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Ben Reuveni

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Talent management: why horizontal growth is key to retaining job-hopping millennials


If you really want to retain your younger talent then you need to enable them to expand their skills and experience horizontally, argues Ben Reuveni, CEO of Gloat.

The Society of Human Resource Management estimates that the cost of replacing an employee represents between 90% and 200% of that employee’s annual salary. Operating on the principle that every employee is replaceable, it turns out, incurs a high financial price – particularly in an economy near full employment.

Yet employers seeking to retain workers and avert turnover costs face considerable hurdles, especially when it comes to their youngest employees. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, which questioned nearly 12,000 young adults around the world, found that 43% of millennials and 61% of Gen Z’s expect to leave their current jobs for another employer at some point within the next two years.

Not only does high turnover jeopardise organisations’ plans for growth, it risks a vicious cycle from which employers often have a difficult time extracting themselves.

Three quarters of Gen Zers expect to work harder than previous generations

When employee after employee heads for the exit, those who remain find themselves in an uneasy, low-morale work environment, one in which they must pick up extra slack and devote considerable time to training new hires. Frustrated, stressed, or simply burnt out, the remaining employees soon begin thinking about their own next moves.

To thwart this vicious cycle, employers must ensure that their employees feel like highly valuable members of the team – and organisations must be willing to think outside the box to keep their employees happy and motivated. For young workers, this means embracing horizontal growth – a strategy that will allow workers to learn and grow in different roles and projects, satisfying young employees’ desire to develop new skills and feel invested in by their employer.

In order to understand the case for horizontal growth, it’s essential to understand how millennials and Gen Z have reshaped the workplace.

The new workplace: catering to Millennials and Gen Z

Millennials now represent the largest age group in the workforce, with one in three US workers belonging to that generation. Meanwhile, the 61 million Gen Zs in the US are beginning to enter the labour market, bringing their own digital-native sensibilities to their jobs.

Three quarters of Gen Zers expect to work harder than previous generations – an exciting prospect for employers if they harness young workers’ talents and create an environment in which they will thrive.

Gen Z’s millennial predecessors have already had a significant influence on how organisations approach such matters. Accustomed to being ‘always on’, they expect employers to accommodate by adopting flexible work hours and telecommuting options and have forced organisations to be more mindful of how their policies impact home and family lives.

To meet the needs and expectations of younger workers in a way that is conducive to an organisation’s success, horizontal growth is essential.

With new tech tools for assessing their worth in the job market, millennials have set expectations for competitive pay and benefits, but such traditional considerations are hardly their only top priorities.

They also place a heavy emphasis on the importance of a happy work environment, in which managers are sensitive to employees’ individual needs and workers are provided ample opportunities to cultivate new skills and grow in their roles.

The key to retention: horizontal growth

To meet the needs and expectations of younger workers in a way that is conducive to an organisation’s success, horizontal growth is essential.

75% of Gen Z is interested in holding multiple roles within a company, mirroring millennials in their desire to gain experience along various tracks. Facilitating horizontal growth means a radical restructuring of the workplace, with employees able to divide their time among multiple projects, under different managers, fostering and utilising different skills.

For instance, a coder may opt to spend 15% of her time working on a business development project, or shadowing the head marketer, gaining a wider perspective on the company, enhancing her core skills, and better-aligning her daily work to the company’s broader strategic objectives.

Millennials and Gen Zs place a premium on experiences and recognise that in order to stand out in the evolving job market, they must possess multi-faceted capabilities. They rightly see nothing wrong with specialisation, but realise that thriving within an organisation requires a broad-based understanding that stretches beyond their areas of greatest expertise.

There’s an obvious irony in implementing a horizontal growth strategy. Employees who are able to grow and succeed in multiple areas within a company will invariably become more attractive to other potential employers – but such employees are also more likely to stay in their current workplaces longer.

As opposed to being forced to look elsewhere for the job satisfaction and growth they crave, millennials and Gen Zs will be able to expand their horizons and develop professionally within their current place of employment.

With younger employees moving between jobs at a dizzying rate, a commitment to horizontal growth is an innovative approach that employers who want to position themselves for success would do well to embrace.


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