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6 Tips to Improve College Student Employee Retention

By collegemktgrp | September 3, 2019 | Employers

The competition between employers to hire qualified candidates right out of college is fierce. And for good reason: Bringing on employees as soon as they graduate (or before) offers employers many benefits:

  • Attract top talent before bigger competitors get to them
  • Hiring college students shows you trust and respect their abilities, building employee loyalty and leading to lower turnover rates
  • Allow time for training and prep in final semester of school

There are many ways to reach out and make your company seem attractive to a new generation of hires, like mobilizing current college student employees in your outreach campaigns, and hiring via social media and traditional college job fairs.

But once you’ve trained your new college student employee, retention is the next big challenge. And employers need to understand the challenges of retaining Gen Z employees:

  • An increasingly mobile employment environment means workers can find more job opportunities without having to move, increasing competition between employers.
  • A strong economy means companies are hiring more and offering generous compensation packages to attract top talent.
  • Millennial and Gen Z employees are less likely to be married, own a house, or have kids, and are more willing and able to move and risk taking on new jobs.
  • The advent of online hiring platforms has made looking for and comparing job opportunities easier than ever.
  • Technology is offering people more ways to supplement income than ever before. From DoorDash and Uber to YouTube and Etsy, side incomes are allowing people to look for more flexible jobs that suit their lifestyle, rather than be reliant on a company’s full-time salary.

Why Its Cheaper to Retrain Than Train

Though the challenges to retrain college student employees are real, it’s important to work hard to keep the talented hires you bring on:
• Hiring and training process costs money and time.
• Every time you lose an employee, you lose some of the intrinsic knowledge of your company and its process with them.
• If your offices are a revolving door of people walking out and being replaced by fresh hires every other day, it’s likely to leave your remaining workforce with low morale.

High employee retention means a workforce of experienced, loyal, and positive-minded staff who will be more productive and give your customers a better experience. Plus, it saves you resources by minimizing the time you spend hiring and training new employees.

How to Retain Gen Z and Millennial Employees

Retaining your college student employee will take deliberate action and intent from your company. One of the big reasons for this is that Gen Z and millennials have a slightly different value set than older generations.

Gen Z’s values are informed by their experiences in the world. That includes how they were raised, the changing culture around them, and current events.

Recent history has created a generation that values the here and now, demands trust and respect, and prioritizes social issues as part of their identity. As an employer, you have to understand these traits if you want to effectively increase employee retention among this part of your workforce.

From creating a positive workplace culture and respecting employees’ time and creativity to utilizing the newest technologies and embracing diversity, here are 6 key ways to retain your Gen Z and millennial hires.

1. Create a Positive Culture

Workplace culture is important to college student employees. Create a positive workplace culture by:

Respecting each individual’s talent

  • Don’t micro-manage. Remember, you hired them in the first place. Show them it’s because you trust in their ability to find solutions and get the job done.

Encourage breaks and time off

Maintain an open-door policy when it comes to communication

  • Employees need to know they can talk openly with management about personal issues, inter-office problems, and workplace challenges.

Engage with entrepreneurism

  • Gen Z especially is more prone to understanding the value of ideas. Engage with this spirit by offering stock as a benefit, and by giving them set times to work on their own ideas — you never know, one of your employees might invent the next iPhone.

2. Inspire Through Company Values

For many college student employees, loyalty to a company is not automatic, nor does it come through a sense of obligation.

Gen Z hires will respect your company and brand when they believe in the vision and values it represents. Otherwise, you’re just a way for them to earn a paycheck.

You can show your employees that your company is about more than making money by:

  • Engaging in charitable giving
  • Incorporating brand-aligned messaging about social and environmental issues
  • Committing to diversity and inclusivity in hiring, the workplace, and in language and imagery

3. Pay Individuals What They Deserve

College student employees know the value of their time and skills, and they expect to be compensated appropriately for it. They also have more access than ever to salary information, as well as details about your company’s revenue and profits.

