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Debunking the job-hopping myth: Millenials are not that bad

Indah Mustikasari
Indah Mustikasari

Observer-thinker who is passionate about learning human behavior and putting her thoughts into words

Jakarta | Thu, March 15, 2018 | 02:08 pm
Debunking the job-hopping myth: Millenials are not that bad

A 2016 Gallup poll found that 21 percent of millennials changed jobs within the past year, more than three times the number of non-millennials. (Shutterstock/File)

Millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest labor group in 2015. However, according to some widely held stereotypes, millennials have a bad reputation in the workforce for having a “job-hopper” mentality.

2016 Gallup poll found that 21 percent of millennials changed jobs within the past year, more than three times the number of non-millennials. Deloitte, who surveyed 7700 millennials from 29 countries around the world, showed that 40 percent of millennials would resign if they had the chance, and 63 percent feel they have a lack of self-development.

Those surveys have stained the image of millennials. Many have said they are lazy, not loyal, need constant praise, and so on. As a millennial, I feel skeptical of those stereotypes. Are we really that bad?

Let’s talk about numbers, a study from Pew Research shows millennials aren’t job-hopping any faster than Generation X did at the same age. And among the college-educated, millennials have longer track records with their employers than Generation X workers did in 2000 when they were the same age as today’s millennials.

The same study also found that millennials may be sticking with their current employers due to a bigger opportunity for self-development.

With these studies, we can conclude the characteristics of millennial workers are not necessarily giving boundaries to the employers. Instead, those characteristics can bring so many values that may be applicable to any workplace in this era.

As a millennial who is currently embarking on a career in a startup company, I feel that my office does a lot to make me love and be proud of my job more than ever. Here are some of the values that I want to share that may inspire employers who want their millennial employees to stay loyal.

Cultivate a sense of belonging

One of the many reasons why millennials are leaving their jobs is that they don’t have a sense of belonging to the business. One of the values that prevails in my office is “take ownership beyond your role”. This means every employee should feel free to do tasks beyond their job description. Be it a product feature or empty water barrel in the office pantry.

This ownership value will drive millennials to not be afraid to make changes and give feedback to improve the company's products or services. My office really encourages its employees to engage in productive conflicts. We believe it is a great way to achieve better results. This will also break the barrier of a rigid culture that says “the boss is always right” and “just do whatever the boss tells you”.

Provide opportunities to grow

Most millennials have no idea what career they would like to pursue, including whether they want to build a career with their current employer. Millennials like challenges, they like to learn something new and exciting. Those traits are sometimes misunderstood as being lazy and easily bored of constant and repetitive tasks.

If you want to retain your millennial employees, create a culture in which they can escalate their skills. Conduct an open training session where people can join or provide workshops that are beneficial for them.

I saw my colleague move from the content writing department to become a business intelligence analyst. Someone from quality assurance is now an aspiring marketer. A visual designer wants to learn UI/UX, why not? It’s their career, let them take every opportunity to challenge and stretch themselves.

Work hard, play hard

Studies show that a flexible and fun workforce brings more productivity for millennial workers. Millennials define work and productivity differently from other generations. For older workers, the workday is defined as being physically present in the workplace — but millennials are always connected by technology and can get their work done from virtually anywhere.

Many millennials feel held back by rigid or outdated working styles, they prefer a casual environment where they can be fun and productive at the same time. If wearing a t-shirt and rainbow hair-dye can increase their productivity, let them be.

It’s common in my office for a CEO to shoot someone from the QA department with a Nerf gun, or for employees to hijack someone’s computer to post silly Slack messages. There is always time for play, but we also take our professional commitments and deadlines seriously.

Supportive environment

The notion that millennials need constant recognition and praise for doing their jobs is a popular one, but also not completely true. The key is a supportive environment where millennial workers are able to receive meaningful feedback from their reporting manager.

Gallup has found that 56 percent of millennials meet with their managers less than once a month, compared to 53 percent of non-millennials. Meanwhile, only 19 percent of millennials say they receive meaningful feedback — and that’s not a good thing. Frequent one-on-one meetings make for more engaged employees, regardless of age.

In the book Love ‘em or Lose ‘em, authors Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans write that “a crucial strategy for engaging and retaining talent is having conversations with every person you hope will stay on your team.”

A supportive environment will drive millennials to listen better to each piece of feedback they receive. It also makes them willing to be better and be proud of their job.

A small thing that contributes to the supportive environment in my workplace is a #thankyou channel on our Slack. This #thankyou channel was created with the purpose of showing gratitude and appreciation to anyone for their contribution, no matter how big or small. This #thankyou channel has proven to create positive vibes and foster respect for each other.

Creating a culture where millennials can be productive and fun at the same time will drive their loyalty to the employer. Many of my colleagues are willing to stay years in my office because they feel empowered, appreciated and listened to.

Stereotypes and over-generalizations are never helpful. Given that millennials have already surpassed Generation X as the largest segment of the workforce, it’s time to break down the barriers and be flexible to make them feel happy and stay loyal to their job.

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Indah Mustikasari is an observer-thinker who is passionate about learning human behavior and putting her thoughts into words. She works at Kuala-Lumpur based company iPrice.

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