Attracting and retaining good employees: A Millennial dilemma?

By Gabrielle Stannus

An employee’s age is often referred to as critical to understanding their motivations when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. But is this always the case? Only the best managers know!

Attracting and retaining good employees is an issue faced by employees all over the world. Chris Beytes, Editor at Ball Publishing, says that for business it can be “hard to find good people at any price” 1 .

Beytes has spoken with nurseries coming up with innovative solutions to retain good employees. These include sharing employees between seasonal businesses to guarantee workers ongoing work, partnering with local job agencies to recruit the right people, raising wages for existing employees before it is forced on them by legislation, making the job easier and more comfortable by automating it, and offering more benefits than the competition.

At the Metrolina Greenhouses in North Carolina, workers receive fully paid healthcare, and have access to an onsite “Wellness Center” and a retirement plan. Employees are encouraged to “Refer a friend”, receiving a bonus if a person they refer stays at the business more than 120 days.

Offering such benefits may help to retain good employees, especially in the United States where the minimum wage is $7.25 USD per hour (~$9.24 AUD) 1. However, the national minimum wage in Australia is currently $18.29 per hour or $694.90 per 38 hour week (before tax) according to the Fair Work Ombudsman, with casual employees getting at least a 25% casual loading 2.

So on the face of it, pay may not be as much of an issue in attracting and retaining good staff here in Australia. However, a deeper understanding of what motivates different people may give better answers as to why people choose to remain in a workplace.

Recent research carried out on the motivations of different people in the workforce has focussed on Millennials. Millennials (Generation Y) are those people currently aged between 23-37 years old. Negative stereotypes of this group abound in the media, including the perception that Millennials expect promotion with little effort.

Millennials often view work as a “thing” not a “place” 3. They believe their productivity should be measured by their work output and not the number of hours spent in the workplace. Having been raised in an era where participation alone was rewarded, Millennials expect frequent feedback and encouragement from superiors 3.

The even younger Generation Z (aged 8-22) is more vocationally and geographically mobile and educated than those before them. One in every two Gen Z-ers has obtained a degree, compared to one in four Gen X-ers (aged 38-52). Mark McCrindle from McCrindle Research forecasts that Gen Z-ers will have 17 jobs and 5 careers in their lifetime 4. Gen Z-ers may need opportunities within your business to continue to learn and innovate, e.g. rotation between departments and /or locations.

In our bid to recruit or retain youth, we may be overlooking the experience of older people. McCrindle explains that the Australian population is actually aging 4. In 1987, 1 in 9 Australians was aged 65 plus. By 2047, it is predicted that this number will almost double to 1 in 5 Australians. This population segment is also working longer. So are they “excess stock” in the labour market or an opportunity? While some Baby Boomers (aged 52-71) are looking forward to retirement, others may want to stay on but reduce their weekly working hours gradually or just work in the busiest seasons, i.e. autumn and/or spring.

Despite better conditions and pay, many people still leave their jobs because of their manager. Employees who are happy in their job will probably possess what Chris Helder calls the “Key One-percenters”: Good posture, eye contact, smile, gratitude and energy.

Helder is a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner specialising in advanced communication and behavioural modelling. Helder presented at the Growing Edge conference in February, and judging from his high-energy delivery on-stage he certainly loves his job. But do you? How are you presenting yourself to your staff?

Running a business can be a demanding task. Helder acknowledges that sometimes circumstances are beyond our control. However, we can still do something about it if we choose to adopt what Helder calls a “useful belief”. That is, finding something that is within your ability to make a change in this situation.

One thing that is within your power to do is to treat every employee as an individual regardless of their age. Good managers focus on an employee’s strengths rather than fixing weaknesses; and find ways to measure, count, and reward outcomes (i.e. performance) 5 . So set yourself a goal today to start having regular conversations with your employees as people, and not just as demographics. Your employees will thank you for it and your business should prosper.

And in the words of legendary entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to” 6.


Chris Beytes, Ball Publishing:
Chris Helder:
McCrindle Research:
12 questions to ask your employees to determine whether your workplace is strong: (skip to page 2)


1. Beytes, Chris 2018, ‘Innovative marketing and management strategies for nursery and garden businesses’, presentation delivered to the Nursery and Garden Industry Australia (NGIA) ‘Growing Edge’ conference, Hobart, Tasmania, 20 February 2018

2. Fair Work Ombudsman 2017, ‘Minimum wages’, fact sheet, retrieved 16 March 2018,

3. Stewart, JS, Oliver, EG, Cravens, KS & Oishi, S 2017, ‘Managing millennials: Embracing generational differences’, Business Horizons, iss. 60, pp. 45—54

4. McCrindle, Mark 2018, ,’Demographic shifts for greenlife growers and retailers to capture’, presentation delivered to the Nursery and Garden Industry Australia (NGIA) ‘Growing Edge’ conference, Hobart, Tasmania, 21 February 2018

5. Buckingham, M & Coffman, C 1999, First, Break all The Rules, What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, Simon & Schuster, New York, USA

6. Branson, Sir Richard 2018, (Twitter account), viewed 16 March 2018,