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Updated Oct 24, 2023

Solving the Mystery of Millennial and Gen Z Job Hoppers

Millennials and younger generations want the highest possible return on their job investment.

Tejas Vemparala headshot
Written By: Tejas VemparalaBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Millennials don’t seem to like staying in one place for too long. They get a bad rap for lack of concentration, skipping songs on playlists, switching between apps and browser tabs, and juggling multiple mobile devices. 

Gen Z’s notoriously short attention span seems to have transferred to the workplace, where it’s not uncommon for 20-somethings to have worked for three or four different employers in the last few years. However, job-hopping may be about selective attention rather than an attention-span problem. Younger workers want to explore careers and find workplaces with fair compensation that give them the highest possible return on their job investments. 

We’ll look at the reasons behind millennial job-hopping to give employers insights into keeping this mercurial workforce.

When communicating with a multigenerational workforce, help employees of different generations get to know one another better via offsite team-building events.

Why do millennials change jobs so often?

There are several perspectives on why millennials change jobs so often. 

1. Millennial workers want to explore careers and industries. 

Baby boomers and Generation X members have been celebrated for spending entire careers at the same company. However, younger workers may not share this desire for workplace longevity –  and neither approach is wrong. “For millennials, it is more a matter of career exploration than climbing the traditional ladder,” said Emily He, former SVP of human capital management at Oracle. “Research suggests that today’s college graduates will have a dozen or more jobs by the time they hit their 30s.”

Job-hopping is no longer frowned upon as it was in past generations. It’s become socially acceptable to experience various careers and industries to figure out what matters and match a position to someone’s passions and skills. “In an uncertain job environment, it has become [socially] and culturally OK that they explore,” He explained. “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.”

2. Millennials want to feel part of something bigger. 

If millennial job-hopping is normal and healthy, do employers have to accept high turnover rates among younger workers? Not necessarily. 

Tom Turner, founding partner of 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 said. “They want an understanding of how their position plays into the company’s success.”

3. The modern management culture has shifted. 

Additionally, today’s management culture has shifted to become more employee-focused. Employees have more choices and don’t feel as beholden to an employer. They prioritize a positive work-life balance. Employers, in turn, are finding creative ways to keep employees happy.

“The culture of management has also changed,” Turner explained. “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.”

To show employee appreciation, consider expressing your gratitude on social media, presenting team awards, and offering perks like flex time and fitness opportunities.

How often do millennials job-hop?

According to Zippia, on average, a millennial will stay at their job for 2.75 years. And according to a Gallup report on the millennial generation, 21% of millennials surveyed report changing jobs within the past year – more than three times the rate of other generations. This millennial turnover is costly; Gallup estimates it costs $30.5 billion yearly.

The Gallup data also revealed that half of millennials in the workplace don’t “strongly agree” that they’ll be with their current employer in a year, and 60% are open to a new job opportunity, compared to 45% of non-millennials.  

Additionally, millennials frequently juggle multiple jobs, including side hustles and freelancing, making their job experience even more scattered. 

How the pandemic affected millennial job-hopping

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred additional millennial job-hopping, as well as job shifts among workers of all generations. According to a 2021 IBM report on employee post-pandemic expectations, most employees of all generations felt their employers did a poor job of supporting employees during the pandemic. Because of this, many millennials – who represent over a third of the American workforce – sought alternate employment. 

Despite medical benefits being a significant draw in staying employed, one out of every five employees across all generations voluntarily changed employers in 2020. With 139 million employees in 2020, that means 27.8 million employees voluntarily changed employers in that period of time. 

Does Gen Z job-hop like millennials?

Gen Zers in the workplace tend to explore multiple positions, careers, and industries. Being unattached to organizations or institutions gives them the flexibility to determine their schedule and earn more money across multiple jobs (hustles) than being locked into one position that returns less in salary over time. 

Most of Gen Z didn’t have long to establish roots in any industry or career before the COVID-19 pandemic; most were less than three to five years post-secondary graduation. Still, the IBM report revealed that Gen Z accounted for 33% of job hoppers in 2020, or about 9.2 million Gen Z folks. 

Gen Zers don’t plan to set down many post-pandemic career roots, either. According to a 2022 Lever Great Resignation report, 65% of Gen Zers say they’ll leave their jobs by the end of the year, and more than 13% are more than twice as likely as other generations to leave their jobs in the next month. 

Switching jobs is no longer a red flag for good managers, who understand that having a traditional mindset of employer-employee relationships is not fruitful for getting the best out of a younger employee. As the workforce evolves from the assembly line type of specific task completion into an asynchronous group-think type of communal project completion, it is essential to evolve away from being a boss and into a true leader and coach.

Did You Know?Did you know
Gen Z workers expect fair pay, diverse teams, meaningful work, and a focus on mental health.

What industries see the most frequent employee turnover?

Employee turnover is more prevalent in industries requiring extremely long hours, less pay, or no employee buy-in to the final product – all factors that can lead to workplace burnout. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in the motion picture and sound recording industries last, on average,1.4 years. Professionals who work in food preparation and serving-related occupations spend an average of only 1.6 years on the job. 

Employees likely know it’ll be a short stint when they go into jobs where they’ll be overworked and underpaid. However, more traditional industries also see high turnover rates. According to LinkedIn data, professional services, tech and media, accommodation, and retail industries also see above-average turnover. 

What can employers do to keep millennial employees? 

Addressing younger workers’ priorities can go a long way toward retaining them. Turner advised that showing your employees you value and trust them with tangible policies and benefits will aid in millennial employee retention. Offering flexible schedules, health insurance, more vacation time, and a great employee benefits package may also keep Gen Y around for a few years longer than average.

Additionally, encouraging professional development may keep younger workers around awhile. The Lever report showed that Gen Zers are the most likely generation to stick around if employers offer upskilling opportunities, and 43% of millennials ask for role changes to increase their interest in – and commitment to – a company.

To attract and retain a younger workforce, consider your leadership style. Younger employees seek feelings of purpose; working with them to upskill and develop their talents can deliver an excellent return on investment.

Workforce relationships are changing

People and goals change. Even if someone is in a “perfect” career-making job, they may yearn for something different and new challenges. Workforce relationships may be shifting to a model that appreciates accomplishments instead of prioritizing longevity. 

“Companies need to change the focus [of millennial hires] from ‘How long can I keep you?’ to ‘How much can we accomplish together?'” 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.”

Nicole Fallon contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Tejas Vemparala headshot
Written By: Tejas VemparalaBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Tejas Vemparala is an operations coordinator and analyst who specializes in recruiting and hiring candidates for open positions in small businesses in New York City. In his role, he actively seeks out top talent to support local entrepreneurs as they grow their businesses. Tejas understands the challenges small business owners face firsthand as a former food truck owner and operator, where he focused on providing fast casual Indian cuisine to communities throughout the five boroughs. Tejas holds a dual-degree in economics and marketing and imbues his advice to small businesses with his extensive expertise in these areas.
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