An open letter to WNY Executives: Your employees are talking to you, and you need to listen

Dear WNY Executives,

In the past month, five (5) high performing professionals from leading WNY organizations happened to reach out to my partner and I separately to solicit advice on their careers. All 5 individuals are millennials and all have plans to leave their current organization; in fact, 2 just gave their notice.

These individuals were sought out by your recruitment team and would be considered top talent against competitive applicants. It was definitely a win to have landed each of these individuals. Three of them even started in your leadership development program.

Your hiring team provided an excellent recruitment process. They were thrilled to join your organization and felt special and all started with high expectations—therein lies the problem, expectations.

In the beginning, they were happy because they were engaged in onboarding and learning new challenges. However, once they joined the daily routine of working 9-5pm in a cubicle, they started to get antsy, bored, and disengaged. Before working at your organization, they were either students from prestigious universities or working in other organizations in entry-level roles. They joined your reputable organization and expected to contribute, be challenged, and collaborate on important projects. They wanted meaningful work.

As experienced Leaders in HR and certified Executive Coaches, we are often asked to provide career guidance. These individuals came to us and said the following:

  • – “I am bored and can handle more”
  • – “I have ideas and but cannot get anyone to listen or take action”
  • – “I cannot stand being stuck in a cubicle for 8-10 hours per day”
  • – “I never see my boss anymore; it is hard to get the attention of my leader for feedback”
  • – “I am involved in committees/projects that are supposed to improve things, but not much happens and it doesn’t seem to matter”
  • – “My project was put on hold, again”

These high performing professionals are leaving you. Although, we advised them to speak with their leader and/or HR Business Partner, they said they did many times but did not feel heard because changes were not happening fast enough. In fact, they do not trust that changes ever would happen.

Today’s businesses are still working under old business practices believing employees need them for work and that receiving a consistent paycheck and steady work are enough. But, millennials want more and employers need to listen. Once the baby boomers leave, there will be an even bigger war for top talent. The employers who provide a workplace that not only works hard to attract top talent but also works hard to retain top talent will win.

In our research on the future of work, millennials want a different contract – one of trust and one where expectations are clear and followed. They do not expect to have lifetime employment, but they want a different employee experience than the traditional work environment you still offer.

Many organizations put much emphasis on the customer experience, but Jacob Morgan, a speaker on this topic, identified that the employee experience needs the same attention.

To retain top talent, you need to focus on the following employee experiences:

  1. – Cultural Environment
  2. – Physical Environment
  3. – Technology Environment

The Cultural Environment is the new contract of trust. Millennials joined your organization with expectations. Leaders need to continue the same zeal towards retaining talent as in acquiring talent and act as a coach. When an employee starts, set clear, transparent expectations immediately and listen to his/hers as well. Form an agreement and discuss it often. Leaders need to be more of a coach and provide regular feedback. Listen to ideas and focus on how to best match talent to projects that align with their interests and strengths.

The Physical Environment needs to change. Millennials are rebuffing the cubicle and want to work in open and innovative space. They want working areas that encourage collaboration and movement. They do not see work as “9 to 5”, they see it as part of their day and life. Ensure the workplace is a place where they want to be, is flexible with hours, and understands that work with technology can be done anywhere.

The Technology Environment is changing fast and companies need to adopt policies so they can utilize the tools they feel they need to do their job effectively, efficiently, and collaboratively. According to Jacob Morgan, “Technology is the central nervous system of the organization and most concepts and themes related to the future of work are not possible without technology”. If work is part of their day and life, they want the technology options to be seamless and current.

Since the professionals we met with already spoke to you, we want to shed some light on actions you can take. We understand that change is difficult, especially in the traditional and conservative WNY ecosystem (we have many years of corporate experience at Catapult). However, if you do not change at a faster pace, many more of your millennial top talent will leave.

The talent in your organization will be the key to your future success. Our team at Catapult has the experience, insight, and capabilities to help your organizations implement these changes to improve your employee experience and retain your top talent before it’s too late. Learn more about us at


The Catapult Team

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