According to Deloitte research, in response to the fact that jobs in most sectors become increasingly knowledge-intensive, the cost of replacing capable workers is high, companies should shift from strategies to “hold people here” to “attracting and engaging people” through measures that build commitment, align employee goals and experience with passion and purpose, and provide engaging work and a culture of development and growth. 
Millennials in particular are looking for work that inspires passion and allows them to fulfill their professional, personal, and social goals. Human resources functions have focused tightly on attrition rates and worked to discover effective managerial interventions to limit turnover.
However given that retention metrics are a lagging indicator, though, the question is whether “retention” is the right place to focus. 
People make choices, consciously or not, as to how committed they are to their work and the enterprise. Their levels of engagement and motivation are subject to constant fluctuation in response to whether the employee perception in serving a higher purpose, and pay particular attention to what kinds of behavior are rewarded, how much can be learned from working there, and more.


People today don’t choose whether to “re-up” their employment contract once every few years, or only when a life event unfolds.

They are looking for more than the right balance between hours and pay.

People now look for “good work” in the sense that authors and educators including Howard Gardner, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Bill Damon use the term—meaning work that benefits the broader society.

Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, for example, by Whole Foods founder John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, makes a strong call for engaging in commerce only in ways that leave the world better off. Sisodia’s earlier book Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose (with Jagdish Sheth and David Wolfem) offers evidence that more socially responsible and valuable companies outperform their peers in terms of engagement and retention, customer service, and long-term profitability.

High performing companies are finding ways to continually monitor, encourage, and respond to people’s enthusiasm for their work.

The challenge of multiple generational workforce

Deloitte survey research, ‘Beyond retention: Build passion and purpose,’ contests that attracting and retaining Millennials is a challenge. The younger employees who comprise the Millennial generation make up 34 percent of the global workforce and will swell to 75 percent by 2025. They also come to the job with a very different set of aspirations than their Generation X and Baby Boomer colleagues.

About 70 percent of Millennials want to launch their own businesses at some point in their careers. Only 20 percent want to work in companies with more than 10,000 employees. With corporate hierarchies flattened, nearly half (45 percent) are already in leadership roles, while their Baby Boomer and Generation X peers were likely to serve in less senior positions at this age.

Just as with earlier generations, millennial attitudes toward work are driven by their cultural and educational experiences growing up. They are comfortable with technology and have been raised with the tools of transparency, hardly remembering a time when instant messaging, Twitter, Google, and Facebook were not a part of their lives. They value and thrive on innovation, with more than three-quarters (78 percent) stating that they are strongly influenced by how innovative a company is when considering employers. Millennials also want to work for organizations that provide flexibility and that are purpose-driven, tackling broad societal challenges such as resource scarcity, climate change, and income equality.

The influence of Millennials is already pushing companies to redefine leadership development programs and redesign the work environment. Sixty-six percent of the respondents reported that they have “weak” capabilities when it comes to providing focused leadership programs for Millennials. Further, 58 percent of executives reported “weak” capabilities in “providing programs for younger, older, and multi-generation workforces,” underscoring that Millennials are not the only challenge.

Increased longevity and health, and the aftermath of the Great Recession, are encouraging greater numbers of older people to remain longer in the workforce. By 2025, the number of workers aged 55–64 is forecast to rise by 89 percent, while for those aged 65 and above the percentage is even higher. And Boomers, too, are subscribing to younger attitudes toward work, with 70 percent citing career-life fit as a top priority.

This Boomer trend may be a silver lining, given concerns by HR and business line leaders about the looming brain drain. Employers express worry that a significant proportion of their workforce is eligible to retire over the next five years, taking with them the relationships, skills, expertise, and knowledge of the informal networks and systems that make their organizations work.

By their own admission, most executives tended to rate themselves as either “weak” or just “adequate” in several key retention capabilities. More than a third (38 percent) report they are “weak” at integrating social, community, and corporate programs, the same number as those who say they are “weak” at aligning employee and corporate goals. Four in ten (40 percent) state their organization is “weak” in helping employees balance their personal and professional lives.

Figure 1


Today’s most talented people want to join organizations whose work engages their interests and deserves their passion.

In the emerging open talent economy, employees—particularly those with highly relevant and contemporary skills—make that decision every day.

Any workplace that lags in inspiring passion and purpose will suffer by losing key employees.

Statistical analysis can show how changes in these factors of engagement translate into higher or lower retention—and therefore guide thoughtful interventions.

The challenge is to link retention and engagement insights to business results—for example, by finding a way to lower turnover in traditional high-churn but mission-critical teams, such as technical sales. This clearly requires more than an annual engagement survey.

Keep your finger on the pulse of the organization. Provide open blogs and communication tools to help people talk openly about what they need—and what they particularly value.