Boomers vs. Millennials

Commit To A Job? Millennials Literally Can’t Even, But Not For The Reasons You Think

If millennials have commitment issues at work, it’s not because they don’t value company loyalty. In fact, it’s possible they value it more than the companies themselves.

Millennials want their employers to value and commit to them by offering the stability their Boomer counterparts enjoyed, including annual raises and upward career mobility. Millennials @ Work, a new study by Accel Partners & Qualtrics, showed that almost 90 percent of millennials would stay in their current job if these two things were offered to them.

A similar percentage (86 percent) believe that a livable wage is a right, not a privilege. If they’re working, then they should be able to cover basic expenses like food, shelter and healthcare.

The majority said they would stay at a current job they liked for three years or longer, and 39 percent planned to stay for six years. Those who left jobs they liked mostly did so due to a better opportunity elsewhere (36 percent).

Only three percent said they didn’t like to spend too much time at one job. And the vast majority (88 percent) would rather have the simplicity of a single full-time job as opposed to multiple part-time jobs. In other words, the “side hustle” isn’t popular because they like it; it’s popular because they need it.

“Millennials want stability — yes, that may shock you, but it’s true,” said millennial attorney James Goodnow, 35, co-author of Motivating Millennials. “Many Baby Boomer executives think millennials are just cashing in on a short-term gig so they can scrape together enough money to go hike Mount Kilimanjaro or buy an unlimited annual skydiving pass.”

If employers want to hire and retain millennial workers, they’re going to have to get over some common stereotypes and start hearing what the young workforce is really asking for. Hint: it’s not free lunch and a hip office environment. Artisanal lunches and skydiving are icing — so what goes into the cake?

To understand what the younger generation wants, Boomers should start by asking themselves what they wanted out of their own careers.

“[Millennials] want to be at a place where they own their own career trajectory,” said Mike Maughan, head of Brand Growth and Global Insights at Qualtrics, the firm that conducted the study. “It’s not that they want to be CEO or be a CEO tomorrow, but they want a seat at the table and want to feel like they’re part of something.”

Twenty percent of millennials would change jobs if they found something more fulfilling. They have very little patience for a job that hides them behind closed doors when they could be out working with clients and contributing to the company’s purpose. If they find out there’s nowhere in the company for them to climb, they’re not going to waste their time working there.

Ditto if they find out the company doesn’t care about their ideas. Like Boomers, millennials want to contribute to their company in a meaningful way. They expect to be treated as more than mindless drones, especially if their field required them to go into five-figure debt by attending college (though millennials are six times likelier than Boomers to work in retail, according to the study).

Contrary to the stereotype, the mission of a company is less important to millennials than whether the job can support them. Career trajectory and compensation are king.

Companies that assume their millennial employees will leave are their own worst enemies, Goodnow said.

“This ‘they’re probably leaving anyway’ mentality creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where business leaders don’t invest in their youngest workers, who then leave as a result,” Goodnow said.

That may be why, on average, millennials have held 2.29 jobs over the past five years — that’s a switch every 26 months.

“They measure their work by achievement instead of hours logged and have no problem moving on if it’s not a fit,” said the Accel & Qualtrics study. “It’s out with org charts, scheduled breaks and dress codes and in with autonomy, missions and office puppies.”

Want a millennial to stick around? Don’t bribe them with an office game console and a free beer fridge. Give them a voice. Give them a challenge. Give them a guarantee. And give them a livable wage.

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