What It Takes to Get Entry-Level Employees to Stay

Providing adequate pay, development opportunities, reach assignments, and inclusion in meetings with leadership can play a big role in entry-level employee retention.

Entry-level employees don’t have a great reputation for organizational longevity these days. More experienced, senior employees often see them as necessarily short-term. They may be presumed to only be staying long enough to find a better opportunity. That could be true, but it also could be a self-fulfilling prophesy, according to an article posted to the Website of Talent Works, which I thought made some good points.

Adequate Pay

“Self-fulfilling” means that if you presume entry-level employees are not invested in the organization, and as a result of that presumption, decide not to invest in them, they will, indeed, leave. Part of “investing” requires adequate pay.

An organization I was part of had a swiftly revolving door of entry-level employees. Part of that was due to a difficult-to-work-with manager, but an even bigger part of it was the low pay that made entry-level employees keep an eye out for something more lucrative. They weren’t being greedy or spoiled—it’s genuinely hard for people who are not heirs to great fortunes (or married to a person who is supporting them) to live off what many companies are willing to pay an entry-level employee today.

Worthy of Developing

Alongside adequate pay is the need for the entry-level employee to feel that the organization views them as a person worth developing. I have experienced feeling like a low-potential employee regardless of the amount or quality of work I contributed.

Some of the perception of who is and isn’t viewed as high-potential can be based on gender, race, or other identity stereotypes. A good approach is to presume all entry-level employees are high-potential until they prove otherwise. That means that at the start, all entry-level employees should have a one-on-one meeting with their immediate manager to decide together on both the work they need to do simply because it needs to get done and the work they will be assigned as reach assignments because that is the work they aspire to do.

In my world of writing and editing, a reach assignment could be an area of reporting or coverage that the person usually doesn’t focus on, but would like to. It could mean getting the chance to work with a member of the organization outside of the employee’s usual work group who they would like to get to know better and demonstrate their talents to.

Dream Big

Part of getting an entry-level employee to stay is capturing their imagination. I once dreamed of working as a fashion or style editor. I was excited when I ended up at a company with an editor who formerly worked in that world. I wasn’t an entry-level employee at the time, but as a new employee, it might not have hurt to have a conversation about areas of writing outside of my usual work that I might like to explore.

If you can get the entry-level employee to dream of what their life could be if they stay with the organization, you have won them over for more than just six months or a year.

Give Them a Voice

Inclusion in meetings with more senior colleagues is another way to show entry-level employees you value their insights, want them to learn, and think they should have a voice in the organization. I have experienced being shut out of meetings to the point that people in the room would ask where I was. When the manager who controlled my inclusion in meetings retired, I suddenly found myself included much more.

It’s crucial for managers to realize that including an entry-level employee in meetings is important both as a way to gather new ideas and a fresh perspective and to avoid the entry-level employee feeling like they are being shut out and isolated.

The same goes for travel to meetings and conferences in places that require air or train fare and overnight stays in a hotel. It’s pricey, but it’s a development investment in entry-level employees to teach them about your industry, introduce them to they may work with in the future, and, equally important, offer an enjoyable fringe benefit.

“I feel like I have been locked inside a development box,” I wrote years ago on a performance review self-assessment. The self-assessment turned into an (unflattering) assessment of my manager at the time. When you don’t invest in an entry-level or new employee, you are sending them the message that the exact small spot they are currently in is as far as they are going to go. You can’t blame them if they want to break out of that box to get someplace better.

Do you conscientiously develop and invest in your entry-level employees? What have you learned about retaining entry-level employees for the long term?