Millennials are the oft-discussed group of people who came of age at about the turn of the millennium. They were born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s. About a decade ago, they started entering the workforce. Employers were not ready for them. By all accounts, they seemed like a generation of coddled infants.
Nevertheless, a lot of the challenges facing employers and millennial workers are due to a lack of understanding about them. First off, many people hate their jobs, and employers don’t really take that problem seriously. However, with millennials came not only high levels of job dissatisfaction but unprecedented turnover. Most millennials hold a job for less than two years, meaning that there’s much less stability in companies now than before.
Understanding millennials can help uncover the roots of worker dissatisfaction and ultimately turn the tide against employee turnover. They’ve already survived one of the worst economic recessions in history. Read on to learn 40 reasons millennials have changed the way the modern workplace functions.
40. Many Workers Don’t Like Their Jobs
Have you ever been in a job that you don’t like? Maybe you currently are. If so, you’re not alone. Many people do not like their jobs. They have plenty of reasons to be dissatisfied with their jobs. And employers have plenty of reasons to be concerned.
When workers are happy and feel satisfied, they’re much more productive. They also contribute more to the company’s bottom line. When workers become dissatisfied, they stop making as much of an effort. They can even begin to hurt company profits. Many workers fall into the latter category.
We’ve all heard the numbers about how real wages haven’t grown much. For many, they’ve shrunk. Real wages refer to how much money a worker makes including inflation as a factor to determine just how far that money can go.
So while a job that paid $40,000 a year in 1970 might have put you in the upper echelons, today that same amount can barely support an individual in some places, much less a family. In some parts of the country, a family of four needs $80,000 a year just to meet their basic needs.
What’s even more disheartening than workers not making enough money is how much time and energy they are sacrificing to their employers. If they work 40 hours a week and possibly overtime, they need to be able to at least meet their basic needs.
However, not making enough money to pay for housing, food, and bills is made even worse by not having enough time for family. Giving all of your time and energy to a company, not having any for your family, and still not being able to pay the bills is a recipe for high levels of worker dissatisfaction.
What’s worse than not making enough money and not having time for family while spending 40 hours a week at work? Working for a company that doesn’t make any effort to make sure that employees are happy.
This is not to suggest that bosses should become therapists and turn their workplaces into therapy centers. However, little things like noticing hard work, sending a congratulatory email, and recognizing contributions employees make can go far in turning the tide on employee dissatisfaction.
Everyone has days at work when they feel bored. But a problem for employees is when that feeling of boredom becomes habitual. They think they don’t have many opportunities to make meaningful contributions.
An employee who was part of a groundbreaking project may once that project is over feel a bit underwhelmed. Keeping employees engaged in their work and feeling that they have challenges can make them feel competent, appreciated, and satisfied.
Some professions are notorious for burning workers out. Healthcare workers and social workers in particular have to work mercilessly long hours, during which they have to make critical decisions that will affect people’s lives and well-being. They are tired and they are burned out.
Burnout is not just being lazy. It happens when people have given everything that they have, and there is nothing left. They may become depressed, apathetic, and listless as they try to find meaning in a world that they no longer have the strength to engage in. They may even need an extended leave of absence from work. Burnout is a problem employers need to understand.
Few things are more disappointing than having a creative personality and a great idea that continually gets stymied by bureaucratic processes designed to reinforce the status quo. Workers frequently become dissatisfied with their jobs because of the levels of bureaucracy they have to go through to get anything done.
However, there is also the day-to-day drudgery of doing the same thing. Some aspects of a job will always involve drudgery, but other elements can be livened up. Moreover, some workers actually like spreadsheets. But forcing everyone else to make spreadsheets instead of giving them to the ones that like spreadsheets is a recipe for employee turnover.
When workers feel satisfied with their jobs, they work harder. That is no secret. They are not only working for money; they are working towards a goal that they believe in. Workers are willing to put in extra hours not because they need overtime but because millennials want to make sure they get the job done well.
When workers take ownership of their tasks and projects, they feel more engaged like they are making a meaningful contribution to a bigger goal. Nevertheless, when they are repeatedly given tasks to complete with endless drudgery, they start looking for another job.
Satisfied, productive workers make more money for the company. Instead of wasting their working hours daydreaming, sending personal emails, making shopping lists, or even doing online shopping, they’re getting the job done.
