Understanding Millennials in the workplace - Part 1

Much has been written about millennials in recent years, with a great deal of the literature lamenting an entire generation’s supposed entitlement and disloyalty to employers. In part 1 of our millennial retention series, we bust a tired yet prevailing stereotype regarding how millennials map out their respective career paths.

So, are millennials really compulsive job-hoppers?

Generation Y is thought to be driven by entitlement which in turn makes them more likely to switch jobs if they feel that they are not being handed swift career progression on a silver platter. Research from the British think tank, the Resolution Foundation shows that the opposite is true, with only 1 in 25 millennials reported to have switched jobs each year during their early 20s.

Perhaps more interestingly so, the preceding generation known as Generation X were shown to have been twice as likely to continue switching employers when they were the same age – a good thing for them, financially speaking. Job-hopping tends to come with a pay rise of about 15 percent with each move, as well as the opportunity for workers to learn new skills and determine the employers are a good fit for them.

Meanwhile, researchers from Deloitte found that recent political and social instability in the developed world has made young people’s desire for security even more pronounced in just the last 12 months.

What makes the stereotype wrong

Recent data suggests that whilst young people have historically been prone to changing careers at a more frequent rate than their elders, the pattern has slowed down amongst millennials in comparison to Gen Xers. This is due to the economic landscape they were born into, and the challenges they face as a result which drive them to prioritise job security when entering the workforce.

Stereotypes about millennials suggest they’re not interested in old-fashioned markers of success. However, when it comes to the fundamental desire for these basic anchors – a home, retirement savings, a decent career, a family – there’s strikingly little difference between the generations. With house prices rising, and university education getting more expensive in many countries, these goals are out of reach for many millennials. That’s another possible contributing factor for this generation’s desire to stay rooted with one employer.

For this reason, millennials may be less willing to take risks having come of age during the financial crisis. There’s also the rise of zero-hours contracts and agency work, and the fact that a shift is happening in Britain to a service economy from a manufacturing economy. These factors are likely to have reduced a millennial’s confidence or bargaining power. According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 7 in 10 millennials living in developed economies would prefer to be in full-time employment, rather than freelance work, and the reasons most often given for this preference are ‘job security’ and a ‘fixed income’.

If anything is holding millennials back, the evidence suggests, it may be the unprecedented environment in which they find themselves, and not their attitudes to work.

Click here for part 2 of this series, where we explore the importance of bridging the generational gap in the workplace for improved engagement, productivity and collaboration.

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