By Melissa J. Anderson

As Gen Y employees take up more and more jobs around the globe, employers are facing a challenge: traditional retention techniques (like raises and bonuses) simply aren’t keeping younger workers engaged. The Oxford-based iOpener Institute for People and Performance set out to find out why with a study of 18,000 young people in Europe, the US, Australia, India, China, and Africa.

According to iOpener’s founder and director, Jessica Pryce-Jones, what motivates of Millennial employees is simply different than for older workers. She said, “This Generation Y insight report provides an important wake-up call for management to pay attention to employee feelings of engagement, empowerment, purpose, and future development if they are to retain and foster young talent in their company.”

Pryce-Jones continued:

“The science of identifying and improving people’s happiness at work is now an exact one, with proven method and, most importantly, measurable commercial advantages. Recruiting talent is expensive, so measures which retain younger staff save hard cash, and avoid expensive business disruption. Positive word-of-mouth recommendations across a Generation Y employee’s social network play a powerful role in attracting talent, and therefore provides employers with hard financial advantage.”

By focusing on the things that do motivate Gen Y retention, employers can better meet the talent challenges moving forward.

Retention Motivation

The key finding of the study was that money is not an effective way to keep young people in their jobs. They were motivated by money, but only up to a certain point, and there was no correlation between increased pay and greater retention. A better indicator of whether Gen Y employees were likely to stay was job fulfillment. The report explains:

“Here, a very strong correlation emerged, definitively showing that a fulfilling job is what keeps the Gen Y employee on board, not simply throwing money at them. A single point of increase in job fulfilment brings down the intention to leave by 0.8 points. Statistically speaking, job fulfilment (or, rather, lack of it) explains almost 60% of the variance in a Gen Y employee’s desire to leave. This suggests that Gen Y is not inherently interested in jumping ships for the sake of a bigger pay packet. Instead, Gen Y is simply not prepared to stay in jobs that make them unhappy.”

But “job fulfillment” is difficult to quantify – how can employers make sure their younger workforce finds its work satisfying? The iOpener research identified “a strong alignment between job fulfillment and feeling that your occupation is doing something worthwhile.”


Another retention method that iOpener suggests is to ensure communication between management and workers is thorough and frequent. According to the study, one factor in increased retention rates is ensuring Gen Y workers believe in the vision and strategy of senior management.

The study says, “A correlation was noted between the trust that Gen Y employees have in their leaders’ vision, and their intention to leave the organisation. The more Gen Y believes in the leadership’s corporate strategy, the less likely they are to leave.”

“This highlights the need to regularly and convincingly communicate key points of corporate strategy, along with tangible proof points of how that strategy is being implemented and the contribution it is making to corporate success,” adds iOpener.

The research also showed that people who said they “loved their job” were more likely to recommend their friends seek employment at the company. The study says:

“Put another way, a one-point increase in a Gen Y worker’s job fulfilment delivers a 0.75 point increase in likelihood of recommending their organization. How proud people feel about their employer organization has a similar impact. Each additional point in organizational pride yields a 0.77 point increase in likelihood of recommending their organization.”

The research shows that engendering a feeling of pride in the company and believe in senior management can help employers retain and attract Gen Y employees, and that these strategies are more effective than simply offering more money. As the report says, “This new analysis provides an important wake-up call for management to pay attention to employee feelings of engagement, empowerment, purpose and future development if they are to retain and foster young talent in their company.”