There’s been a lot of discussion in the business press about millennials changing jobs with frequency, but research reported on FiveThirtyEight tells a different story: They say that today’s 20-year-olds stay on the job just about as long as 20-year-olds stayed back in the 1980s.
So why is this a big story now? And how did millennials end up with such a bad rap?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that there are just so many millennials in the workforce now, and they may be seen as a threat to older workers. Creating a false sense of the instability of millennials may be a way to try to discourage employers from hiring younger workers.
Another part of the answer comes from the way that older generations tend to look at younger generations. For example, here’s a famous quote about the younger generation, much of which mirrors what is said today:
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants…. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, … and tyrannize their teachers."
Plato tells us that Socrates said this more than 2000 years ago!
But the fact remains that young people, now and in the past, do change jobs frequently. The reasons for this are varied, but if you think about it, there really are logical reasons for job-hopping early in a career.
Why young people change jobs
In your first or second job after college, you’re really still learning what you want to do and where you want to do it. You can only learn those things through actual experience. The odds that you’ll find the right fit in the first job are slim.
As you gain experience, you recognize the value of your skills. Sometimes you have to change jobs to get rewarded for that experience.
As young people enter into long-term romantic relationships, they may need to change jobs to stay in the relationship. As they start families, they may move for better schools, more family-friendly environments, or more money to support that family.
Research conducted by Deloitte and reported in the Business Insider suggests that there are two additional reasons why millennials leave their jobs:
Employers aren’t doing enough to help young people develop their skills, especially leadership skills, and thus young people feel stuck in jobs that don’t have room for advancement.
Employers don’t provide opportunities for flex time and/or telecommuting.
What can employers do?
The lessons here for employers seem fairly straightforward:
Pay attention to your millennials!
Create a mentoring program or other avenue for new employees to locate opportunities, make suggestions, and develop their skills.
Consider offering flex-time schedules and telecommuting opportunities.
These changes might not only help you retain and attract millennials, but it may turn out that your older workers appreciate these benefits, as well.