Why millennials are job-hopping (and how to keep them)

Issues of engagement – or more specifically, lack thereof – represent a serious impediment to the bottom-line success of any organization. And the millennial generation, which comprises a majority or near-majority of the workforce for numerous companies (per data from Pew Research Center) is the least engaged employee group: According to a Gallup survey, less than 30% of millennials consider themselves engaged by their current jobs, and they aren't grinning and bearing it, but rather are leaving as soon as they can. 

Company leaders looking to face this issue head-on and retain valuable millennial workers must first examine why they're leaving (and doing so at such a torrid pace) in the first place. Only then can you begin developing initiatives that have a real chance to counteract this phenomenon.

Pursuit of continuous learning
Certain people in the modern global workforce, both now and in the past, may well have gone along the following path: They land a job, accrue the skills and experience necessary to do it competently and then simply plateau, neither growing worse at what they don or going beyond the confines of its requirements.

The possible reasons why this has occurred (and still occurs) are too numerous to catalog, but one thing is for certain: Millennials are largely dissatisfied with this sort of settling and are more likely to think of it as stagnation. They want opportunities to learn more about their field and ascend within it. According to a survey by The Muse, 58% of millennial workers planned to change jobs in 2019, with the possibilities of continuous learning and professional growth cited as the biggest factor behind such decisions. (It was ahead of both compensation and work-life balance, which were the third- and second-ranked reasons, respectively.)

Necessity of motion
As it happens, it's not just that millennials want to hop from job to job, but some also think they must do so, with some regularity, to achieve their ultimate vocational goals. Akumina's 2019 Millennial Manager Workplace Survey found that 75% of professionals in this generation who have attained managerial status believe they have principally advanced their careers due to constant job-hopping. This idea isn't one easily proved or disproved, but that's irrelevant, given that a significant number of millennials view it as the truth. 

A referendum on management?
According to another piece from Gallup, 58% of millennial employees cited either "quality of management" or "quality of manager" as major influencing factors when applying for and taking on new jobs. If we establish that this generation's workers are frequently leaving their positions for new ones, it logically follows that management has been a negative factor in at least some of those cases (though certainly not all). 

The search for purpose
Whether it's environmental conservation or aiding those less fortunate, people who prioritize issues of social justice are less shy about saying so than ever before, especially millennials. So it's no surprise such concerns play a part in these workers' professional decisions – but it's not just that they're seeking alignment with their social or political views. Gallup noted that millennials want a sense of occupational purpose: to know what their organization stands for and be proud of it. 

Working toward retention of millennial employees
Some of the ideas above may put business leaders on the defensive. And it's possible that the millennials who've gone the revolving-door route at your company didn't feel negatively about the organization at all. But any millennial retention initiative absolutely must address these issues, or you risk losing a valuable, highly driven segment of your workforce. 

For example, even if relations between managers and team members are good, why can't they be better? Regular town halls that transparently discuss major business decisions and aren't structured like rigid meetings can increase employees' overall trust in leadership – meeting a key millennial priority. Along similar lines, you could strategically partner with a local charity and give employees paid time off for volunteer work, ensuring them you have values that go beyond dollars and cents. 

But given what we know about millennial workers, establishing continuous learning and development programs may well be the best strategy for boosting your odds of retention. Employees from this generation want to grow professionally, so working to ensure they can grow more readily within your ranks than outside your walls and keep their desire to learn alive will afford your organization a real chance at success in this regard.