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Brad Callahan
Vice President, Business Solutions Group

How Early Career Engagement Can Mean Long-Term Commitment

So, you’ve successfully recruited and onboarded new talent into your workforce. If they are young and just starting their careers, they are likely a highly educated and diverse group, perhaps more so than any previous generation. As these young professionals begin to build their careers, what resonated with and motivated Boomers and Gen Xers may not be as effective with them. Understanding what makes these early-career employees feel engaged and motivated at work is critical to help grow their careers and value to the company.

They want to feel inspired by their work. For the most part, young professionals want to engage in jobs that are purposeful, inspirational and contribute to the greater good.  Something that does more than pay the bills. Research completed by Clark University’s Poll of Emerging Adults found that 71 percent of millennials are still looking for their dream job. Settling is not something this group does easily. Your freshest set of workers is looking for more than a job; they expect to have a career that is personally satisfying and inspiring even if that requires moving from one company to the next.

They may not be as committed to the work or your business. Though they are in pursuit of their dream job, many, faced with student loans, rent and other obligations requiring a regular paycheck, are accepting jobs that don’t match their ideal—but only for the short run. According to the same Clark University survey, 66 percent of millennials say the industry in which they are working is not the one they hope to be in 10 years from now. It is an attitude that might be found in ambitious mid-career workers as well, since they still have several decades of a career ahead of them.

Although most mid- and late-career workers generally accept long hours for the promise of a financial payoff or even job security in a volatile economy, your newer employees may not be willing to do that. Instead, many are looking for a healthy work-life balance.

Daunting for hiring managers? Perhaps, unless they recognize that these habits also drive many positive traits that can be tapped to deliver a motivating work environment.

This younger workforce feels a strong social responsibility. While your newer employees may be less interested in working long hours to make a lot of money, they are passionate about their work serving a greater purpose. Eighty-six percent of responders to the Clark University Poll agreed that it is important to have a career that does some good in the world.

To keep early-career employees plugged into the company, managers can bolster organizational performance by ensuring their programs are grounded in socially-conscious missions, values and goals.

If your company sponsors community work, donates to charities, or encourages volunteering, showcase the experience and amplify the event by encouraging early-career employees to get involved.

Provide feedback often and offer constructive criticism. Regular meetings with your newer employees that focus on their development provide an opportunity to share insights and discuss professional development opportunities within the organization. Set up a schedule that is realistic but frequent enough to provide a meaningful response to their work. Work one-on-one with your team members to learn what each responds to best. If personalized and consistent meetings are not feasible, consider setting up a mentorship program. Cross-generational mentoring allows your younger staff to work with an experienced team member while giving them an opportunity to contribute by sharing strengths in skills like social media.

Be clear about growth opportunities. Helping early-career employees to see opportunities that exist within your company, as well as the professional development tools available to them, is a positive way to engage your new team members. By showing them possible career paths, you are offsetting feelings of stagnation that may set in if promotions are slower than they may like. Consider creating micro-promotions, or stepping stones in between the typical 3-5 year promotional range to keep newer employees feeling motivated and rewarded.

Provide flexibility in hours, work locations, vacation, etc. Along with an emphasis on work-life balance, many early-career employees feel stifled by the constraints of the typical 9-5 work schedule. In response, managers are working with their companies to motivate employees with benefits like working remotely, flexible work schedules and even unlimited vacation days (assuming the company does not suffer from it, of course). These perks cost companies almost nothing, but can forge a strong connection with workers of any age.

For more resources about engaging your employees throughout their career cycles, and to access important engagement strategies, visit us or speak to a Marketing Innovators solution expert today.

Sources:, “7 Surprising Ways to Motivate Millennial Workers,” Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff, March 7, 2013.

Business News Daily, “Leadership Lessons: 4 Ways to Connect With Younger Workers,” Nicole Fallon, Business News Daily Asst. Editor, April 7, 2014. “What Really Motivates Workers in Their 20s,” Jeffrey Arnett, August 25, 2015.