you…


At the risk of suggesting that HR needs to resort to childish taunts, the chant does have some application in attracting and retaining your top talent. If you find them, keep them. If you lose them, weep.


Here are some of our thoughts on how to succeed at attracting and retaining Gen Y employees.




Given that there are more job vacancies these days than there are qualified candidates to fill them, it’s a jobseeker’s market. So how do you attract the best candidates?


The answer lies in your company’s profile.


In determining whether or not to join an organisation, Gen Y employees will put a lot of effort into researching their decision. In a process akin to online dating, Gen Y jobseekers are insistent on finding a perfect match with an employer: one that shares the same values and beliefs, and one that they can see working with in partnership. They will ask questions of family and friends who have worked there or know someone who works there. They will trawl websites looking for justification, for confirmation of the company’s reputation, to determine if there is a connection.


What they are really asking is “what can the company do for my career/for me?” and the right answer includes a strong emphasis on personal and professional development opportunities. Gen Y are willing to learn, and want to be offered the opportunities to do so. In researching whether a company is right for them, they will look for evidence to show that employees are treated well and are afforded such opportunities.


Our advice to potential employers is to stand for something: your organisation should have a visible personality in everything you do, in order to present a package that a potential employee can evaluate and determine whether they want to embark on a relationship with. Information about your HR policies on factors like work/life balance and learning and development should be readily available on your website, if not through your greatest ambassadors – your existing staff. This information will go towards answering the question: “what is the organisation like? Could I work there?”




One of the biggest complaints we hear from employers dealing with Gen Y staff is the inability hold onto them. It seems as though they invest a lot of time and money in a new employee, just to be abandoned at the promise of a better deal. The statistics around average tenure would certainly support this. According to McCrindle Research, employees averaged 15 years per employer in 1960. Today, it’s just 4 years. To add to that, it’s expected that the average Gen Y employee will have over five careers and 20 employers and be self-employed at least once in their lifetime. For those who are used to seeing Baby Boomer employees retire after years and years of loyal service, this seemingly rapid turnover is a frightening thought.


What has changed is our attitude towards work. Whereas it was predominantly viewed as a source of financial security to help pay the bills and pay off the mortgage, today a job is so much more. Gen Y employees in particular use work as a means to grow, to socialise and to contribute to society.


They want to be involved in the organisation they work for. Yes, they may just be a cog in the system, but they are an important part of the operation. They want to feel engaged, not just told what to do. They want their opinions asked for and heard, to feel like a valued member of the team. Don’t be afraid to assign them responsibility – most will not only appreciate it, but will thrive on it.


Gen Y employees also need to respect the people they work for, especially their immediate supervisor or manager. Whereas a Baby Boomer employee may well have put up with an unfavourable work relationship because it was considered part and parcel to the job, a Gen Y employee would find it sufficient grounds for leaving.


To retain any good employee, there must be a fit between the work culture and the individual.


There are, of course, HR programs that can be explored for employee retention purposes, such as training, remuneration, reward and recognition programs, coaching and mentoring… Whatever your organisation considers, it should be founded on an understanding of what your employees want, and need – preferably with the support of real data from your people, such as through a survey.


In conclusion


Before you can harness ‘The Power of Y’, you need to attract and retain the right people.


With the right policies and programs in place, your organisation can proudly use that old schoolyard taunt to ward against better offers from other employers: Finders, keepers, losers, weepers.






McCrindle Research, Bridging the Gap: An employers guide to managing and retaining the new generation of employees at