Why Millennials Quit?

Millennials Quit

We have all heard the stereotypes relating to the work ethic of Millennials and (thankfully) there is a growing awareness that certain work-related traits of Millennials are not based on severe narcissism, but on sociological conditioning and psychological imprinting. Paraphrased, Millennials are not the pariahs of employees, they’re a product of their environment.

Yet stereotypes wouldn’t exist unless there was at least some degree of truth to them. This article is the first of five that will examine one of these stereotypes: that Millennials quit jobs.

Quickly.

And frequently.

Results from a 2016 Gallup research poll showed that 21% of Millennials had quit a job in the last year, resulting in Gallup publishing data about the “job-hopping generation” demonstrating that job turnover with Millennials is 300% higher than with non-Millennials at an estimated annual cost of over $30 billion to the US economy.

In the 2018 Millennial Survey performed by Deloitte, the data suggests that almost half of Millennials expect to leave their current job within two years while only 28% of Millennials expect to be with their current employer in five years.

In a multi-generational study performed by the online employment giant Monster Worldwide Inc., in partnership with the global research agency TNS, the research suggests that Millennials’ attitudes about work are non-conformist when compared to older generations, however this same report indicates that Millennials are purposeful, or at least they are purposeful to their life goals and value system.

The data is clear – Millennials quit jobs. The statement is solid, it’s not a stereotype. This then, begs the question:

If employee turnover is frustrating, time consuming, resource draining and expensive (all true) then what is the best approach to improving retention of Millennials, who now comprise the largest sector of the US labor force?

In medicine, the best approach to solving a problem is not by diagnosing “what” the problem is, but by determining “why” the problem exists. In management, if we focus on the “what” then we are only addressing the outward manifestations. If a patient has a runny nose and is constantly sneezing you can address these outward manifested clinical signs with an antihistamine and decongestant, but this doesn’t address the cause, it only addresses the symptoms.

To cure a disease, we need to find out “why” the disease is present and then treat the underlying cause. When you spend the time, effort and resources to figure out the “why” rather than obsessing on the “what” then you discover the cure for the disease: your patient isn’t suffering from a cold, they are allergic to their new roommate’s cat. Whether they get rid of the cat or get rid of the roommate, the solution lies in changing the environmental dynamic.

The same principle holds true with Millennials. They have underlying psychological and sociological contributing factors which lead to them feeling a sense of dis-ease in their workplace dynamics. If you can change the environmental dynamic, you can cure the dis-ease.

The why is more important than the what. Discerning why a problem exists involves digging into the problem’s etiology, or causative roots. The etiological factors that contribute to why Millennials quit jobs so quickly and so frequently can be encapsulated by four psychological mindsets that form the acronym REAP:

Recognition

Engagement

Appreciation

Promotion

Each of these four contributing factors are subjective, open to individualized perception, and variable depending on past experiences. There no “be-all, end-all” magic formula that senior management can plug into your corporate culture that will cure Millennials’ mental and emotional sense of dis-ease overnight. The good news is, once senior management begins to understand the sociological and psychological influences that undergird REAP, then steps can be taken to create a corporate environmental dynamic that is more appealing, and less personally threatening, to the youngest members entering your workforce.

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