Hired Today, Gone Tomorrow

Experts confirm and bemoan survey findings showing millennials and recent college graduates are likely to leave first jobs within one year. It's not looking real promising for Gen Zers' and Gen Yers' employment longevity.

Thursday, November 6, 2014
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The latest findings from Oklahoma City-based staffing firm Express Employment Professionals show 77 percent of employers surveyed expect a recent college graduate to stay less than one year in his or her job. In addition, only 23 percent think the average graduate stays at his or her employer for more than a year.

The survey report, America Employed, based on responses from 115 Express franchises across the United States, "bring to mind a couple of trends that we've seen for years now," says Bob Funk, CEO of Express. "First, many in the millennial generation are taking jobs that they are overqualified for and, thus, are eager to move on when something better appears.

"Second," he says, "we've seen a decrease in employees' commitment to employers as a higher value is placed on personal advancement. If employers want recent grads to stay on board long-term, they're going to have to find ways to make their companies more attractive.

"It's true that the 'grass isn't always greener,' " he adds, "but this generation seems plenty willing to go check out the grass on the other side. Employers, take note."

Dan Schawbel, founder of New York-based Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself, says he's seeing similar numbers. This past October, he partnered with Mountain View, Calif.-based Elance-oDesk to conduct a study that found 58 percent of millennials expect to stay in their jobs for fewer than three years and 52 percent say corporate loyalty is outdated." 'Ys' don't want to have the same careers their boomer parents did and are, thus, rebelling," says Schawbel.  

The other factor to consider, he says, is that technology has made it much easier to steal talent than ever before.

"The top Gen Y [employees] are receiving a dozen LinkedIn messages from recruiters each day," he says. "Because of the amount of options and demand, that has lent itself to a lack of loyalty in this generation, and we see that with dating and relationships as well."

One glimmer of hope appears in another research project Millennial Branding did with Atlanta-based Randstad, Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations, which finds Gen Zers expect to change jobs less than Gen Yers.

"We asked Gen Zs and Ys how many companies they think they will work for in a lifetime, and Zs said three, while Ys said four," Schawbel says. "This could potentially mean that Zs will be more loyal, as fewer companies means they will stay at each longer, but it's [still] too early to tell."

Nevertheless, he adds, "Ys, in general, don't last very long at a company. In five studies since 2011, we find that Ys only stay at a company for two years before moving on."

So why is this happening, and what can employers and their HR leaders do about it?

Valerie Grubb, president of Val Grubb and Associates, an operations consulting firm based in New York, puts it very simply: "We've raised these kids; we have seen the enemy and it is us."

Translated, that means these young people have been embraced into group think and decisions from the time they were very small. In many cases, their career paths have been plotted by their teachers, guidance counselors and-most especially-parents, with whom they are very close. They need more hand-holding and are coming to work "with a slew of expectations," says Grubb, who presented a webinar recently with Business 21 entitled "Xers, Yers and Millennials: How to Maximize Their Productivity."

They're expecting growth opportunities, learning development and formalized mentoring programs. "They're also looking for strong leadership and for work/life balance," Grubb adds. In essence, they want it all and they don't know why they can't have it overnight, which means they get restless.

"They think their first job is their first career step," she says, "but they expect career movement within a year or two. If the nature of the job is not filled with meaty projects," they're going to leave.

Grubb recommends training managers before Gen Yers and Zers even come on board so they're ready to keep them stimulated.

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"You need to have 20 projects on their plate when they come in," she says, "because they are gifted and ready to handle far more than" generations before them.

"You really have to step outside and rethink the whole process for bringing in this whole group and getting them to stay," says Grubb. "Change up the conversation you're having with these guys. Ask them where they want to be and what they want to have happening in two years, five years, 10 years.

"If they say they want to be CEO, ask them, 'What does the company look like that you want to be CEO of?' Remember, they have so little work experience, so little customer-service experience. They don't connect the dots to understand how meticulously managing invoices [something they might find tedious or boring], for instance, will set them on their way to managing budgets, which-oh by the way-will affect the financial health of the company a CEO cares about," she says.

"That's what I do [and tell my clients to do]," she adds, "ask young employees to 'Tell me about the stuff you hate to do,' then proceed to show them how that helps them on their way."

The single-most-important thing employers and HR leaders can do, Grubb says, is to train managers to be ready for the amount of stimulation a millennial or Gen Zer will need to stay on board, be it in the form of growth opportunities, regular exposure to top executives, specific financial responsibility for something and/or mega amounts of projects.

"The message," she says, "should be, 'These are the skills you're going to need to help you get where you want to go, and I will help you [perfect them] and get there.' "

In Schawbel's estimation, keeping younger workers on board also comes down to culture.

"The best retention strategy a company can have is also the best recruiting strategy," he says. "You must hire for cultural fit so that you are building an emotional tie to the company. You also have to make your culture the best in your industry so that no one wants to jump ship, even for more money."

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