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Why Millennials Quit

Millennials are notorious for job-hopping. These young adults, ages 21 to 34 and also known as Generation Y, change jobs three times more often than other generations. In fact, 48 percent of millennials are planning to leave their jobs within the next 24 months. Employee turnover is now costing U.S. companies an estimated $30.5 billion per year. (Yes, that’s billion with a “b.”)

But why? What’s causing these high rates of employee turnover and what can employers do to reduce it? As the saying goes, denial isn’t a river in Egypt. The inability to retain millennials is crippling our collective bottom line, yet many employers are shoulder-shrugging and passing blame. We’ve heard every possible excuse for why employers can’t keep their millennial talent, such as:

  • It’s youth rebellion. (“No worries! Job-hopping is something they will eventually outgrow.”)
  • It’s a character flaw. (“Those millennials are such an entitled, needy, difficult-to-please generation! They have no work ethic.”)
  • It’s a culture problem. (“We just need to add more perks, like nap rooms and Bring Your Dog to Work Day.”)

Could a $30.5 billion loss really be chalked up to youth rebellion? We weren’t convinced. We wanted to hear from the millennials themselves to better understand their reasons for being three times more likely to quit a company.

For the past three months XYZ University surveyed and interviewed more than 500 Millennials in 45 states–and it turns out none of the bullet points listed above are accurate descriptions of why Millennial turnover is happening. Yes, job turnover was previously associated with youth. Since the 1980’s, the trend has been for young adults to change jobs frequently.

However, according to XYZ University research, the job-hopping behaviors of the millennial generation aren’t reliant on age alone. Rather, their expectations of work have been influenced by the social change prevalent during their childhood and adolescence.

Consider that millennials are the first generation of the post-Industrial Era, raised in a world driven by technology and globalization. They came of age during the worst economic decline the U.S. had experienced in 70 years, and they are the best-educated and the most protected and supervised generation in history.

All of these social shifts have influenced this generation’s career trajectory. The millennials are a changed generation, and the research clearly indicates that as a workforce, Millennials are seeking to fulfill different needs from their employment experiences.

XYZ University’s research paper, Why They Quit, cites 10 reasons millennials quit their jobs. To sum it up, millennials have spent more time than other generations exploring careers and opportunities for advancement because:

1. They are searching for jobs that tap into their values for education and collaboration; and

2. They are still reeling from the recession, desperately seeking jobs that will allow them to support themselves financially.

The bottom line: Increased turnover is the outcome of a shift in workforce needs and values; a shift that is here to stay.

Turnover is not just some rebellious stage the millennials will soon outgrow, and it’s not something that will be resolved exclusively by a switch-up in culture. (Trust me, Bring Your Dog to Work Day isn’t going to curb the employee turnover epidemic.)

It’s time to stop making excuses. Accept that if your organization can’t keep its young talent, there’s a reason why and it likely has little to do with their age and more to do with your company’s inability to meet their needs.

Simply put, create a place where millennials can learn and grow and turnover will decrease. Ignore the situation, will it away, and employee turnover will continue to be the billion-dollar elephant in the room squashing everyone’s potential.

Have you registered for Membership2020 yet? At this one day event, you’ll come away ready to start building up your Millennial membership base all while earning 7 CAE credits. Reserve your space prior to May 18th to get the Early Bird Rate and save $100. Visit www.membership2020.com today!


Sarah Sladek is a best-selling author and CEO of XYZ University. She brings her expertise to 40+ events a year, presenting to audiences worldwide on how to drive stronger engagement with younger generations. Audiences rave about her ability to deliver information in entertaining and provocative ways, blending pop culture with best practices, trend forecasting, research, and strategy

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