Talent Development

Why Do Talented Young Employees Leave, and What You Can Do About It

By Ian GoverOctober 25, 2013

Does it ever feel as if all the most promising employees in your organization are always leaving?  Research published in Harvard Business Review suggests that you might be right. But the good news is that it offers some clues on how to retain them, too.

The grim statistics…

The researchers relied on a mix of face-to-face interviews and analysis of two large international databases created from online surveys of more than 1,200 employees. 

They focused on young “high achievers” – managers who were an average of 30 years old, with strong academic records and international internship experience. 

Here’s what they found:

  • Nearly 95% regularly updated their résumés and looked for information on prospective new employers.
  • Three-quarters sent out résumés, contacted search firms and attended job interviews at least once a year.
  • On average, they quit after 28 months.

Why do they leave?

Statistics like these could easily be used as an argument against providing training and mentoring. Why invest, after all, in people who are already planning to leave?

But dig a little deeper, and the research reveals that these employee development programs are exactly what the talented young staff are craving.

On a scale of 1 to 5, the researchers asked young managers how important the following items were, and how good their employers were at providing them. Here’s what they said:

220

Source: Harvard Business Review

As you can see, the biggest gap between what the employees want and what they’re getting is in the field of mentoring, closely followed by coaching. They rated mentoring a ‘4’ in terms of value, but rated their companies’ efforts at less than ‘3’.

In other words, talented young employees want to be mentored, and they’re not getting the opportunities they want. The irony is that companies often skimp on investing in mentoring because they’re afraid the employees will leave anyway. It’s a vicious circle.

What to do about it

This research shows that implementing a mentoring program should be an important priority for any organization that wants to retain its top talent.

Boeing, for example, cites mentoring as a critical way to “bolster Boeing’s efforts to retain and develop talent in an increasingly competitive and dynamic labor market.” 

When it’s done right, mentoring can make employees feel more valued within an organization, help them develop contacts, and let them see what the career development prospects are for them if they stay with the company for the long term. 

Mentors can also pass on valuable job-specific tips, helping their protégés perform better and giving them more job satisfaction. They can also be role models of leadership, and give the protégés a chance to develop their own leadership skills.

It’s not enough, though, just to put programs in place. Mentoring only works if you put a lot of thought into the way you construct the program and how you match protégés with mentors. 

We’ve worked with a number of companies like HP, Direct Energy and Insight, and helped them to get their mentoring programs right. We’ll be sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned about mentoring here on the blog, or feel free to contact us directly to find out what how we can structure a successful mentoring program for your business, and help you keep those talented young employees from constantly updating their résumés.

Ian Gover

Ian Gover

Co-Founder at Everwise

About the Author

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