It is no news that hiring right now is incredibly difficult. Labor shortages are widespread, young workers are expecting higher starting wages, and after employers hire and train a new employee, the risk that they will jump ship for a better paying job is rising fast.

To attract and keep their core production people, many firms are raising wages, some are switching to full-time benefited positions, and some are even offering signing bonuses. These are essential, but new research from interviews with workforce development specialists indicates that what is more important to get young workers to stick around are the social aspects of hiring, especially those having to do with developing mutual respect and trust. These are particular challenges for workers of color, who often expect to encounter discrimination.

Successful onboarding and reducing premature turnover requires communicating that you value a long-term relationship and that your workplace is a welcoming and respectful one. Here are 10 of the most compelling qualities that can help employers attract—and keep— young employees:

  1. Ensure a positive first day reception. First impressions are crucial to retention. Introductions to coworkers, supervisors, support staff and the boss are vitally important.
  2. Create career jobs and communicate opportunities for progression. Career jobs pay living wages, have predictable hours, visible skill and wage progression, and most importantly foster respectful relationships with supervisors and co-workers.
  3. Exercise flexibility. Flexible work options are expected. Since young workers are often more fluent in digital tools, they prefer to work from home or wherever is comfortable.
  4. Utilize mentorship programs. Mentors can provide information and integration into the social life of the workplace. Assigned mentors are particularly important for young workers of color who are often overlooked or ignored by older supervisors until they “prove” themselves.
  5. Communicate and explain expectations clearly. Every workplace has both formal and informal rules around expected behaviors. It is the employer’s job to communicate the rules and why they make sense.
  6. Create a culture where young workers can ask questions. Getting the hang of things happens sooner and more effectively when the new employee feels like asking questions is normal and that they will be treated with respect when they risk revealing ignorance.
  7. Foster a climate of respect and dignity for everyone. Workplaces characterized by dignity and respect for all employees, regardless of race, citizenship, gender, or just plain newbie ignorance are going to be much more successful in hiring and keeping young workers.
  8. Create a racially equitable workplace. Workers of color and immigrants have experienced discrimination in past jobs, schools, and public places, and are worried that they will experience it again in your workplace. A color-blind approach to race is an insult to immigrants and people of color’s lived experiences. Employers should pay attention to the basics, such as race and gender discrepancies in pay, shifts and hours, and job assignments. Additionally, building stable and respectful relationships between supervisors, coworkers and new employees from all backgrounds is key to creating a racially equitable workplace.
  9. Promote teamwork. Feeling like part of a team is a must. Weekly team meetings can make young workers feel much less distant and more a part of something bigger.
  10. Practice social awareness. Few things are more important to young workers than a corporate commitment to social responsibility on both equity and environmental issues. Particularly critical is not just what your organization and its leaders have said, but what they’ve done on these issues.


Harvard Business Review (2022, May 12) Donald Tomaskovic-Devey and Reyna Orellana: The Key to Retaining Young Wokers? Better Onboarding.
SHRM (2021, January 13) Bruce Horovitz: 10 Tips for Hiring – and Retaining – Gen Z Employees