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Why millennial employees are leaving sooner than you’d like

Having to replace an employee is nothing new. Every business goes through the cycle. Sometimes, it’s the employee’s desire to move on; other times, it’s the company’s decision to part ways. Both sides have their reasons. It’s one thing for a company to have a turnover spell every now and then. But to have it happen in droves, to one specific generation of employees? That’s another issue.

That’s where companies are with millennial workers. Not only do millennial employees crave different work experiences, but they’re also leaving much sooner than any other generation of workers — nearly two years earlier, to be exact. The average job tenure in the U.S. is 4.6 years. Millennial employees? They’re departing jobs every 2.3 years. When you consider that they’ll compose more than 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025, you’ll see the reason companies have started to scratch their heads and say, “What gives?”

The reasons they’re leaving for greener pastures are not what you’d normally expect. We’ll look at how businesses can curtail the job hopping and share facts and theories as to what millennial employees really want with their job.

Feeling entitled or wanting positive change?

That’s the big question that many have posed. Some have used the psychological reasoning that “kids these days are too entitled,” ready to leave at the first sign of distress or boredom. While there might be some truth to that, there is more to the reason millennial workers seek refuge in a new job.

For one thing, they want their job to mean something. A study on millennial employee satisfaction hints at more than a few who say they’d rather work at a place where they can make a direct social and environmental impact. About 72% of young workers about to enter the job market feel that way. As for millennials already working, 55% report working at a company where they can make a social and environmental impact. They are more likely to report job satisfaction (49%) that those who don’t work in a similar environment (24%).

Are they valuing flexibility more than the next person?

Flexibility with how one works is what I like to call a “key satisfaction indicator,” or KSI. Most every employee wants it, and not all companies truly offer it. Flexible benefits are one thing. Flexibility with how staffers work, where they work and how they set their schedules is completely different.

Millennial employees are more eager and crave a company that provides both forms of flexibility. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “NextGen: A global generational study,” discusses interesting information on millennials, as well as other generations, in the workplace.

To name a few:

  • 64% of millennials (66% of nonmillennials, too) would like to occasionally work from home.
  • 66% of millennials would like the option to shift work hours around.
  • Millennials put a premium on work-life-balance flexibility and don’t see how working well past the 40-hour workweek early in their career automatically leads to greater rewards over time.

OK. So what can you do?

Are millennial workers going to band together and change their minds overnight on departing so quickly? Doubt it. As I said, job satisfaction is different for everyone. You might offer extended vacation days to your staff, but if the work isn’t to someone’s liking, or an employee is positive he or she isn’t able to advance further, the person might scout elsewhere. Others might be burned out, not have enough leeway on vacations or feel bogged down by a mundane office culture.

So, change the conversation.

Here are a few quick hits on what your company can do to change the culture and create a better haven for employees to plan their nest eggs, rather than fly the coup.

  • Listen to your staff more: There’s a better chance of employees voicing dissatisfaction to another employee than to their superiors — at first. If they feel management is unapproachable or hard to get a hold of, they will use water cooler moments to voice their displeasure. Don’t let it get to that point. Train managers and supervisors to have more one-on-one time with employees in their respective departments. Get a better understanding of their happiness levels, successes for the week or month and roadblocks encountered. Make it known to the entire office that open and honest communication is here — and it’s not going anywhere.
  • Entertain flexible working stations: This is purely optional. Some companies have never let their staff work from home, at least full time. Others do the opposite and let employees choose where they work and what time they work. Netflix is a prime example of the latter. There’s a lengthy presentation about the company’s culture and what makes it Netflix. One of the mentions is how employees don’t measure hours worked or how many times they came to the office. It’s about what they accomplish. Maybe you could float that to your staff — with the condition that work is accomplished and it’s done well.
  • Provide better training grounds: No matter how many skills employees have, they still need coaching. Career advancement doesn’t fall from the sky. Management must decide which training sessions go to whom and monitor how employees absorb training material and implement it into their daily work routines. To go back to that Net Impact study, it mentions that more than 56% of millennial employees say they crave coaching. They want one-on-one meetings, and they want training that helps them learn a skill or enhance one they already have.

That’s only a start with pushing forward not only a better culture but also a way to demonstrate to millennial workers that you’re proactive. There might not be such a thing as the ideal company culture. Some might have gripes about how businesses such as Netflix and Zappos operate, even as others love it.

But if you can’t decipher how yours is being received, that’s because you aren’t communicating to employees as much as you should be. The quicker you are at developing better communication lines, the faster you can tackle other issues — such as employee retention — and keep your company as steady as she goes.

Kyle O’Brien is the community manager for ej4, an e-learning company focused on performance-improvement solutions for businesses. He has written on topics including employee motivation and company structure. Follow ej4 on Twitter or Google+.

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