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Retaining talent in Milwaukee’s workplace more about community connections than generational allure

Our team is frequently asked to talk on the topic of “what millennials want at work.”

It is a fair ask, and part of a broader conversation employers have been having with us even before we launched our first Young Professionals Week event in 2012: How can we attract and retain young talent?

Since 2012, our YPWeek has grown every year. Last month, in its eighth iteration, thousands attended the grassroots conference in over 20 communities across Wisconsin as well as Chicago, Atlanta and Salt Lake City. Altogether, our partner communities presented over 150 diverse events to empower young professionals to take ownership and pride in their city.

This year, we asked each YPWeek host city to deploy a survey to attendees asking what drew them to their city and what factor would most influence them to move. Our hypothesis was that people of different ages, in different areas of the state and country (urban versus suburban), and in different industries would have drastically different responses to these questions.

We received 561 survey responses. The age breakdown of respondents was 68.9% 18-34 (young professional) and 31.1% 35+ (mid- and senior-level professionals). By location, 45.5% of respondents identified as living in urban areas, with 54.5% living in suburban or rural areas.

To our surprise, despite any of these demographic differences, answers stayed relatively the same.

What drew you to your city?

What factor would most influence you to consider moving to a new city?

No matter how we sliced and diced the data, people simply expressed their desire to live near friends and family and have good jobs. In other words: they want to grow roots and feel connected in their community. At a time when reports of social isolation are on the rise and nearly 50% of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone, perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising.

This points to the reason YPWeek continues to expand and resonate with attendees across all ages: It is a gateway to finding your community. Every city we worked in was able to leverage this platform to create a greater sense of connection and belonging in their city.

The truth is that there is no simple ‘silver bullet’ in attracting and retaining young talent. Millennials are in the workforce already. Many are in their 30s and are now mid-career professionals, with houses and families.

Calling out generational differences is passé. The crisis at hand is not about generational differences. It is not about what millennials or Gen Z want. It is not about ping-pong table perks or open office layouts.

The true crisis is about connection. And isn’t that what we all really want?

Angela Damiani

Originally published on NEWaukee as Forget the Millennial Fervor

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