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In December of 2016 I left the Ivory Tower of University and took my first full time job here at Capgemini and haven’t left since, a longer tenure than most of my friends who graduated with me. The job-hopping tendencies of my Millennial friends exemplifies research done by Management Consulting Firm Gallup who found “Millennials change jobs more often than do those of any older generation, and six in 10 say they are currently looking for new employment opportunities.” (Gallup, p. 10). To investigate why this is the case I asked my friends and colleagues about their opinions and looked at the research. Heavily referenced in this article is a study done by Gallup on four generation groups; Millennials (born 1980-1996 or, to save you the math, 23-39 year olds), Gen Xers (1965-1979 or 40-54), Baby Boomers (1946-1964 or 55-73), and Traditionalists (1900-1945 or 74-119) (Gallup, p. 19) Though no one’s made it to 119 yet.
Gallup found that 21% of Millennials have changed jobs within the past year, more than three times the number reported from any one of the other 3 groups (Gallup, p. 19). Included in this 21% is my friend George, who recently left his job of 2.5 years as a product analyst at a major insurance company. And, to bust a myth, it wasn’t because his workplace didn’t have ping pong tables or rock climbing walls. As Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup put it, “Giving out toys and entitlements is a leadership mistake, and worse, it’s condescending. Purpose and development drive this generation.” (Gallup, p. 3).
Instead, when I asked George why he decided to leave his job he chalked it up to 3 factors; the commute, lack of engagement, and money. George was spending more than an hour and a half each way in traffic, eating up his free time and tipping his work-life balance. His commute was as heavy on this scale as the sword thrown by Brennus of the Gauls after sacking Rome in 390 BC when the Romans were negotiating how much gold it would take to salvage the city. To George, his employers refusal to let him work remote was like a back handed “Woe to the conquered!”.
When it comes to work life balance Millennials don’t vary from their generational counterparts, we all value a healthy balance equally (Gallup, p. 31). Many workers have their own laptops and Wi-Fi at home so work from home policies are becoming more commonplace. Being able to work from home and having flex vacation hours contributed to George’s decision to leave stiffer policies in the insurance workplace.
However, even if the work life policies look good on paper, hiring website Monster.com finds those policies are “effective if those in supervisory positions make it truly okay for their direct reports to use this time as it was intended.” (Matuson, n.d.) They also found in a survey of Millennial workers that nearly half “said they would feel more comfortable taking personal time if they saw their managers doing the same.”(Matuson, n.d.). In other words, if an employer is talking the talk, you’ll want to be sure managers and supervisors are walking the walk.
Aside from his commute, George felt a lack of interest and enthusiasm from his team about the work they were doing. Most of it was monotonous and purposeless which fostered a lack of engagement. He’s not the only one; Gallup found that only “29% of millennials are engaged at work, meaning only about three in 10 are emotionally and behaviorally connected to their job and company. Another 16% of millennials are actively disengaged, meaning they are more or less out to do damage to their company. The majority of millennials (55%) are not engaged, leading all other generations in this category of worker engagement.” (Gallup, p. 7). They estimate the lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy $284 to $469 billion annually in lost productivity (Gallup, p. 18)
(Gallup, p. 18)
These monotonous tasks were driven by a bloated class of middle managers and unnecessary overhead which allowed him little to no flexibility in how he did his job. Even when he found a way to make a process more efficient his ideas were shut down because the current way was “how it’s always been done”. Being unable to make an impact in this way made George feel like his professional growth was being stifled. This can be disheartening to young workers starting their careers; “87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job — far more than 69% of non-millennials who say the same.” (Gallup, p. 46).
A similar incident happened to my developer friend Christina. Her team was using Selenium to perform web application testing when one day her firm introduced a proprietary testing suite after selling it to the client using buzzwords like “AI”. Despite putting up a fight and showing how the proprietary testing suite wasn’t a good fit for the project she was overridden by an upper manager more concerned with generating account revenue rather than effective delivery. This made Christina’s lack of autonomy clear and now she’s looking for another job.
Often times managers play a deciding factor between if Millennial workers are engaged or disengaged. Peter Martel, senior talent development consultant at Harvard Business School, says “All of the research I’ve seen over the years about employee engagement really points, first and foremost, to the relationship with one’s immediate supervisor”(Kassab, 2018). Rather than limiting their contact to annual or semiannual performance reviews, Millennials are looking to be coached by their managers. They want to share their careers aspirations and feel like their managers care about developing their strengths to reach those aspirations (Gallup, p. 3). Specifically they want managers to focus on “Job clarity and priorities, ongoing feedback and communication, opportunities to learn and grow, and accountability”(Gallup, p. 33).
I can personally attest to the effectiveness of an active mentorship model. Capgemini pairs new graduate hires with a mentor who helps you set goals at the beginning of the year, does a mid-year review of your progress, and an end of year evaluation and goal planning for the next year. But the key is they check in with you every month to see how you’re doing and offer help. This makes me feel like Capgemini is investing more into my development and less like a cog. Shout out to Troy for being a good manager and mentor!
Going back to George, his final reason for hopping ship is the classic motivator – money. 48% of Millennials say compensation is extremely important to them when considering new jobs, and with job hunting websites and apps like Monster, Indeed, or even LinkedIn it’s easier than ever to find other opportunities (Gallup, p. 29). Millennials, more than any other generation, take advantage of these website if they’re feeling underpaid, which they might after comparing their salary at their company versus others on websites like Glassdoor.
(Gallup, p. 23)
George was able to negotiate around a 25% raise at his new job, about what my other friends who have switched jobs reported as well. This is a big incentive, not just to have extra spending money but to use that money to pay off debts. Gallup reports “In 2014, there were 43 million student loan borrowers in the country, with an average balance of $27,000 per borrower. These numbers represent increases of 92% and 74%, respectively, since 2004.”(pg 65). More than half of my peers I talked to are still paying off student debt, most of which is more than $20,000. I find myself in the same boat as them and put no less importance on the value of money.
Although George decided to leave his company there are a number of Millennials like myself who have remained at their job for years. Although I do think money is important, I also believe there’s value in developing a network and building relationships at your company before looking towards greener pastures. My friend Harold offered good insight when we talked about this. He’s been with his company for more than two years and plans to be there for at least another three. He thinks our fellow Millennials tend to switch jobs around this time in their life because, essentially, they’re having a quarter life crisis. University sometimes encouraged us to pursue our passions but after a few years in a mundane or unfulfilling position like those George and Christina found themselves in, Millennials may begin to wonder where they went wrong. But Harold thinks Millennials shouldn’t pull the trigger too early in their existential anxiety. His family are small business owners and as he was growing up he saw them struggle for years trying to get their business up and running. It was only through their persistence, patience, and continual hard work that they found success. He thinks our careers can be thought of in the same way, and I tend to agree. So, although the grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence, Millennials may want to spend some time and energy watering their side first.
The following article was submitted on behalf of Capgemini NA’s Millennial Innovation Council (MIC) Employee Resource Group (ERG). The mission of MIC is to engage all employees to strategically position Capgemini in raising its future generation of talent in a changing business environment and an evolving world. By understanding the living situations of Millennials Capgemini is putting themselves in a position to attract and retain talent.
This article was written by Scott Smith. Scott has worked at Capgemini for over two years as a business analyst located in Chicago. He looks forward to sharing more research and insight about Millennial workers.
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