There has been no shortage of media coverage reporting on millennials’ dismal employment statistics, compliments of the Great Recession. As of November 2011, only 55 percent of people ages 16 to 29 were employed, and a quarter of those between the ages of 25 and 34 were still living with mom and dad. With these figures, one would think that an employed Gen Y-er would hold on to his or her position with an iron grip.
And yet, a new study by Achievers and Experience, Inc. shows that millennials are leaving companies sooner than they had initially hoped. The data shows that “the average length of time this [demographic] wants to stay at a company is 4.7 years, more than double the time they are actually staying.” This means that millennials are, for one reason or another, back in the shark-infested waters of the job market faster than they had anticipated.
Why is this? It appears that both millennials and companies have failed to adapt to the culture and operating order of the other.
While Gen Y-ers have yet to relinquish their need for continuous feedback, a holdover from years of parent-teacher conferences, quarterly report cards and endless positive reinforcement (deserved or undeserved), companies still retain the age-old annual review. For a millennial used to thriving on praise for even the smallest victories, it can be disorienting to work for a year, perform sub-optimally, and have no constructive criticism to rectify mistakes.
Even more important to millennials, though, is mobility within a company. In the survey, 54 percent of respondents cited the ability to move up in a company as their primary reason for working for a company. Yet, in this cash-strapped economy, there may not be a position within a company to aspire to ascend. What is the Gen-Y solution? Leave in search of greener pastures.
It seems as if many companies have superficially evolved to accommodate the needs of millennials. A generation ago, foosball tables and kegs in the boardroom would have been a pipe dream of the 23-year-old fraternity brother-turned employee. Today, many companies have tapped (no pun intended) into the theory that having such amenities sparks creativity, a cherished value of this generation.
As novel as it may be to have Playstation at the office for a millennial, the generational gap has not been addressed by these efforts. It is critical that millennials and their employers have an ongoing, open dialogue about performance and ways to climb the company ladder, even when there may be none.