These workers make money for the company. They are also contributing to work culture by helping the people around them feel engaged and satisfied. When companies thrive because of satisfied workers, they can provide better to the overall economy and help improve people’s lives.
The benefits of having a satisfied, engaged workforce cannot be underestimated. A satisfied worker can complete in one hour what a disengaged worker may spend an entire day trying to get done (or not, depending on how you look at it).
The problem is that many people just don’t like their jobs. Job turnover today is higher than at many other points in American history, so employers are having to invest more in hiring and training workers than before. That energy could be going to achieving company goals instead. The key is engaging the workforce so workers feel satisfied.
Job satisfaction is an essential component of being able to maintain a healthy, robust workforce. If people are not happy with where they are working, they may waste precious work hours and cost their company money.
Millennials, in particular, have particularly low rates of job satisfaction. Whereas workers in the baby boomer generation and even Generation X often found one job and stuck with it for their entire lives, millennials have a habit of hopping from one job to the next trying to find one that will make them feel satisfied.
Studies show that fully 55% of millennials aren’t engaged at work. This means they’re not focused on the tasks they should be completing and going through the motions. Many are counting down the hours until the day ends.
What’s even more concerning is that 16% of millennial workers are actively disengaged in their jobs. It means that instead of also trying to focus on their tasks, they are engaging in other activities that distract them from the job they’re supposed to be doing.
28. Over 71% Of Millennials Are Disengaged At Work
Nearly three-quarters of the workforce that is part of the millennial generation is not even trying at work. They may be staring off into space or pretending to type work emails and proofreading them dozens of times instead of sending them.
Only 29% of millennial workers are actively engaged in their jobs. So what makes the difference between engaged workers and disengaged workers? The answer comes down to job satisfaction and understanding what millennials want out of their work life. What they want is not the same as what earlier generations wanted.
There are a few scattered millennials who go to work for the family company and plan to stay there until they retire. Nevertheless, for the most part, millennials do not feel any attachment or loyalty to the company they work for.
It’s a sharp change from baby boomers and Generation X, who could be counted on to stay at a company for most if not all of their working lives. So you can kiss goodbye to having the same mailman for 30 years or knowing the secretary of the company for a long while. Millennial workers are not staying put.
For millennials who are aged 28-32, 84% of workers have been with the same company for five years or fewer. 68% have been with the same company for less than two years. The idea that people should have their lives figured out by the age of 30 is dead.
Unsurprisingly, the numbers are even starker for millennials who are a bit younger. Among workers between the ages of 23-27, 88% have been with the same employer for less than five years. Considering that many people graduate college at about the age of 22, this means that nearly all college graduates have changed jobs at least once since graduating. However, the numbers get even more grim, seeing as fully 75% have been with their company for less than two years. Many have changed jobs two, three, or even four times in five years since graduating college.
Millennials seem to jump from one job to the next with regularity. While this aspect may be irritating if it applied to a handful of millennials or small percentage, the numbers are high enough that there is a disruption to the American workforce.
Employers are finding that they cannot rely on millennial workers for long-term positions. Hiring is becoming much more difficult, and training seems to be a waste of time with the baseline understanding that the workers will be leaving within two years of employment. Companies all over the country are scratching their heads as to how to hire and retain millennial workers.
Millennials are not leaving their jobs just to irritate employers or to “find themselves.” They have legitimate reasons for always leaving jobs. Until employers start to understand why millennials have such a high job turnover rate, they’ll continue expending additional resources on hiring and training new workers.
Millennials are different from any other generation before them. While there is no way to generalize all millennials as being a certain way, there are some characteristics that they tend to share on a much larger scale than previous generations.
Millennials may spend their lunch break calling mom and dad, something that baby boomers and Generation Xers may never have even considered, but that’s because they usually have much stronger relationships with their parents than previous generations.
Yet too many employers don’t try to understand the different characteristics of millennials and instead try to fit them into a mold that worked for previous generations of workers. Understanding the millennial workforce and reducing job turnover has to start with understanding millennials and what makes them tick.
22. Millennials Value Cooperation Over Competition
Many companies look for ways to get employees to compete with each other and offer incentives to the winners. They may offer a gift card to the worker who gets the newest clients or makes the most sales in a given period. They may base raises on who does the best and employee rankings.
But millennials, on the whole, are not interested in competition. They would much rather cooperate with their peers and coworkers to get a task done. Instead of flying solo to try to rack up as many new clients as they can, millennials would rather sit down and strategize on how they, as a team, can get and retain clients that are satisfied over the long term.
