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How to hang on to your youth: a three-step guide for SMEs


Paul Joyce
4 min read

It’s no secret: Millennials and Gen Zs are shaking up the workforce. They want to work for businesses that meet their priorities and values – and they’ll leave if they don’t measure up. As you know, high employee churn can be detrimental to both a company’s finances and its morale; attracting and retaining the younger generations should be front of mind for UK SMEs.

Why? Because, by 2025, Millennials alone are predicted to make up around 75% of the global workforce. While there’s ongoing debate about the validity of that figure (no one has a crystal ball, after all), the percentage of younger employees in the workplace is on the rise; every year, they’re increasing while Boomers are retiring. So, what’s an SME to do?

1. Get digital

UK-based SMEs are adopting digital technologies in record numbers, according to research by the Federation of Small Businesses. Becoming ‘digitally enabled’ is a must if you want to attract and retain Millennials and Gen Zs; they’ve grown up with technology, so they expect it in the workplace.

From websites to mobile apps, automation tools and analytics, there’s an almost overwhelming amount of choice (not to mention the cost), which might explain why 44% of SMEs have been hit by decision paralysis.

How much tech have you implemented in your business? How many of your processes are online? In my experience, many SMEs’ onboarding and induction processes are still in the digital dark ages (paper-based). But getting them online can be relatively simple – and budget-friendly too. We’ve digitised hundreds of customers’ onboarding and induction processes, helping prove to their new starters they’re in the 21st century from the get-go. Maybe your existing partners can help but if not, we’d love to.

2. Champion learning and development opportunities

Recent research shows that learning and development opportunities are top-of-mind for Millennials and Gen Z employees. They want more than just a regular wage; they need to know they’re progressing in their careers (and their lives outside work) too – and it’s your job to make this happen. Here’s how:

1. Identify a clear L&D pathway for each role, taking the employee from point A to point B. This way they can track how they’re doing and feel in control of their future.

2. Consider including additional training that might benefit your staff (see Prioritise employee wellbeing, below) – this can include soft skills, professional skills, and even hobby-centric courses.

3. Invest in a training programme that suits your employees’ needs. Does it cover all their necessary skillsets? Is it flexible enough to work around their daily to-do lists? Would online or in-person training suit them better – or a mixture of both?

4. Check in regularly. Regular 121s and appraisals can help employees feel valued by the company, and that their line managers care about their career progression.

Give them the tools to improve and they’re less likely to leave. Even if they do hand in their notice, they’re far more likely to become brand ambassadors. Positive word of mouth can do wonders for your company’s reputation.

The upshot: invest in your Millennial and Gen Y employees now, and you’ll reap the rewards later.

3. Prioritise employee wellbeing

Back in the early 2000s, employee wellbeing mainly centred around fun (debatable) team building activities and lengthy sessions in the local pub. But times have changed. What Millennials and Gen Zs really want is support – specifically, mental health support.

Research has revealed that these generations are “missing the equivalent of a day’s work every week due to mental health struggles”. For workers under the age of 30, this loss of productivity increases to 60 days’ absence a year – almost double the 36.3 days a year reported by those aged 44-59 (Gen X).

The solution isn’t just to provide your workers with wellbeing tools and training programmes, it’s about making sure they’re aware of them and normalising their use.

Things you could consider to support your team include introducing flexible working hours and locations, mentoring programmes, and courses to help improve their mental health.

To help reduce stigma and raise understanding within the company, why not encourage everyone to take a course on mental health awareness? After all, every year 1 in 4 of us will experience some kind of mental health problem – whichever generation we belong to – it’s very common and a little empathy goes a long way.

At Staff Skills Training, we help businesses upskill and retain staff with our award-winning e-learning, in-house and blended training solutions. Our range of 700+ CPD and RoSPA-certified courses cover everything from mandatory training programmes to industry-specific knowledge and soft skills courses. Could we be the right fit for your business? Have a look and see what we do, or book a call with us today!

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