The Science Behind Retaining Millennials

Your most important target audience is also your most relevant employee. Here’s how to snag–and keep–talented and loyal employees.

The Science Behind Retaining Millennials
[Image: Flickr user Eli Christman]

From offering free yoga classes and car washes to on-site acupuncture and massages, companies will do whatever it takes to attract and retain young talent.


Millennials, who will account for three quarters of the workforce by 2025, are predicted to leave their first jobs in droves within two years of joining. It’s no wonder then that businesses are willing to go to extreme lengths to avoid the high costs of turnover.

But company perks can only address the symptom, not the root of the problem, which is hiring people who are not compatible with an organization, and therefore, more likely to leave.

Battling a trend with science

As baby boomers are increasingly retiring and millennials are taking over the workforce, the days where people get a job and stay there for life is a thing of the past. This trend is not surprising, as older generations tend to put emphasis on long-term job stability, benefits, and salary, while younger generations are looking for work-life balance and are not afraid to job-hop to find it.

And while money is still important, a recent survey conducted by Millennial Branding and shows that the top reason that millennials leave their jobs is because they are not a good “cultural fit.” Coupled with the fact that health insurance is portable for the first time, we should only see an acceleration of churn in the workplace.

Rather than casting millennials off as disloyal, employers need to embrace their aspirations. But in order to do so, they must stop hiring based on gut feelings and bring science and hard data into the mix.

Enter talent science: the practice of leveraging behavioral and performance data to evaluate job candidates based on their cultural fit with an organization and likeliness of success. This science not only helps companies decide who the right person is to bring on board, but also what role within the company they would be best suited for and how likely they are to drive value for the business from hire to retire.


If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you’ve probably seen a personality test or two. Talent science follows the same basic concept–but on a more complex level that can link back to corporate objectives and values. Talent science is able to identify and analyze key traits in a candidate, like emotional consistency, realistic thinking, cooperativeness, a need for recognition, and leadership impact.

With talent science, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Does my candidate have what it takes to be the next top performer?
  • What are his/her strengths?
  • What should I be concerned about?

This practice can instantly produce comprehensive insights on every job candidate, internal or external, allowing you to select the right person for what they bring to the table and keep them there sans ping pong tables and summer Fridays.

Once corporations understand these behavioral DNA profiles of candidates and employees, they can measure them against success profiles derived from assessing your own best performing incumbents.

Playing to everyone’s strengths

Take the media industry, for instance. As news desks and budgets continue to shrink, it’s more important than ever for media companies to hire the right employees. And with the average price tag for replacing a departed employee ranging between $15,000 and $20,000, according to Millennial Branding and, excessive turnover can be make-or-break for a business.

By comparing specific traits of existing employees to their job-related performance data, like average page views or comments, media companies can create a profile for each open position, and, in turn, assign reporters to beats where their traits are best suited.


For example, a reporter who scores high for spontaneity would be assigned to the breaking news desk, rather than the features department. When employees are matched to positions where their strengths are utilized, they are more likely to succeed and experience job satisfaction, which leads to lower turnover rates.

Identifying needs

But the challenge doesn’t stop after finding and hiring the right employees. Organizations also need to track performance and ensure employees remain engaged throughout their tenure.

That’s where big data and sophisticated analytics come into play. Those same talent profiles that help hire the right people can be used to evaluate performance and to uncover employee strengths and weaknesses. With this information, employers can tailor coaching efforts based on individuals needs to help them grow and meet both their short-term and long-term career goals. For millennials who are constantly looking for opportunities to improve their skills, this personalized coaching can be invaluable.

Successful employees don’t just fall into a company’s lap. It takes a combination of science and technology to select, develop, measure, and reward those employees.

In a culture where millennials are associated with job-hopping due to a lack of being engaged or challenged in a position, talent science is the key to putting them in the right position to stretch their thought processes and feel challenged on a daily basis–which will make them more loyal, high-performing employees.

These are the kind of practices that will not only drive productivity gains of the future, but will improve employee engagement and satisfaction.


Tarik Taman is general manager of human capital management and cloud enterprise resource management at Infor. He is responsible for converging Lawson, Workbrain, and Enwisen products to deliver a differentiated, end to end HCM solution.