It’s no secret: millennials are job hoppers. A 2016 Jobvite survey of 2,305 Americans found that while only 18 percent of the total workforce changes jobs every one-to three-years, 42 percent of millennials do.
That’s made employee retention a nightmare for employers in recent years. There’s constant chatter about how the millennial job hopping tendency makes them difficult to work with. Older generations go on and on about how they wish they’d leave their wandering ways and just settle down.
But what if the root of the problem isn’t millennials? What if it’s actually employers who are failing to create a workplace that meets the needs of the generation? So they go from one company to the next looking for an organization that can fulfill them professionally.
Here are four reasons it’s employers, not millennials, who are behind the job-hopping phenomenon:
1. Lack of career advancement.
Employee engagement is an issue with employees of all ages, but it’s particularly bad with millennials. My company, Quantum Workplace, recently released its "2016 Employee Engagement Trends" report. It surveyed more than a half million employees from more than 8,700 organizations and found that employees between 26 and 35 are the least engaged age group at just 67.3 percent engaged.
The report also found that seeing a chance to develop professionally was one of the top drivers of engagement for millennials. This suggests that one of the main reasons the generation is becoming disengaged at work is because they aren’t getting the career advancement and development they want. Eventually, that causes them to look for a job elsewhere, creating a job-hopping cycle.
The only way to end the pattern is to provide millennials with clear career paths and development opportunities. Talk with them to find out what their goals are and how they can meet those goals with the company. Show a willingness to invest in their future in order to keep them around.
2. They can’t use their best skills.
Looking at the millennials who do stay with one company for a long time shows they have something interesting in common. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey of 7,700 millennials from around the world found that 86 percent of millennials who worked with a company for more than five years felt they were able to make good use of their skills in that job. Only 62 percent of millennials who left a company within two years agreed.
Regularly doing what an employee is good at gives them a better connection with the work. It shows that all the hard work they did to develop their skills was not for naught. Unfortunately, most entry or lower-level jobs don’t give employees the opportunity to dig deep and use all of their skills. It’s less clear how what they’re doing contributes to the company as a whole.
Challenge millennials. Give them a chance to show what they can really do. Ask them for their ideas and input on a variety of projects so they can stay engaged and feel of value, rather than like a paper-pusher.
3. The benefits package doesn’t interest them.
Aside from job hopping, something else that has defined the millennial generation is crushing student debt. A 2016 Citizens Bank survey of 501 American millennials found that 60 percent of adults under 35 don’t believe they’ll be able to pay off their loans until well into their 40s. Thirty-six percent said if they had known how much college was really going to cost them, they never would’ve attended a university.
Student loan debt therefore becomes a huge weight for millennials when it comes to choosing a job. And one that can help them tackle their educational debt is a huge draw. A 2015 Peanut Butter survey of 400 respondents between 20 and 35 years old found that, on average, millennials with college loans would stay with a company 36 percent longer if it offered repayment assistance.
By making loan repayment assistance part of the organization’s benefits package, it becomes a lot more appealing to younger professionals. It gives them a reason to stick around, resulting in improved millennial employee retention.
4. Their hard work isn’t being recognized.
Nobody likes feeling under-appreciated. Yet it seems like millennials’ hard work in particular is being ignored. In a 2015 LeadershipIQ survey of more than 3,000 employees, only 33 percent of employees under 30 were confident that their performance was at the level it should be.
There is clearly a major lack of feedback and recognition for so many young professionals to be unsure of how they’re doing in their role. And that lack of communication makes them feel less important to the organization. Without that connection, it’s easier for them to leave in hopes of being appreciated elsewhere.
Make sure all employees, but especially millennials, are acknowledged for their hard work. Start having regular one-on-one meetings with employees so their performance can be discussed. That way, millennials will be confident in the fact that they are doing a great job and their work is of value to the organization.
It’s time to stop blaming millennial job hopping for poor employee retention. Especially when employers are failing to create a supportive work environment that takes into consideration their unique needs.