JWT Sydney’s Head Of Talent Talks Retaining Top Millennials

JWT Sydney’s Head Of Talent Talks Retaining Top Millennials
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In this guest post, JWT Sydney’s head of talent, Melanie Gillam (pictured below), offers her top tips on how to retain the job-hopping Gen Ys… 

It might sound counter-intuitive when we’re all so desperate to hold on to Millennials, but mobility is a great way to retain them. They’re not interested in the types of expat opportunities that motivated previous generations. Mobility programs that appeal to Millennials need a new approach.

MGillam headshot

Loyalty-lite they may be, but Millennials are eager to develop and progress.  The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed that 43 percent plan to quit their current job within two years and 48 percent cite opportunities for continuous learning as very important when choosing a new employer.  Seventy-one percent expect an overseas assignment during their career, according to PwC’s report, Talent Mobility: 2020 and Beyond.

Australian migration policies – more challenges

It’s hard to convince a high-performing wanderlust-struck millennial not to resign and it’s getting even harder to replace them. Not only has the Skilling Australians Fund Levy made new Temporary Skills Shortage visas significantly more expensive, the entry requirements placed on many of the skilled occupations in our industry such as minimum years of work experience and entry salary caps have made hiring mid-level candidates from overseas near impossible.

Yet this is also the career stage when our hottest Australian talent wants to venture overseas.  Despite Australia’s attractive lifestyle and third-place creative ranking (2018 Gunn Report) I believe that the new migration system will contribute to an even greater deficit of mid-level talent in our industry moving forward. Plugging holes of millennial talent-loss even for a few years has never been more important.

What’s talent mobility and how can it help?

In a nut-shell, it’s leveraging your existing talent pool to achieve specific business objectives. Ways you can do this include:

  1. Internal hires. Allowing employees to apply for internal roles can help retain employees who are ready for progression and reduce the time and costs associated with external recruitment. But it’s not as simple as creating an internal job board. To be successful you need to create a culture that genuinely supports mobility.
  2. Employee relocation. Is, of course, when you transfer an employee (and the rest of their life) to a new work location (domestic or international). This is a great solution if you’re struggling to fill a role and you need a proven talent solution. The key to success here, is ensuring that the employee feels advantaged by the relocation package.
  3. Short-term assignments. Sending employees to other locations on assignment can be a quick and efficient way to transfer skills, knowledge and resources.
  4. Job Rotation. Allowing employees to trial different roles provides them with an opportunity to find the right one for them. It also helps them build knowledge of how different roles work together and develop hybrid skill-sets.

So, what can be done?

While there’s a range of retention strategies that can be implemented across any type of business, our industry is starting to see real success from the creation of Mobility Programs.

When our agency developed “In Your Shoes”, the objective of this global mobility program was to engage and retain high-performers. A short-term global employee exchange program was the best option for meeting these objectives and supporting the needs of our business. It allows employees who meet the application criteria to search for an appropriate colleague in another office and swap jobs, and homes. In Australia, we’ve adapted the global program so that the swap period is up to three months, rather than four weeks. This requires a different, more expensive visa however it engages employees over a longer period and enhances their learning and development experience. The exchange element works well for the business because we couldn’t allow a high-performer to take on a three-month assignment without having someone to fill their role. The program is open to all employees who meet the criteria, yet we’ve found that employees with two-to-five years’ experience are most interested because their current living circumstances best suit home-swapping.

One of our Sydney account managers has recently returned from a highly successful In Your Shoes swap with our New York office. As a graduate, she chose to join our team over other employers because she was attracted to the program. Now that she’s back, she’s fizzing with ideas for business transformation, innovation and culture.

So, while it’s a big investment, the return for us is huge, and a fantastic way to retain these often hard to keep millennials.

Tips for developing a mobility program that appeals to Millennials

Following are some key learnings for developing a talent mobility program appealing specifically to millennials.

  1. Accessibility. Criteria for program participation should be based on high performance, yet it should also be accessible to all levels, including juniors. Sometimes it’s hard to justify the investment at this level but if the program engages and retains high-performing talent over a long period, it’s worth it.
  2. High levels of investment from both parties. Mobility programs such as employee exchanges take considerable organisation. This is a learning opportunity for participants, so develop clear policies and procedures, but don’t delegate all the work to mobility or HR staff.
  3. Learning & development. Millennials are looking for unique L&D opportunities they’re at the centre of and in which they have a level of autonomy to influence their learning outcomes. If working abroad independently can’t match the L&D opportunity that comes from participating in your mobility program, it’s a good sign you have things right at ‘home’.
  4. Post-program retention. Millennials want to reshape the workplace and transform business. When they return, give them plenty of opportunities to share and apply their learnings to keep them engaged, benefit your organisation and inspire others. Also, consider a clause that states your expectations for a retention period, post-participation.
  5. Recruitment. Once you have a successful mobility program in place, leverage it in your recruitment practices.

When it comes to talent mobility, setting clear objectives is key. Be bold when you do, and welcome your program returning more than you expected. Mobility not only appeals to the future workforce; it has the potential to transform the way we do business. Picture agile, highly responsive and collaborative teams leveraging technology to deliver global business solutions. Go on try it, you won’t regret it!

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