Recruiting and Retaining Young Professionals

—Jack Forinash – Principal of Housing


Since 2009, Epicenter has hosted 149 young professionals (defined, in this case, as being born between 1980 and 2004). These individuals have accounted for 95% of Epicenter’s workforce over the years. We at Epicenter often think about our role as an employer of these “millennials.” Why would someone with no connection to Green River move here? What is Epicenter and Green River offering that traditional employment is not? Is this unique to this place and this organization? Or is there a larger movement to work focused on people and place, on local solutions derived from long-term investment in a community?

Epicenter recently participated at the Utah Housing Matters annual conference, having been invited to host a session for young professionals to meet and discuss the peculiarities and opportunities of this newest generation entering the workforce. Specifically, the discussion focused on what has worked to recruit and retain the session participants in their current jobs within Utah’s non-profit organizations and governmental housing agencies.

In preparation for the session, Epicenter staff completed a survey on their own experiences and motives. At the request of the Utah Housing Coalition, the results of this survey along with information gathered from the session at the conference were compiled and analyzed for a case study report. Although this report is narrowly focused on Epicenter’s experience, it’s our hope that this report helps to exhibit Epicenter’s employment history and inform organizations that are interested in hiring emerging professionals; after all, Epicenter was founded by and continues to be run by young entrepreneurial professionals.

The report concludes with ten recommendations to other organizations interested in recruiting young professionals. The full report can be found here.

Excerpts from the report:

“Question 2: ‘What needs to happen for you to still be working here in 12 months?’ (This question was posed with an open answer format.)
-‘I need to feel that what I am doing is relevant and significant to Epicenter and to Green River.’
-‘I need to feel that staying here will be beneficial to my overall career path.’
-‘The ability to freely do more hands-on work (less computer).'”

“Young professionals today are more likely to volunteer their time and expertise when it is a case of doing ‘work that matters,’ something we hear often. Climbing a corporate ladder towards more control and money is not as important for recruits just out of college. Certainly, the Great Recession had a role in re-orienting recent graduates that have left college with large amounts of student debt and are not able to find the jobs they expected to have available to them.”

We’d love to hear your feedback on this report. We admit it is based primarily in Epicenter’s experience in Green River. We wonder if there is documentation of larger trends at other organizations and in other places. We also wonder how “the millennial effect” is operating in more traditional employment structures. We don’t think of ourselves as unique in this case. We’re interested in pursuing this documentation further with a broader net and would appreciate any leads or collaborating documentation you may know of. Email us your comments.