Attracting and retaining Millennials in the workplace

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

If you ask any HR department, attracting and retaining talent is not an easy task - especially when it comes to Gen Y - or the Millennials - as they are often known. Millennials are in their mid-20s and 30s and by 2020 they'll comprise more than a third of the workforce. Our Team Leader of Communications Ashley Fell spoke to Jon Dee on Sky News about how to get the best out of Millennials as employees.

What are some of the key differences between Millennials and the generations that went before them when it comes to careers and the workplace?

Millennials have spent longer in education than previous generations. More than 1 in 3 have a university degree compared to 1 in 5 Baby Boomers. With this comes greater expectations around career trajectory and opportunity. While the Baby Boomers were shaped in an era of greater job security and career stability, today’s emerging workforce have seen sectors like manufacturing decline and new jobs like App Developer, Cyber Security and Social Media Marketer become mainstream.

The rise of the gig economy where people may hold down multiple roles or are more freelancer, contractor and contingent worker than employee means that we have moved away from job for life, and career for life. The national average job tenure is three years per employer, which means that school leavers today will have 17 separate jobs across an estimated 5 careers. While Boomers developed their career by showing loyalty within an organisation and climbing the rank, Millennials are shaped in a work culture where careers are developed by moving across organisations, grabbing opportunities and gaining experience across organisations and industries.

When it comes to the workforce, what are Millennials looking for in their place of employment?

Millennials are looking for Culture, Purpose and Impact.

Culture refers to the workplace community, the way the staff interact, the values that they hold. It’s the ‘who’ of the organisation, the people, and how they do what they do. Culture is important to Millennials because the workplace is one of the main social crossroads through which todays Millennials now pass. They are looking for social interaction, professional collegiality and connection at work.

Purpose refers to the ‘why’ of an organisation. It’s the big picture of what the organisation is about, their reason for existence, their vision. Millennials are more likely to consider the ‘higher-order drivers’ (such as the triple bottom line, volunteer days, organisational values, corporate giving programs, further study, training and personal development) as important when looking for a job.

Impact refers to the contribution team members can make to achieve this vision. It’s no longer just enough to provide a fair days pay for a fair day’s work, this generation want to know that their own contribution is having an impact and making a difference.

What advice would you give to employers who steer clear of younger workers?

Every generation of young people throughout history has copped a bit of bad press from the older generations, and that’s not always without reason. Each generation has strengths, which we should connect with, and weaknesses which we need to keep an eye on.

But the fact is, Australia has an ageing population and with this an ageing workforce. It is just a basic factor of future proofing and forward planning for leaders to start to think about attracting the next layer of talent, leadership succession planning and staff development.

It’s important to remember that Millennials bring the latest education, an innate connection with technology and can connect with their cohort better than any other generation. Diversity – whether that be gender, cultural or generational diversity enhances our workplaces. An organisation gains strength when it not only resembles the society in which it operates but when it brings the different voices into the organisation as well.


Ashley Fell is a social researcher, TEDx speaker and Head of Communications at the internationally recognised McCrindle. As a trends analyst and media commentator she understands how to effectively communicate across diverse audiences. From her experience in managing media relations, social media platforms and content creation, Ashley advises on how to achieve cut through in message-saturated times. She is an expert in how to communicate across generational barriers.

Download Ashley's Speaker Pack here, and view her speakers reel below. 

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