Millennials don’t seem to like staying in one place for too long. We skip songs on a playlist halfway through, we absent-mindedly switch back and forth between apps and browser tabs, and we can never decide which of our multiple mobile devices we want to use at any given time.
Gen Y’s notoriously short attention span has even transferred over to the workplace, where it’s not uncommon for a 20-something to have worked for three or four different employers just in the last few years. Every time I check LinkedIn, I see another former colleague, classmate or industry contact who is moving on to another job after just a year or two at their last one. Even I left my first job three days shy of my one-year work anniversary. And while baby boomers who have spent their whole careers at the same company may scoff, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this approach — at least according to us.
“For millennials, it is more a matter of career exploration than climbing the traditional ladder,” said Emily He, CMO of talent management solution Saba. “Research suggests that today’s college graduates will have a dozen or more jobs by the time they hit their 30s. In an uncertain job environment, it has become societally and culturally okay that they explore. The expectations have changed. Your 20s are used as the time where you actually figure out what you want to do, so the constant job hopping to explore multiple industries is expected.”
If this assessment is correct, it means that employers simply need to accept high turnover rates among its millennial hires. But Tom Turner, co-founder and president ofelectronic discovery and digital forensics company DSi, thinks Gen Y workers will stick around if the culture is right.
“Millennial employees want to feel like they are part of something bigger than just their job,” Turner told Business News Daily. “They want an understanding of how their position plays into the company’s success. The culture of management has also changed. In the past, employers expected employees to feel appreciative of having a job, but now employers need to feel appreciative of having their employees. Because of this, a culture of performance where everyone understands the expectations and is held accountable for performing to them is key.”
Along the same lines, Turner also said that showing your employees you value and trust them with tangible policies and benefits will aid in millennial retention. Offering flexible schedules and unlimited vacation may keep Gen Y around for a few years longer than average, but is all that really enough?
Speaking from a millennial perspective, I think it is, especially if you’re the company that a millennial lands at after they’ve been around the block a few times. It’s like dating: You start and end a string of relationships with people who may be great at first, but eventually one or both of you feel the need to move on. With any luck, at the end of this string, you’re told that you’ll find the “right” person/company with whom you want to spend the rest of your life/career. When you do land that perfect partner/job, you’ll have enough prior experience to know that you’re unlikely to find something better for you at this point in your life.
On the other hand, people and their goals do change. Even when you’re in that “perfect” career-making job, you might still feel that old familiar tug in the other direction, that voice in your head asking if there’s something better out there. And maybe there is something better — but that’s all the more reason to make the most of the time you do spend with that employer.
“Companies need to change the focus [of millennial hires] from ‘How long can I keep you?’ to ‘How much can we accomplish together?’, and then power that relationship with the connections, context and technology that gives them a reason to bring their best game to your business,” Emily He said. “In a sea of adaptability and independent aspirations, empowering millennials to expand their connections past their own company can lead to a deeper, trust-filled employer-employee relationship, and millennials may think twice before jumping ship to another organization.”