Understand Millennials to Bolster Job Retention

The young generation is taking over the workforce—are you ready?

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. May 18, 2017
Understand Millennials to Bolster Job Retention

​SAN DIEGO—The average job tenure for Millennials is just two years, compared to five years for Generation Xers and seven years for Baby Boomers, said Gary Eisenstat, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Dallas. So, it's important to understand the young generation, particularly because by 2025 they will, according to a Brookings Institution report, account for 75 percent of the workforce.

Millennials—born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s—are the most racially diverse generation, noted Jennifer Rusie, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Nashville. Only 56 percent of them identify as white, according to the Milken Institute, an economic think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif.

They grew up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and during the Great Recession, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the Boston Marathon bombing, in a time of school shootings, globalization and burgeoning technology, she noted at the recent 2017 Workplace Strategies Conference. These events may be partly why Millennials want their work to be meaningful and make a difference. They also grew up watching reality TV and in an environment where anyone can be a star, including on Instagram, she added.

Wanted: Good Work/Life Balance

Due to the Great Recession, many Millennials struggled to find employment after graduation. Now that the economy is more robust, they want to ensure they have a good work/life balance, Eisenstat observed.

According to research from MTV, nearly 9 in 10 Millennials want work to be social and fun, and 74 percent want flexible work schedules. Working in the office is passé for 69 percent of them, who think office attendance is unnecessary on a regular basis, according to a blog post on Inc.com, and 81 percent believe they should be able to set their own hours, he noted.

Almost 80 percent of Millennials think they should be allowed to wear jeans to work, and 70 percent say they need "me time" at work, according to the MTV poll, he added.

Rusie noted that Millennials show a preference for a work culture of community and transparency over earning a high salary. The Inc.com blog post said 64 percent of Millennials would rather make $40,000 at a job they love than $100,000 in a job they think is boring. Half of Millennials would rather have no job than a job they hate, and 88 percent prefer a collaborative work culture to a competitive one.

Student loan debt for Millennials is staggeringly high—more than $1 trillion as of 2015—and yet culture still trumps money for this group, Rusie said.

Millennials need to know they are appreciated and want to be able to be creative. Flexibility is key for many Millennials, as well as constant learning opportunities and giving back, such as through paid volunteer days, she said.

Eisenstat noted that success for them is related to quality of output, not hours spent in the office. They measure success by positive feedback from managers and co-workers.

Helicopter Parents

Millennials got constant feedback from helicopter parents and social media and want on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews, he said. Some also want instant gratification and may expect a promotion fast.

Expect parents of Millennials to be involved. Of 700 employers surveyed about the hiring of a recent college graduate, nearly one-third of respondents said a parent had submitted a resume for their child—some without the applicant's knowledge. And 25 percent reported hearing from parents directly; 4 percent said parents actually showed up at the interview, according to a Michigan State University study, Rusie noted.

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Entrepreneurial Mindset

It's easy for older workers to make fun of Millennials, Eisenstat added, noting that he is a Baby Boomer. But he praised them for their entrepreneurial mindset. If they are not getting a personal benefit or opportunities for growth, they will leave an employer, he said.

And some may be laying the groundwork to move on to self-employment. According to Inc.com, of employed Millennials, 35 percent have started their own business on the side to supplement their income, and 54 percent of Millennials either want to start a business or already have started one, he noted.

Finally, Millennials want to be heard, he said. Three-quarters of Millennials believe their boss could learn a lot from them, and 65 percent of them say, "I should be mentoring older co-workers when it comes to tech and getting things done," according to the MTV study.

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