You need to be both transparent and fair in your compensation. It should be based on the merits of each individual, and not on seniority or even rank.

When an employee does something that stands out or adds value to your company, show them you value their work with a bonus or raise. One way to do this without going bankrupt is to make smaller, more regular bonuses and raises a part of your compensation strategy.

Instead of a $1000 bonus at the end of the year for generally doing a good job, space it out into $250 bonuses that correspond to more specific actions taken by each employee.

4. Create Short-Term Projects

The reality is, employee retention is not the same as it used to be. Because of the changing nature of the workforce and the impact of technology, decades-long retention periods are probably going the way of the dinosaurs.

It’s not necessarily the end of the world if a Gen Z hire leaves after 3 or 4 years, but it’s inconvenient if they up and leave in the middle of a big project.

To plan for this, structure each team’s or even an individual employee’s work in projects that span 9 to 24-month timeframes. Promise a bonus as part of the project completion to help ensure that employees will stick around to finish what they started.

This approach speaks to the younger generation’s sense of immediacy, exhibits value in their contribution with additional compensation, and creates trust in leadership by showing you have a thought-out plan with specific actionable items and deliverables.

5. Utilize the Latest Technologies

Millennials grew up during the first wave of technologies that have completely changed the way the world operates. From Facebook and YouTube to Netflix and Lyft, they’re used to being able to access pretty much whatever they need whenever they need it.

Gen Z is even more adept with these sorts of technologies because they are the first generation of digital natives. They’ve never lived without the access to information, options for entertainment, and opportunities for communication and efficiency that new technologies afford.

These employees will expect your company to use the same technologies they’re using in their personal lives.

If your office is using the same workflow software as you did in 2003, it’s likely that your younger employees will balk at how unresponsive it is. If that’s the case, they probably are more adept at productivity via technology than your company is.

Be sure to be incorporating new technologies and even invite your young employees to suggest changes to your workflow, communications, and more.

6. Provide Opportunities for Career Development

No one wants to work in a dead-end job, and that’s especially true for the newest generation of college student employees.

Remember, there’s a world of opportunity for Gen Z employees in the form of remote work, freelancing, and easy job hunting via LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor. If you can’t offer individuals the ability to learn and develop their skill set, they’ll likely look for a company that can.

Regular training and development opportunities make your employees better at their jobs, which in turn makes them more valuable. When they feel that sense of value they create, they take more pride in the work and as a result are more likely to stick around.

But there are right ways to train and wrong ways to train. Here are some tips to training with an eye toward employee retention:

Prioritize soft skills

  • Gen Z and millennials are often skilled at teaching themselves new hard skills, such as how to use a new piece of software. They’re used to Googling for tutorials and watching YouTube videos to figure it out.
  • What’s more valuable to them are soft skills such as leadership, methods of communication, time management, and approaches to collaboration. These are skills they can apply toward creating a more productive and positive workplace environment.

Avoid training that takes a lot of time

  • A day-long seminar can lower employee morale because it takes away time for them to do their actual job. They resent the training because it decreases their sense of productivity.
  • Instead, make short 5-10 minute videos, blogs, and meetings about new skills a part of your regular workflow. Employees will feel regularly invigorated by the new learning without being left overwhelmed with all the “actual” work they still have to do.

Get everyone involved

  • Just because a manager might already know a skill doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be involved in learning experiences, too.
  • Leadership can show they’re invested in the training by showing up and participating along with everyone else.

Attracting Top College Students to Your Company

All this talk about college student employee retention is only helpful if you’ve hired great employees in the first place.

When it comes to hiring college student employees who have just graduated or are still in school, you may not realize the ways that your application and interview process are making it difficult to bring on new hires.

From lack of transparency in the hiring process to being elusive about salary and benefits, some companies are coming up short in reaching out to top college student employee candidates.

Learn more about how your company can incorporate more successful hiring strategies to reach college students »


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