From the Archives: We can’t succeed without Millennials

This was a very popular post from April, 2012. The data is pretty much the same. And it bears repeating.

Managers and supervisors (especially in the Baby Boomer cohort) in almost every type and size of business have been known to lament the lack of loyalty and so-called business savvy in the Millennial generation.

  • “They want to be promoted too fast!”
  • “They don’t want to pay their dues!”
  • “They don’t understand how things work!”
  • “They want too much flexibility!”
  • “When things don’t go their way they quit!”
  • “Why won’t they stay?”

The bottom line is that organizations are finding it challenging to keep Millennials engaged and on the payroll.  In fact, with the average employment tenure of workers in the 20-24 year -old age group at 1.5 years (per the BLS), it’s challenging to keep all our employees engaged and the on the payroll.  (See my previous post on the Quits vs. Layoffs gap.  It might not be what you think!)

Achievers and Experience Inc. fielded their annual survey of graduating college students in January.  The data are eye opening.

Despite what we think we know about them, the vast majority of these about-to-enter-the-workforce Milllennials would really like to stay with their next (in most cases, first) employer for 5 years or longer!  Wait.  What?  Look at the chart below:

47% of the 8,000 college graduating respondents in the Achievers/Experience Inc. survey indicated that they expected to stay with their next employer five years or longer.  Note the language:  expect to stay not would like to stay!  That means when they join our organizations they have every expectation of making a career with us.  They’re not just accepting a job.  They’ve evaluated our EVP (Employer Value Proposition) as a match for the meaning they want to create in their lives through their work.  (Interesting to note that the biggest percentage of respondents expect to stay with their employer for 10+ years!)

So, OK.  This has got to be their youthful exuberance and relative inexperience speaking, right?  Well, I wonder if that really matters.

Employers need these Millennials.  Employers need these Millennials now.  Employers will need these Millennials more every day.  (See my recent post here.)

And employers need them to stay a whole lot longer than 1.5 years!

So what happens between “I expect to stay with my employer for 10 or more years…” and “…after one year with the organization I’m leaving for a better opportunity”?  I think we all know that answer to that question.

We don’t live up to the EVP we sold them.  We don’t engage Millennials the way they tell us they want to be engaged.  Instead, we…

  • make sure they fit into our existing career paths and job descriptions
  • focus on making sure they “pay their dues” – the way we did
  • keep our processes and rules rigid and unbending – and only pretend to listen when they offer up “different” ways of working
  • resist the notion that work can be done with excellence anywhere but in a cubicle
  • make it difficult for Millennials to interact with senior leaders
  • make it difficult for Millennials to collaborate with colleagues
  • designate social responsibility activities a perk instead of a foundational value
  • try to “lure” them to stay with tenure-based plaques and timepieces

These data are a wake-up call for employers.  It’s a message from our talent pipeline that they really do want to engage with us; they believe our employer brand marketing messages; they want to learn and grow with us.

It’s time to listen harder and make sure our employer brand messages aren’t experienced as bait and switch tactics.

I don’t know about you, but I’d hate for the Millennials to have such negative employment experiences at the beginning of their careers that they opt out of organizational life altogether before they’re 30.  We’d really be in a pickle then!

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16 Comments

Filed under Achievers, Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Success, China Gorman, Demographics, Employment Data, Engagement, Millennials, Rewards & Recognition, Student Job Search, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor

16 responses to “From the Archives: We can’t succeed without Millennials

  1. Barbara Cassidy

    I am glad you revived this post because I wonder if you saw the LinkedIn “Influencer” article by More Magazine’s editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour about hiring Millennials on September 24, 2013:

    How I Hire: 6 Ways I Find and Hire Hardworking Millennials | LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/today/influencers/20130924104151-16900836-how-i-hire-weed-out-the-spoiled-millenials

    It was one of the most denigrating, imperious, and inaccurate generalizations of Millennials I have ever had the displeasure to read. I’m not a Millennial, but I have benefited greatly from hiring them and made my feelings known both in a response to her post and by canceling my More Magazine subscription!

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  5. Great post. For small orgs as well as large, becoming flexible is much easier said than done. But having already lost one superb millenial, we are working harder to not repeat those mistakes. Listening seems to be a major key – as is acting in response to what you are hearing.

  6. As a Millennial myself, I am proud to say that I have been with my company for close to 5 years. Reading your article (which I also tweeted) was very interesting, and I wish that all companies would “get it.” Millennials want to work hard, we want to succeed, we want to rub elbows with senior leaders, we want to continually grow and develop, we appreciate frequent feedback and recognition, we want a culture where socializing and engaging our co-workers is encouraged, and yes, we do want to move up within the corporate ladder and continue to increase our salaries. The important part is for the corporate culture to engage us and, as you astutely mentioned above, continue the EVP promise – or, have an EVP that interests us at all. Better yet, have Millennials help create an EVP, recruit other Millennials to work for the company because of the dynamic culture, and/or build and develop a Young Professionals Group (YPG) if isn’t already in place – after all, we do love camaraderie and being a part of the future of a successful company. Great article, China!

    • Thanks for validating the post, Lauren. Organizations of all sizes need to be taking action. And your suggestion about getting Millenials involved in recruiting other Millenials is brilliant. (thanks also for the tweet. 🙂 )

      China Gorman
      702-232-9935 (cell)
      http://www.chinagorman.com
      @ChinaGorman

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  11. Love the post and the statistics, can’t live without charts and graphs these days. The best way to attract, retain and repel employees is to provide an authentic and congruent employment brand. In the creation of that brand and EVP, organizations must understand their culture in order to be authentic. Millennial’s are far more savvy job seekers than in the past, they have the social skills and tools to understand (and investigate) what they are walking into, we have to do a better job of ensuring they experience what they perceived as “the right fit” for them.

  12. Perhaps if their experience as candidates researching, applying and subsequent [2-way] selection as an employee were authentic, responsive and aligned to the employee experience [EVP], fewer folks who leave in the first year would join and more…or is that just wishful thinking.

    • Not wishful thinking. I do think there are organizations who “get it.” Pepsi, AT&T, Zappos, etc. And as they start to win the talent wars more and more, and others really lose in a big way, they’ll start paying more attention and adopting more effective practices. Not soon though, huh?

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