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How Can Employers Keep Today’s Young Professionals Engaged?

August 25th, 2017 //

Eugenie George is an expert in the quarter-life crisis. Not only has she spent hours researching it, met the major writers in the field, and started her own business to help young professionals: George herself is a quarter-life crisis survivor.

“A few years ago, I started to feel really stuck,” she says. “I had literally hit every goal I set for myself in my life, and I wasn’t happy.” Restless at work, and aimless about her career, George began talking with friends and came across the concept of the “quarter-life crisis.” Mimicking the mid-life crisis, but occurring in the second or third decade of life, the quarter-life crisis is a period of feeling lost, frustrated, and dissatisfied for no apparent reason.

As it did with George, this crisis often manifests in workplace dissatisfaction. According to one study, 71% of young professionals are not engaged in their work, and 16% are actively disengaged. A study from the Harvard Business Review found that this group was three times more likely to report leaving their job in the last year than other age groups.

George is a high achiever in everything she puts her mind to. She read everything she could on the topic, and eventually flew to London to meet Alice Stapleton, one of the primary writers and researchers on the quarter-life crisis. “We had tea, of course,” George laughs. “I was sharing how frustrated I was that I had to do so much research to get unstuck. I felt like there should be a model to help people through it.” Stapleton looked at her and said, in classic self-starter fashion, “Why don’t you create a model?”

And that’s exactly what George did. Initially reaching out to young professionals directly, she worked with the Fox School’s Fox Management Consulting last fall to tailor her offerings to the needs of companies hiring young professionals. “U.S. companies lose $30 billion every year on millennial turnover,” she says. Many of the strategies for reversing that trend come down to companies simply using their resources better.

Now in her second year running The Quarter Design, George shares a few simple tips for companies looking to keep their young professionals engaged.

1) Put Your Employee Data to Work

Years ago, George worked with a multi-billion dollar company. In her first weeks there, she noticed personality profiles on several of her coworkers’ walls. “The company had taken time during a meeting for everyone to fill it out,” George recalls. “Then simply told them to post it on their walls, and that was it! They never did anything else with that data.”

While it is increasingly common for large companies to invest time in personality profiles, many companies simply don’t know what to do with that data once they have it. This, as George points out, is a big waste of time and data.

“Let’s say you’re planning a meeting,” she says, “and you know many of your employees are detailed-oriented. Before the meeting, send out a detailed email with the agenda.” These employees will feel more engaged with the meeting, and are likely to come better prepared, saving time and increasing the quality of their input.

While many companies don’t capitalize on their employee data, George notes that top companies have been incorporating it into their decisions for years. “Marie Forleo, an entrepreneur and multi-million dollar business owner, asks all of her employees about their love languages,” George says. “If someone’s love language is words of affirmation, it’s easy. But even if someone’s love language is physical touch, you can make your meetings interactive to help them feel connected and engaged.”

Whatever the data, leveraging the knowledge you have about your employees can inform the way you lead and manage, leading to happier, more productive employees and a stronger company culture.

2) Provide Impactful (and Fun) Benefits

Years ago, George recalls hearing someone say that when they gave their employees “free taco Tuesdays,” they stayed an average of four months longer. While she’s never tested that particular claim, George does know that company culture impacts employee turnover.

The problem comes when companies assume their benefits are meeting employee needs without verifying with their staff. “Start with asking your employees what they want, and be specific with your questions,” says George. Simply adding yoga day, or spending money on another free lunch may not make your workforce feel more engaged.

Once you implement a benefit, track data to determine if your benefit is actually having an impact. “If it doesn’t increase employee satisfaction, and ultimately increase your retention, then that’s not the right benefit,” George says.

As with any investment, time and energy should be directed toward employee resources that have a measurable impact, improving company culture and reducing turnover.

3) Ask the Right Questions

While measuring impact matters, how you measure is just as important. “We often ask the questions that we want to get the ‘correct’ responses,” George says. Instead, George recommends asking questions that invite diverse feedback. “Ask, ‘What do you think would be a good use of company time?’ Then list options you’re considering, and have employees rank them in terms of what would be most useful for them.”

As with any survey, George says you have to be careful that you don’t skew the question. If you’re serious about making changes that will impact employees, create space for them to tell you what they really think, and listen to what they say.

Companies suffering the financial and cultural impacts of high employee turnover may fear the cycle is too entrenched to fix. The great news is that simply creating a few new habits in employee engagement can go a long way towards keeping quality employees around.

Fox MC helps professionals like Eugenie George move their businesses forward. For actionable insights, and research-driven recommendations, hire a Fox MC consulting team today.
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