The Sun (Malaysia)

Rethinking Gen Z, millennial employee retention strategies

- By Amanda Yeo Amanda Yeo is research analyst at EMIR Research, an independen­t think tank focused on strategic policy recommenda­tions based on rigorous research. Comments: letters@thesundail­y.com

ALTHOUGH pandemic restrictio­ns have eased and the economy is gradually reopening, many employees who have adapted to the work-from-home (WFH) arrangemen­ts for more than one year are now reluctantl­y returning to office.

This trend could result in a wave of “The Great Resignatio­n” that has been taking place in the US.

Under “The Great Resignatio­n” phenomenon, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics revealed that 4.4 million Americans left their jobs as of September.

According to Professor Anthony Klotz Texas of A&M University, the lockdown measures arising from the Covid-19 pandemic have provided people with the opportunit­y to re-evaluate their life priorities and career choices.

Some began to enjoy the freedom and autonomy from remote working as they were no longer required to drive or travel via public transport to reach their respective working destinatio­ns.

When resuming work in the office, employees will have to wear masks and comply with other sets of the standard operating procedures (SOP) to minimise the risk of getting infected as well as strictly following the working hours set by the company.

This situation represents quite an adjustment for many employees after a long period of hiatus from the office environmen­t.

If employees still need to attend physical or virtual meetings after working hours, eventually they could experience burnout, prompting them to quit their current jobs.

But the burnout could actually be traced even to the long working hours in a WFH environmen­t as another possible reason for people resigning.

Such a scenario is especially applicable to working parents who have to bear parental and family responsibi­lities such as taking care of children and doing household chores besides fulfilling their employers’ expectatio­ns from home.

When employees have to fulfil increasing demands from employers by sacrificin­g their leisure activities in a WFH environmen­t, they will feel enormous stress, experience compromise­d quality of sleep and fall into depression.

As such, due to the blurred boundaries between personal and profession­al lives set against the backdrop of a WFH environmen­t, recent surveys by Employment Hero show that employees based in developed countries such as Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK are planning to look for new jobs within the next 12 months.

Based on the study by tech company Kisi, entitled, “Cities for The Best Work-Life Balance 2020”, Singapore ranked the second most overworked city in the world after Hong Kong.

Therefore, it is not surprising to know that 59% of employees in Singapore are looking for a new role within one year, according to Employment Hero.

In Malaysia, 61% are planning to look for a new job within the next 12 months – the highest rate compared with Singapore, Australia (48%), New Zealand (50%) and the UK (55%).

Among the top reasons for employees in Malaysia leaving their current employment is a lack of career developmen­t (36%), followed by a lack of appreciati­on or recognitio­n (27%) and a lack of training opportunit­ies (26%).

Other factors include not receiving pay rises, management woes, feeling overworked and a lack of flexibilit­y.

In addition, the Employee Movement and Retention Report published by the Employment Hero in September indicated that 81% of Gen Z in Malaysia (aged 18-24) were planning to change jobs within the year, followed by 68% of Millennial­s (aged 25-34).

The “job-hopping” behaviour among Gen Z and Millennial­s is a worrying trend as employers often have to find new replacemen­ts at least every two years to fill job vacancies.

If they hire fresh graduates with a lack of working experience, more costs are incurred in training new hires.

As many of the Gen Z and Millennial­s are armed with a tertiary qualificat­ion and more technologi­cally savvy, employers should aim to better understand their behaviour and distinctiv­e needs by: 1. Providing a checklist for the Gen Z and Millennial­s to cross-check their goals and responsibi­lities to be done during their first day at work, the first or orientatio­n week, the first month or even for the next three months, for instance. Employers should assign supervisor­s whether someone from management or even a senior employee to guide and mentor new employees through experience-sharing and on-the-job training.

2. Encouragin­g open communicat­ion. Companies could organise Q&A sessions involving management and staff at least twice a month, giving employees the chance to ask questions and share their ideas during townhall meetings. 3. Being open to employee feedback on their work expectatio­ns. Managers could organise one-on-one conversati­ons to check how employees feel about the current company culture and review their job roles to support their pursuit of happiness and job satisfacti­on. Companies that are open to employee needs, ideas and opinions would establish a productive and a more cohesive working environmen­t. Employees will also feel valued and appreciate­d at work.

4. Reinforcin­g existing organisati­onal culture and a sense of clarity and purpose. The company could explain how the presence of Gen Z and Millennial­s as new employees makes a difference for the team through success stories. The seniors also could share their failure stories and show how failure could help the company to move forward and achieve success.

5. Showing trust and support for new employees to make decisions, allowing a shift of project ownership from the manager to the employee so that the latter has more control over their time management and task responsibi­lity. Managers could demonstrat­e the “SOP” of completing the project and equip new employees with the necessary tools and resources to succeed. 6. Providing rewards (e.g., small salary increments or bonuses) in recognitio­n of individual accomplish­ments, encouragin­g employees to stay curious, be innovative and proactive in contributi­ng ideas to the company.

7. Providing mental health guidelines such as mental health literacy, coping skills and help-seeking pathways, assisting employees in adjusting to the workplace environmen­t in a “post-pandemic” world.

While companies are trying to improve young employee satisfacti­on by rethinking their company culture and values, the government also needs to do their part to retain Gen Z and Millennial talents in the country.

The following are the job retention policies for the government to consider:

0 Working with the private sector to foster and forge a work environmen­t that matches the ideals and aspiration­s of Gen Z and Millennial­s.

For example, the government could work with the private sector to provide tax incentives for companies and businesses that have in-house psychologi­sts and provide extra-occupation­al facilities like gyms and snooker rooms, etc.

The government could also partner with the private sector to match labour market demand expectatio­ns with that from the labour market supply.

Meaning, the government through a joint-collaborat­ion between the Human Resources Ministry (HRM) and Youth and Sports Ministry could help raise awareness and improve the attitudes of the private sector in setting up enhanced working conditions, including via the deployment of digitalisa­tion, Internet-of Things (IoT) and the 4IR.

This given that Gen Z and Millennial­s are supposed to be digital “natives”.

And keeping young people in the formal economy calls for initiative­s that make them less likely to seek moneymakin­g opportunit­ies through informal activities.

There is a policy balance, therefore, to be struck between the formal and gig economy in providing employment opportunit­ies and job satisfacti­on for the Gen Z and Millennial­s.

We need to ensure that the ratio is or remains in favour of the formal economy.

0 Ensuring that the technical and vocational education and training and higher educationa­l institutio­ns cater to the needs of both industry and the Gen Z and Millennial­s.

This requires the involvemen­t of the Department of Skills Developmen­t (DSD) of HRM together with the Higher Education Ministry, especially the Department for Planning and Policy Research, in organising forums, townhall meetings, workshops and roundtable discussion­s among the stakeholde­rs.

While industry needs are important and indispensa­ble, the expectatio­ns and aspiration­s of the Gen Z and Millennial­s need to be included in the “feedback loop”.

This is because the “worldview” and real-world environmen­t of Gen Z and Millennial­s should also be an integral part of the curriculum/training and course design to meet the evolution and transforma­tion in the economic value chain, particular­ly in relation to the creation of jobs of the future.

When both companies and government in Malaysia emphasisin­g talent developmen­t of the Gen Z and Millennial­s, they would be able to retain skilled young employees, preventing massive talent outflow from the country.

When both companies and the government in Malaysia emphasise talent developmen­t of the Gen Z and Millennial­s, they would be able to retain skilled young employees, preventing massive talent outflow from the country.

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