The Millennial Question – What do millennials want from their employers?
In response to “Are Millennials Loyal?” by Daryl Brister
Businesses across every industry are beginning to engage in a critical discussion around the issue of Millennial loyalty—that is, the challenge to engage and retain an entire generation of employees.
According to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s fifth annual Millennial Survey, “Forty-four percent of Millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years. A perceived lack of leadership-skill development and feelings of being overlooked are compounded by larger issues around work/life balance, the desire for flexibility, and a conflict of values.”
In short, the conflict results from incongruence between long-held practices and Millennial expectations.
As one of many other young professionals born into the Millennial generation, I have grown to see how radically different our upbringing, circumstances, and expectations are from those of our parents. Perhaps the most significant factor among these is the historically unprecedented social fostering of mental health and self-image. From birth, we’ve been nurtured by the hopeful phrase, “you can be anything you want to be when you grow up,” while the media aggressively advertises how easy and fulfilling we should expect our lives to be.
These aren’t necessarily detrimental influences; indeed, they’ve become the fuel for our energy and ambition—yet they are radically different from the old maxim of “do what you must to provide for yourself and your family.”
Technology has widened this disconnect by imbuing the Millennials with an unquenchable sense of immediacy. Instant access to information, entertainment, and shopping has led us to expect our most minute actions to result in tangible and direct feedback. Moreover, technology permits us to capitalize on the principle of variety; for example, if I don’t like the price of a product at the store I’m familiar with, I can pull out my phone and find five other stores near me and a hundred websites—all competing to sell me the same product.
So, if this is the world that I know, why is it that that I can perform the same work for six months, a year, three years, without seeing action elicit response? Why, when I have invested so much in education, established a trailing list of qualifications, and developed a sparkling self-image (whether it is or is not justified), have I not advanced any further than day one of my employment? These are the questions we grapple with as we impatiently wait for the industry to answer. The stage-gate corporate structure that accommodated our parents does not match the worldview of the Millennial generation, and, in response, we revert to the principle of variety as we seek employers who are compatible with our aspirations.
It’s not a matter of expecting unmerited compensation or maintaining idyllic fantasies of what work should be like. We lived through one of the worst recessions in US history and felt its effects on our family members as we watched even the most senior employees being laid off across the country—years of loyalty yielding little more than an outdated résumé. Millennials are well acquainted with the necessity for perseverance, but we are also grounded with an elevated caution, ready to withdraw at the first signs of career stagnation or endangerment and advance to a more stable, responsive corporation.
So, the most important question to address today is, what can employers do to promote retention? The answer is exactly what Daryl Brister wrote in Are Millennials Loyal? “Work at putting some of these findings from Deloitte in place in your company and start asking your new young workforce what you can do to help them in their careers. They need a clear line of sight of the potential paths their careers can go within your company, as they develop their competencies in the workplace and can demonstrate their skills and behaviors,” writes Brister.
What we seek are companies that will offer guidance, help us acclimate to an advancing workplace culture, temper our expectations into clear goals, and identify a route for career development. Our work must trigger timely responses that correct mistakes and reinforce performance. We are a generation that is still learning and growing, and we are seeking businesses that are willing to instruct us and evolve with us.