While there were undoubtedly plenty of baby boomers and Generation Xers who returned home after graduating high school (and maybe after graduating college), the number of millennials who boomeranged back home was unprecedented.
One reason, of course, was that they graduated from college in an economy that had tanked, leaving them with substantial student loans and few job prospects. However, another reason is simply that they have strong relationships with their parents. Parents of millennials were much more engaged in their children’s lives than parents of previous generations, and millennials want to continue those relationships.
20. Millennials Value Connection Over Corporate Agendas
The connection millennials have with their parents and other family members carry over into how they view the corporate world and their company’s culture. They want to work in an environment where they can connect with their coworkers and bosses more than they want to advance a corporate agenda.
Some millennials want to go out for drinks with their coworkers and don’t understand why the answer is no. But one challenge of engaging a millennial workforce is embedding the need for human connection into the corporate agenda so that the work culture values positive interactions among employees.
Millennials would instead work for nonprofit organizations that promote social justice than for a Wall Street bank that offers a sizeable salary and bonuses. They want to know that they are making a positive impact on the world and that people’s lives are better because of them.
They indeed are the kindest generation in history. Millennials want to solve problems with each other instead of fighting over them. They want to spread out profits so that everyone gets a fair share. Millennials would rather live modestly to make sure those around them have enough. While not all millennials share these qualities, on the whole, millennials are exceptionally kind people.
Prioritizing profits over people is something that just will not ever mesh with the millennial mindset. They take massive issue with the idea that a company can increase its profits by laying off workers in favor of automation. And they would instead put in an average amount of work that doesn’t make other workers look bad if doing so would keep someone from losing their job.
For millennials to stay at a job, they need to see a corporate culture that prioritizes people and understands that you cannot outsource creativity or human connection. Otherwise, they’ll start looking for a new job within six months.
An employer can hire a 50-year-old worker and a 25-year-old worker at the same time. The 50-year-old Gen X’er will probably go to his or her desk or workstation and quietly get the job done without making any fuss. The 25-year-old millennial will probably knock on the boss’s door and ask questions.
Millennials don’t understand unspoken rules. If bosses want millennials sending emails instead of knocking on the door to get their questions answered, then they need to say so explicitly.
Back to the relationships many millennials have with their parents. They expect a mentor-type relationship with all of the authority figures in their lives. They want a boss who takes some level of interest in the work they are doing and help them on a path towards personal and professional growth.
Bosses have never before had to deal with these kinds of workers on such a large scale. While asking bosses to mentor every employee is certainly unfeasible, companies can make some changes to help millennials feel more connected and have the support they need to thrive.
Millennials prize connections and relationships over anything else. Very few will put in a 12-hour workday unless there will be an immediate trade-off in terms of work-life balance. They won’t be working overtime unless they see that the company makes sure that they do have time to spend with their families.
Millennials may take more days off than other workers, and bosses may not understand why. Usually, they aren’t lazy, they are looking for time to spend with their families. When they don’t have a good work-life balance, they dissociate from their jobs and start looking for new ones.
Millennials understand, more than any generation before them, that life is not only about making money. They need money to survive. This fact is indisputable, as millennials graduated college in an economy that had been trashed by the 2008 financial crisis. But they need personal goals to truly live.
Millennials need employers who understand that they cannot stay late when they have previous obligations. Furthermore, while that project at work may appear to be so much more critical than whatever else they have going on, the more significant issue at stake is that millennials need to be able to learn and grow in their personal lives to feel satisfied.
Griping about how millennials take so long to settle down and buy a house seems to be cliché by now. And those gripes come from not understanding the millennial generation and what their values are. Millennials are different from people in other generations. Period.
Millennials would rather travel the world than buy a house. They would rather have a mobile office or at least some kind of flexibility that allows them to work online so they can travel for extended amounts of time.
Millennials intuitively understand you cannot outsource creativity. They know that creativity is necessary for companies and individuals to thrive. They also wonder why, if creativity is so incredibly important to humanity, it gets stifled with people getting stuck behind desks working spreadsheets.
However, millennials will likely be willing to spend time working spreadsheets if they feel that their creativity is being valued and appreciated. They are innovative people who are continually looking for new and better ways of getting the job done, and they want to work for a company that shares those values rather than perpetuating the status quo.
