Sourcing, engaging and keeping talent in your workplace

Alistair Dornan, 21 November 2018


Of all the articles and viewpoints I’ve written two are like catnip for my audience – mental health and millennials. They simply go faster, wider and further than any other topic.

I think that’s driven by a poor research base, a real tension of implications and an application with any workplace, industry or environment.

If you employ people, and most of us still do (despite predictions from futurologists that over 1 billion jobs will go to robots[1]), like 45% of employers across the globe[2] you’ll be struggling to resource and retain talent.  

Millennials represent 35% of the world’s population and, by 2025, will make up between 50 and 75% of the workforce[3]  (dependent on who you read). Most employers have no clear plan to pivot their offering toward the next generation of leaders[4]. If you’re not thinking about millennial transformation now, you run this risk of falling behind in the next 7 years.

What can today’s business leaders do to win in the world of work and transform in order for their workplace to find, nurture and retain the competitive advantage this generation represents?

Whilst the evidence base is contradictory it is important to anchor the conversation with three broad themes that stand up to scrutiny and point towards an actionable plan for employers:

1. How millennials enter the workplace,

Their journey to work has been post 2008’s economic meltdown. That’s a tough decade to begin your career, make choices and fight for places. Grad places are hard to come by, University places have been oversubscribed and that whole global talent mobility thing means they’ve been competing with global talent for a long time.

2. What they want from careers

Millennials want to be part of something bigger, a sense of ‘social connectedness’ - a higher purpose - than quarterly performance. Don’t get me wrong, they love reward and they are as motivated by cash as any other generation[5] – just couple it to a broader sense of purpose.

Forget ping pong, catered lunches or nap pods, gimmicks will always be gimmicks – it is all about meaningful engagement. 

3. The role of the employer in that journey.

What made a successful leader yesterday doesn’t work the same today. Millennials need that aforementioned sense of connectedness, a leader who works as their coach and mentor offering continued cycles of feedback.

As my good friend and client, Meghan McCarthy, HR Director for SAP, points out “I’d think it a success if I could have every leader reframe their role to be a coach using the same three questions of their graduates every month:

  • Here’s what you are doing well….

  • It would be even better if….

  • How are you tracking against the skills we agreed last time…?”

Getting that base level of coaching to every day and every touch point may be a step too far but it is the ambition – and you’ve got to start to somewhere.

At Capita, we’re working with a 5 point plan to help employers create meaningful, connected environments that resonate, nurture and retain talent.

  1. Coach first, manager second

    Coaching leadership styles improves millennial engagement scores to 42%, up from 29%. Show me something else that can hit those numbers!

  2. Feed the passion project

    Create opportunities for a wider purpose. Harness the need to be engaged in more than the 9 to 5.

  3. Fuel the entrepreneur spirit

    Let your workplace embrace the intrapreneuer[6]Foster a culture that places innovation, fresh thinking and new approaches at its heart.

  4. Communicate – better

    Still flirting with email? Decentralised communications that relies on an inherent need to be interconnected win out over centrally mandated kit and software

  5. Let go of the reigns

    Is there anyone who still does 9 to 5? Borderless working that focuses on outputs not presence is hugely attractive and presents both opportunity and challenge for leaders.

Tomorrow’s leaders simply aren’t excited about today’s workplace – and that’s got major implications on talent engagement, retention and performance planning for every employer.

I can’t guarantee that this will solve your millennial retention problems overnight but you will outpace your rivals.



[1] David Tuffley “The Conversation” review of research on advent of AI – Griffiths University,  February 2018

[2] Right Management, Global Talent Report 2018

[3] Forbes Magazine “Workforce 2020: What you need to know” Debra Donston-Miller, May 2016

[4] Capita Employee Solutions “Workplace Benefit Insight Trends” 2018

[5] Harvard Business School “Trademarks of a modern workplace” October 2017

[6] Deloitte – “A guide to accelerating innovation within corporations” London, 2015

About the author

Alistair Dornan Head of Health Management

Alistair Dornan

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