It turns out that Millennials' bad rap as job-hoppers isn’t necessarily deserved. While it’s true that millennials do job hop, these 18 to 35 year-olds are just as likely to stay with their employers as their Generation X counterparts did when they were young adults, according to a recent U. S. Department of Labor data.
"Millennials want stability — yes, that may shock you, but it's true," said millennial attorney James Goodnow, 35, co-author of Motivating Millennials. "Many baby boomer executives think millennials are just cashing in on a short-term gig so they can scrape together enough money to go hike Mount Kilimanjaro or buy an unlimited annual skydiving pass."
Millennials want what Baby Boomers wanted long ago – stability. They are job hopping to build their careers like any normal person would. With better job offers and advancement, millennials are acting like the Gen Xers before them and the Baby Boomers before that.
The problem isn’t a generational thing. It’s a company thing.
In a Fast Company article titled after his book, “Good to Great,” leadership guru Jim Collins teaches “First who, then what.” His research of successful companies revealed that there were no big breakthroughs, marketing stunts or company acquisitions that transformed good companies into great companies. What he discovered was “the flywheel effect,” the relentless discipline of doing what you do best and maintaining consistent but steady effort over time to build momentum. Sometimes, in order to get everyone synchronized in the effort, you have to put “the right people on the bus;” which means firing the wrong people and hiring and retaining the right people. Once you get “the right people on the bus”, you can stay with it for years – turn for turn, action upon action – building momentum until it compounds over time taking your company from good to great.
How do the millennials fit in?
Demographics are in play as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, many are leaving the workforce at the same time. There simply aren’t enough Generation Xers to fill the gap. Companies need well-qualified millennials to “get on the bus.”
Comparable in size to Boomers, millennials in the U.S. are 75.4 million strong and they are ready to step up. And, according to a 2012 survey by Net Impact, millennials are more like Boomers than Generation X because of their focus on family and values. They have the education and desire, and they want what the generations before them did – security.
Now, here’s the crux that I don’t hear every day and annoys me. The survey also found that 88% of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job. Yet, in a company where bad bosses do not behave as the “cultural values are written,” it’s easy to understand why millennials are job-hopping. When the CEO says, “we believe in our people” on their annual report but the next week 200 people are fired. Or “what we value here is open and honest feedback”, yet no one gives feedback and leaders interpret feedback as a threat. The negative culture isn’t a good fit for millennials no matter what the benefits are.
Think about it. Do your leaders really live and breathe what you write on the walls, publish in your annual report, or promote in the marketing of your brand? The values? The leadership competencies? From what I see, not really.
This can’t go on.
Leaders need to walk the talk. Mid and senior-level leaders who ultimately live and breathe the culture, need to “do” the culture. They need to engage the young talent and keep them from leaving. There's also a need to promote millennials beyond entry-level and into mid-management and senior positions that they may or may not be prepared for.
What needs to change?
- Stop blaming the “millennials” for job hopping. Like everyone before them, they are looking for purpose. It’s you, not them.
- Don’t spend time and money coming up with values, and cultural aspirations, unless you know they will be acted out with sincerity by your leaders from top to bottom
- People tend to leave bosses, not organizations. If you want to hire and retain top young talent, think about how to develop the great habits of leaders at the mid-level.
No one is born as a bad boss. Bad habits formed early turn into bad behaviors that eventually lead to bad bosses. Those same bosses tend to walk around unaware they are bad bosses, which in turn creates more bad bosses.
We are here to end the era of bad bosses. DX has a new and contemporary learning approach that embraces experiential learning to support leadership development initiatives, that enables quick and sustainable leadership behavior improvements. We support the development of a culture that empowers people to be their best selves all the time.
It’s time to give millennials a break. Maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s the company.