All workers need to feel that they are appreciated on some level. Millennials have this need in overdrive. Many of them grew up with parents who made sure that they knew how valued they are. Moreover, those who did not have the fortune of growing up with warm and loving parents saw those relationships with their friends and friends’ parents.
No one should expect that their bosses will become parents and that their coworkers will become family, but companies can make efforts to showing workers that they are valued. Something as simple as an email that notices a meaningful contribution that an employee made can work wonders in improving worker satisfaction and reducing job turnover.
The myth about millennials is that they are lazy and entitled. While some certainly are those things, the truth about millennials is that they are also kind, cooperative, innovative, and creative. Moreover, they are looking for work cultures that share those same values.
Millennials are not quitting jobs because they hate working. Nevertheless, there is no question that they are leaving jobs in large numbers and costing companies a lot of time, money, and resources. But when they find that they have an engaging and cooperative work environment, they are much more likely to stay put.
9. Millennials Quit Because They Don’t Feel Valued
One of the biggest reasons why workers quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. They do not have a sense that they are making a meaningful contribution and think as if they are just cogs in a giant corporate machine.
This reason is particularly exacerbated among millennials because feeling valued and appreciated is connected to their sense of self-identity and purpose. If they do not feel appreciated, they feel lost and like they are doing something wrong, even if they are doing everything right.
Millennials, on the whole, are not looking for someone to tell them how special they are. They are looking for opportunities to use their skills to make meaningful contributions to a goal bigger than themselves.
When millennials feel they are part of something important, they immediately become much more engaged in the job that millennials are doing and want to ensure they are doing it well. When they don’t feel that they are part of something important, they are looking for new jobs.
7. Millennials Were Part Of The Self-Esteem Movement
The self-esteem movement was a disaster. Schools, sports teams, and community organizations came up with the idea that for people to feel important, they need to be rewarded for every single thing they did. So kids got trophies for coming in last place.
The result was a disaster. Kids came to feel entitled and expected other people to coddle them instead of working hard and finding worth and value inside of themselves. Those kids were millennials and are today’s workforce. The effects of the self-esteem movement linger.
Millennials do expect more of their bosses than other generations of workers. They want their bosses to mentor them. They want employee evaluations to critique them in such a way that they develop a plan for personal and professional growth.
Moreover, they need more affirmation than other workers. Employers who want to keep their workforce instead of continuing the same pattern of turnover need to be prepared to give more pats on the back than they may be used to.
Baby boomers and Generation Xers tend to work well in solitude. Not so with millennials. They went to school at a time when educators were beginning to see the value of group work. To them, nothing was a contest. The rule of the game was collaboration.
This team spirit that millennials have can be of great value to employers, as long as they recognize the need to put millennials in teams. Brainstorming sessions can be incredibly productive, as long as there is a strategy to follow up and make sure that ideas are being turned into reality.
Millennials don’t need their bosses to tell them they are unique. They know they are special. They spent the first 18+ years of their lives hearing that from their parents.
What they want is for employers to recognize their skills and talents and put them to use. The millennial who majored in English needs to have a role in drafting corporate communications, even if that wasn’t part of the original job description. The artist needs to be able to use those art skills whenever possible. Giving those tasks to someone else will burn.
Millennials need to work for a boss who sees them as more than a worker. They need a boss who calls them by the first name and recognizes them as individual people who have lives outside of work. While the boss may not be keeping up with all of their travel plans, he or she needs to show some kind of interest in their lives.
Many baby boomers and Generation Xers have long been happy to go to work, sit down at a desk, and only interact with people whenever necessary. Their relationships are at home. For millennials, human connection is the key to everything that they do. It unlocks their abilities.
Millennials are the kindest generation in the history of humanity, and employers need to adapt in such a way that recognizes the different impulses they have. They’re likely to spend part of their salary on a charitable cause or spend time volunteering.
When millennials realize they are appreciated, they will outperform any other employees. And even better, they will bring other workers up with them. They’ll set a standard and help others rise to it by assisting other people on their teams.
The high turnover rate of millennial workers is due to a lot of factors, some of which simply cannot be controlled. They inherited a bad economy and graduated with an excessive amount of student loan debt. They may quit a job simply because they cannot afford their loan payments and need to move back in with their parents.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of ways that companies can engage with millennials. Employers that let millennials know they are committed to them will find that, in turn, the millennial workers are committed to the company. There may need to be changes in how bosses engage with workers, but in the long run, the result will be greater worker satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.