5 strategies to hire and retain young professionals

5 strategies to hire and retain young professionals

Young professionals in developed markets may not be as upbeat as their peers in emerging markets about the economic future of their country, but the generation that in 2020 is projected to make up about one-third of the global workforce does have a lot in common, Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial survey suggests.

Young professionals worldwide believe businesses should strive to have a positive social impact. They embrace the opportunities technological advances offer. And they want to make their clients or customers happy.

In many respects, young professionals are no different from previous generations trying to make their mark in the workforce, said Lindsay Stevenson, CPA, CGMA, vice president–finance at 1st Financial Bank USA in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. “Is it really about a different generation, or is it about a world that’s constantly changing and adapting to that?” Stevenson said.

The constant changes and the technological advances driving many of them are reflected in the Deloitte survey, which involved about 8,000 young professionals from 30 countries.


Young professionals participating in the survey are increasingly pro-business and planning to stay longer with an employer, but they also believe large multinational companies fall short of their potential to address global problems such as corruption, income inequality, health care, and unemployment.

Seventy-six per cent regarded business as a force for positive social impact in 2017, and the number of respondents who credited business and business leadership for ethical behaviour and social awareness increased in the past two years. Perceptions were lowest in Belgium, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland. Almost as many (74%) said multinationals have the potential to address political, social, and economic issues of concern, but only 59% of respondents felt multinationals fulfilled their potential. The impact gap was larger amongst respondents in developed markets than amongst their peers from emerging markets.

How engaged employers are in trying to improve social issues of concern matters to young professionals around the world. It gives them a sense of empowerment and purpose, which increases their loyalty to employers. About one-third of respondents (35%) said they would be motivated to stay five years or longer with an employer that provides charitable opportunities. Only 24% felt that loyalty towards an employer that provides no charitable opportunities.

Young professionals especially appreciate smaller-scale activities on the local level, such as volunteering or raising money, to support good causes.

Workplace flexibility

A year of upheaval, particularly in developed markets, has more young professionals looking for stability, which was reflected in rising loyalty to employers. The number of survey respondents who intended to leave their current employment within two years decreased to 38% in 2017, from 44% the previous year. The number of respondents who planned to stay beyond five years rose to 31% in 2017, up from 27% the year before.

Also, 70% of respondents in developed markets said they prefer full-time employment over freelance work or a consulting job, compared with 61% in emerging markets.

What full-time employment is, however, is a matter of definition for young professionals, Stevenson said. For example, two accountant friends of hers define it as a certain annual income and work as contractors reviewing tax returns from January through mid-May. The rest of the year, they live in a small condo in Costa Rica. Another accountant friend of hers with children, Stevenson said, defines it as having benefits. Her friend works 32 hours, gets paid benefits, and has time to spend with her children.

Within traditional full-time employment, technology offers flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting or working fewer days but longer hours per day. Stevenson said she can work from home when needed. Others telecommute exclusively or a certain number of days a week.

How to attract and keep young professionals

To help employers attract young professionals in a constantly changing world, survey results suggested they follow these five strategies:

  1. Retain young employees longer by getting the business involved in social issues.
  2. Be transparent about corporate responsibility activities and update young employees on the activities, especially in large companies.
  3. Offer workplace opportunities to give Millennials a sense of empowerment. Young employees find smaller-scale activities on the local level that make clients or customers happy as most satisfying.
  4. Communicate in plain, straightforward language and take an inclusive, relaxed approach to management.
  5. Offer flexible work arrangements within employment, from where employees work to what they do as part of their job. This flexibility is strongly linked to improved performance and employee retention, and Millennials regard it as having a positive influence on every aspect of their job.

Sabine Vollmer ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.