To Retain Top Young Talent, You Gotta Stop Dangling Vague Promises

Carson, the son of a friend of mine, is an MBA whose passion centers on business mergers and acquisitions.

Two years ago, Carson accepted a position with an investment bank that offered him an embarrassingly low starting salary that was packaged with the promise that he’d be seeing some nice bonuses as the firm closed large deals.

Determined to prove his worth, Carson has worked a minimum of 55 hours each week, has received stellar performance reviews, and has even managed to bring in – and close – several profitable deals for the firm.

While Carson highly values the experience he has received, his compensation has remained way under market value, and he has been given only a few small bonuses that aren’t even close to those the partners suggested would augment his small base salary when he was hired.

Stalling Millennial employees is a losing strategy

Frustrated, Carson has approached the firm’s partners about this pay inequity on several occasions, and each time they have placated him with hints of a big payoff in the not-too-distant future. Carson is supporting his wife and young toddler and has asked for specifics so he can plan accordingly.

But using ambiguity as their primary tool, the non-committal partners have instead chosen to stall Carson with just-sit-tight-for-a-while-longer promises. What they don’t know (but will soon learn the hard way) is that Carson has interviewed with several competing firms and is preparing to make his exit.

Article Continues Below

His decision to leave is final, and he told me that no matter what his current employer offers to keep him – even if it’s more than where he’s headed – it’s too late. He’s moving on.

One might think that the practice of dangling a nebulous carrot in an attempt to attract talent and motivate high performance would be extinct in the new millennium, but it’s still commonplace. Even the best-intentioned ambiguous promises have no place in the compensation strategy of a great workplace culture.

Even the best-intentioned ambiguous promises have no place in the compensation strategy of a great workplace culture.Click To Tweet

How to keep young talent engaged for the future

Here is a simple three-point strategy for keeping young talent engaged in a future with your organization:

  1. Be Aware — Millennials aren’t buying into the “just keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone and someday good things will happen” mantra that many Baby Boomers bought into as young professionals. Today’s top young talent is way too impatient and skeptical. And when it comes to their career, they demand clarity.
  2. Be Honest — Tell them what your intentions are for their future, and then follow through on those promises. If you aren’t certain about when they’ll be promoted or how much they’ll see in a raise, it’s far better to say nothing than to hint or suggest that something good is on the horizon. In other words, say what you’ll do for them, then do it.
  3. Be Transparent — Just as dangerous as making promises you can’t keep is not making a promise when you can. Surprises are nice, but this is their career — not their birthday. Keep them in the loop when it comes to their future and discuss it with them often. If they need to improve in a specific area before you can promote or raise them, let them know what that is, and then help them achieve those benchmarks so they can grow with you.

Excerpted from Eric Chester’s new book, On Fire At Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out, that will be released Oct. 20. Pre-order now and forward a copy of your Amazon receipt to and you’ll receive a link to download Eric’s other three bestselling books for FREE!

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at and follow him at @eric_chester


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *