As the first wave of Gen Z graduates from college and enters the workforce, it seems as though the discussions about how we’ll deal with the entitled millennial generation is dying down. Are the needs of millennials old news or are have we just grown tired of making the whole generation a scapegoat for every bad encounter we have with new entrants into the workforce? My hope is that we’re just tired of the same tired rhetoric, because if we’ve forgotten about the core needs of this cohort, we’re set for a rude awakening.
While Gallup may have labeled millennials “The Job Hopping Generation,” the reality is they’re not job-hopping without reason. In fact, many studies call into question the notion that millennials job hop more than any other generation of new workers in the workforce. Young people have always been, and always will be job hoppers. However, labeling millennials as a generation defined by job hopping did a disservice to this group of aspiring professionals. It gave HR departments and managers alike an excuse for not solving their turnover and engagement problems from the start. They purchased bean bag chairs and ping pong tables for the office instead of taking a hard look at the career progression prospects and development opportunities afforded to their entry level workers. And with unemployment reaching new lows, millennials had no problem finding more attractive alternatives from organizations who understood what it takes to create millennial engagement. It may come as a shock, but the answer is not more ping pong tables or nap pods.
They want a career. Contrary to what the media’s stereotype of millennials would like you to believe, they’re not asking for a career to be handed to them on day one. They’re asking for a pathway and support. I know, I know, what will we do with those demanding, entitled millennials, right? So, if we’re going to be critical and draw conclusions about the character and loyalty of a millennial who changes jobs, then we should be equally critical of the organizations they leave. Did the millennial leave because they enjoy changing jobs or did they leave because the employer failed to fulfill their duty to support and develop new talent?
Organizations with clearly defined pathways and formal development opportunities have significantly less turnover than those who don’t invest in the future of their employees. Approximately two-thirds of millennials report that they expect their employers will invest in their development. Some may consider that an entitlement perspective, but developing any skill involves plenty of work. These young workers are asking for the opportunity to work on new skills. And they’re asking for that help because they know their over-priced higher education experience didn’t prepare them for the demands of today’s workplace. The skills gap is real and millennials know it.
So, instead of budgeting for the cost of millennial turnover in your organization (i.e. 50-200% of the employee’s salary), budget for retention, results, and the future. Budget for developing the core skills of these next generation leaders who care more about developing their communication, leadership, and decision-making skills than about improving their ping pong ball record.