I’ve written before about the hand-wringing that comes along with trying to “figure out” a new generation of employees (any new generation). Right now, millennials make up 40% of the workforce, a number set to almost double in the next 10 years. How employers work with and lead this generation matters and cannot be put off any longer. They’re not the “kids” in the office anymore. They are the office. A new Gallup poll came out this year and it’s an eye-opener as to how *this* new generation is engaged with their work and their workplaces. (This poll defines millennials as being born between 1980 – 1996.)
Here are the basic numbers:
21% have changed jobs in the last year.
60% are open to a new opportunity and are floating their resume.
29% say they are engaged at work.
50% strongly agree they’ll be at the same job for the next year.
87% say professional development or growth opportunities are important to them in a job.
These numbers might look scary for employers, but what do they really mean?
First of all, it’s important to remember that the percentages for non-millennial employees are not zero. Millennials are about 15% more likely to change jobs than employees from different generations. And they’re 10 % more likely to think they’ll be in the same position for the next year. Engagement is where it gets extra interesting. 55% of them say they’re not engaged at their job. This number is higher than any other generation.
Millennials are a large and diverse group, but they share certain goals across demographic lines. Despite the job-hopping that the numbers suggest, they want “steady, engaging” work that they are “emotionally and behaviorally” connected to, as well as purposeful lives, active community and social ties and financial stability. (All things that have traditionally been connected to job stability.) They’re a group that’s highly connected and aware of the world around them. They know what’s happening the world over as it happens. They know what other jobs people have, how people feel about those jobs and the impact those jobs have in the world. This has led to less loyalty to employers and brands – or any kind of “defining” institutions. Millennials are getting married later and are less likely than previous generations to identify with religious or political affiliations.
The Gallup poll also indicates they’re “unconstrained and optimistic.” They don’t believe in business as usual and they should and do believe that they have the power to ask for (and expect) change when it’s necessary. This means a new, non-traditional relationship with organizations and managers. The more a millennial employee feels they can talk to their manager about non-work issues, the more likely they are to say they’ll be in the same job for at least a year. So now we have to talk about personal issues all day? No. For a connected generation that believes in pursuing a life purpose, non-work lives and work lives will have a lot of overlap. Another key driver of their employer loyalty is knowing what their organization stands for and what makes different from competitors. Once they’re in the “right” workplace, millennials are keen on making sure that there is professional development and growth opportunity.
The easy conclusion, and the one a lot of clickbait headlines land on, is that millennials’ only concern is, “what’s in it for us?” I disagree. Or at least I don’t think they’re asking that more than other generations. But they are demanding, to be sure. And given numbers, employers are going to have to adapt to them since millennials are simply the first generation to make these demands, not the last. They are a generation that believes things can be better and are willing to work and search in order until they find what they’re looking for. They’re a generation that needs to be properly managed and engaged in order to strengthen workplaces and their places in them.