How to Boost Employee Retention

By John Mitton, President, MITTON Media
May 12, 2015

The Problem
You never know when a good epiphany will show up. Like the one I had a few weeks ago about the employee retention disconnect happening in today’s 3-Generation workplace.

I recently played in a Pro-Am event attached to one of the PGA’s Champions Tour golf tournaments. Our group had a great time and played well enough to take home the 3rd Place trophy. I brought the trophy home, showed it to my wife and son, and then promptly threw it in the trash.

“Dad, what are you doing?!” said Millennial, son of Boomer. “You finished in the money!” I explained finishing 3rd meant nothing to me. We didn’t win. Maybe next time but, until then, I didn’t want a reminder of not winning gathering dust on a shelf.

The concept of seeing a 3rd Place finish as Second Loser was totally lost on the millennial living in my house. As he saw it, our team beat several other teams in the field that day and I should have been satisfied with coming close.

That’s when the epiphany tapped my shoulder, leaned over, and whispered: “The old rules don’t apply anymore.” Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, one of the most familiar mantras ever for high achievers, has apparently lost its relevance amongst the new generation of workers in today’s marketplace.

The sad part is I should have known better.

Just a few weeks ago I stood in front of an audience at the National Association of Broadcasters’ NAB Show2015 explaining how they needed to adjust their management styles and ways of thinking if they expected to be successful in reaching, engaging, hiring, and retaining millennials in today’s New Media World. Now here were my own words coming back to bite my Boomer butt: The old rules don’t apply anymore in today’s workplace.

Several factors have combined to wreak havoc on employee retention programs. Employers are having to re-focus on retention issues, adjusting their offerings and workplace structures to meet the evolving expectations of their employees.

A group think mindset might encourage one to believe the common misconception that companies must offer high salaries and expensive trips or gifts in order to retain the best employees. Not true.

For example, when it comes to millennials’ careers:

• Their personal values aren’t separate from their work values.
• And their personal lives aren’t separate from their work lives.
• They want to catch up on social media at work—but they’ll also answer work emails off the clock.
• The division between 9-to-5 and the rest of their lives doesn’t exist for this generation.
• Millennials also reject the traditional rules about career development. They don’t want to wait years for a promotion. They want growth in their careers, and they want it fast.
• Millennials are over 1.5 times more likely than other generations to focus on short-term opportunities.
• They care about the pace of their career path, and they’ll go wherever they need to in order to further it.
• 43% of millennials plan to actively look for a new job in 2015. (Aon Hewitt)

Yes, it will always be important for companies to provide competitive financial and benefit packages. However, money isn’t always the answer for a company’s retention problems. As we have shared with employers during our 25 years of Recruitment and Retention problem solving, there are other ways to create loyalty in a workplace.

What Does It Take to Retain the Best Employees in Today’s Workplace?

Think about this:

  • An EMPLOYEE’s job is to give his or her best work every day.
  • A MANAGER’s job is to give the person a reason to come back to work tomorrow.

Top Reasons Why Employees Leave:

1. Lack of appreciation
2. Broken promises
3. Conflicts with management
4. Lack of professional development
5. Not a fit with the company culture

Top Reasons Why Employees Stay:

1. Challenging Work
2. Recognition
3. Career Growth
4. Employees Feel Valued/Needed
5. Money/Compensation
6. Open Communication/Transparency
7. Promises are Kept
8. Valuing Employee’s Families
9. Opportunities to Work with Great People
10. Company Benefits

Brainstorming Possible Solutions

Assess the Situation

Review the lists of reasons why employees choose to stay or leave their current workplace. Does anything sound familiar? MITTON Media employer clients love the results of our Pizza & Coke Feedback Luncheons. Groups of current employees are asked a list of uncovering questions. Their answers provide insights into a number of different areas including employee engagement, job satisfaction, and effective incentives for retention.

Address The Situation

Based on what is learned during the review process, sit down and map out possible action steps. What can be done to reinforce the reasons people stay with your company? What can be done to correct the problems causing people to leave your workforce? If nothing can be done to correct the problems, what can you do to work around the problems to lessen their impact?

Examples of Possible Action Steps

  • Increase the number of opportunities for training:
    • 72% of Gen Y are willing to sacrifice a higher salary for a more personally and professionally fulfilling career. (Cap Strat)
    • 65% of Millennials said the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor for staying in their current job. (Kenan-Flagler)
    • 22% saw training and development as the most valued benefit from any employer. (Kenan-Flagler)
  • Development a more Hand’s-On management style: Millennials may be known for questioning the rules, but that doesn’t mean they refuse to take direction.
    • A recent study by Viacom found that 61% of millennials say they need specific direction from their boss to do their best work.
  • Offer flexible workplace arrangements:
    • Millennials don’t see flexible work arrangements as fluffy perks—they’re a requirement. (Viacom and Millennial Branding)
    • 81% believe they should be able to make their own hours at work.
    • 45% would choose work flexibility over higher pay

Establish Emotional Connections

One of the ways MITTON Media helps employers create emotional connections is by consistently reminding employees, in a variety of ways, the value of working for the company. We do this by providing information that answers these questions:

  • What’s-In-This-for-You?”
  • “What’s-In-This-for-Your Family?”

More Ways to Create Loyalty in the Workplace:

1. Company outings
2. Pat on the back
3. Treat employees with respect
4. Company promotes from within
5. Annual family cookouts
6. Company provides fitness/wellness programs
7. Employee feels that their family matters to the employer
8. Sports tickets
9. Systematic reviews
10. Public recognition of success
11. Ongoing training/certification programs
12. Company beach trips
13. Phone call from the president
14. Individualized bonus programs
15. Gift card for family night dinner
16. Sincere concern for family
17. Time off is more valuable than money
18. Company remembers family birthdays/anniversaries


Mitton Media advertising and marketing.

Mitton Media advertising and marketing.

John Mitton is President of MITTON Media, a full-service agency using 25 years of advertising and marketing experience and expertise to bring peace of mind to the recruitment and branding programs of employers in a variety of industries across North America. John is known for his innovative approach to employee recruitment programs and acknowledged as the originator of placing job ads on Radio & TV. His SHRM-accredited workshop, Beyond Post & Pray: A Recruiter’s Toolbox for Today’s Workplace, is used to train recruitment professionals across North America. Contact John at

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