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Dear Workforce Our Early-Career Pros Are Leaving Despite Onboarding. Where Are We Going Wrong?

Despite attention to onboarding and engaging them, we can’t seem to retain our early-career professionals (those with fewer than five years’ seniority). For example, we have implemented engagement interview with management team members, provide a new-hire engagement program, and orientation workshops—yet turnover among young professionals remains unacceptably high. What are we doing wrong? More important, how can we reverse the trend?
November 11, 2010
Related Topics: Career Development, Motivating Employees, Employee Career Development, Dear Workforce
Dear Best Efforts:
This is a common situation for organizations—and painful given the large investment made in new hires. It sounds like you've taken important steps in engaging early-career professionals from day one. Below are a few more things to consider.
Determine a realistic turnover rate. Don't hold this group to the same retention standards as more established professionals. Recent college graduates don't expect to stay with one employer for long. There's a whole world of opportunity waiting for them. Think of it this way: How many people actually marry the first person they date?
Manage career expectations. Our career and engagement research suggest two questions you may need to answer:
Who is responsible for careers?
Lack of career development opportunities is the top reason employees leave. The problem for employers is that "career" is a murky concept open to individual interpretation. If your organization does not have a clearly articulated career point of view, it's time to create one. Let everyone—especially new hires—know that employees are expected to own their personal growth and career success. They should not wait passively for a tap on the shoulder to signal their next move. Their managers will facilitate their journeys but won't have all the answers. Your organization, meanwhile, will provide development tools and plenty of challenging work.
What is a career anyway?
Millennials are nearly twice as likely as baby boomers to expect their employer to provide formal career paths. Therefore, you need to educate early-career professionals on today's career landscape. Don't talk about careers: instead, speak of a future with the organization. Don't focus on paths and promotions—concentrate instead on opportunities that reflect today's more fluid workplace (stretch assignments, lateral moves, special projects, etc.). Don't dwell on a series of jobs, but focus on a portfolio of meaningful or interesting work assignments.
Provide career development. It may take a few job changes before young professionals, if left to their own devices, figure what type of job or work situation fits their values, interests or skills. Their inclination may be to abandon an unfulfilling situation—and your organization. Career development training, counseling and tools can help individuals clarify their personal drivers of job satisfaction and career aspirations, and help them find ways to achieve their goals while working for your organization.
Provide growth opportunities. Early-career professionals want to build their skill sets and try new things. Consider job rotations and special projects as options for gaining experience. Business travel and cross-functional task forces may be viewed with excitement. Hold your managers accountable for developing their people and support them in taking some risks when parceling out the work. If your managers are completely comfortable giving people stretch assignments. then they've waited too long. Their employees will already be looking elsewhere.
Be nice to those who do leave. When valued employees are lured by promises of greener pastures, wish them well. Be clear that your organization would welcome them back. "Boomerang employees"—workers who leave and then return —represent a valuable talent pool. They typically get up to speed more quickly than other new hires, bring new skill sets, are a proven fit for your culture and actually stick around longer the second time.
SOURCE: Mary Ann Masarech, BlessingWhite Inc., Skillman, New Jersey
LEARN MORE: Please read a commentary on factors that affect the employer-employee relationship.
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The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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Dear Workforce Newsletter

 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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