Insights/ How to retain young talent

Author: Charlotte Flach, C&IT Magazine 

Powwow reveals what can be done to ensure holding on to young talent is easy./

Powwow spoke to C&IT about how it successfully retains young talent in the challenging events landscape. When C&IT surveyed events agencies about the difficulty in retaining young talent, over a quarter (27%) of respondents said it was easy - but how?

Powwow is one of these 27%./

“The perception is that it is difficult, not just in our sector, but in most sectors,” says Katy Johns, Director at the events agency. She explains that the reason for this might be because “Millennials move more frequently in order to progress in their careers. Generally speaking, there is a perception that a job is not for life anymore, and more so recently, the feeling is that the way to progress is to move around.”

Catch young talent early/

However, the key to retention is to catch young talent at an early stage in both their career and personal development says Johns. One way to do this is to foster relationships with universities that run event management courses. Connecting informally with students directly on or off campus is a great way to introduce them to your agency, according to Johns. “We run recruitment days at the university or invite them to our office. That generally is where we are introduced to young talent - we are more about word of mouth.”

Also, when students hear from alumni who are working at an agency and enjoying their role it can be invaluable to recruitment says Johns. “We have a huge amount of alumni from event management courses so we have team members who have been with us for years who have gone back to speak and raise our profile.”

Giving students their first taste of work is of course also very effective in building knowledge and loyalty of your brand. “We often offer industry placements and internships and every year we take on graduates. We build those relationships prior to graduation and we do a number of larger events where we recruit students to support on them.”

Working life/

Once in the workplace, young talent faces a myriad of challenges, including competition for jobs and the desire to progress quickly and earn more money. Johns says: “Most of our team are graduates, so I think it can be difficult adapting to the world of work after being a student. Cost of living is a big factor as is work-life balance - wanting to climb the ladder and do a good job but equally maintaining a personal life, in the events industry, can be challenging.”
In the face of these challenges it is important to listen to your workforce. Johns says the office surveyed their younger members of staff to see what they expect from an employer. The list was long, but revealing.

In addition to traditional expectations such as clear development opportunities, competitive salaries and training and mentoring to show they are being invested in, young people in the workplace also value; strong support and a nurturing environment, to have a voice and be listened to, varied and challenging work and a sociable working environment.

Communication is key/

At Powwow, these needs are facilitated through “having a nice environment and good work-life balance, fair pay that increases through annual development, training on the job but also formal training based on individual needs, and open communication.” In fact, continual communication is one of the most important factors, with an open-door policy where feedback keeps going at all times rather than saving it up, explains Johns.

But most significantly, “our turnover is low because people see a clear route for progression and development,” says Johns. “We have a friendly, vibrant team and a big social element to our office. We offer variety in a role in terms of developing skills and continuously being challenged, so our employees don’t have that feeling of dread on a Sunday night at the thought of coming to work.”