Growth Insights for CEOs

Why Millennial Talent Seems to Be Always Looking for the Next Best Thing

Posted by The Chief Outsider

Screen_Shot_2014-08-19_at_4.58.59_PMEvery generation seems destined to be the most misunderstood generation. This was true for Baby Boomers, Gen X and is especially applicable when attempting to understand the motivations and values of the Millennial generation (also referred to as Gen Y). We’ve likely read about how Millennials grew up on technology and are dependent upon it. We could easily argue with them about their worldviews. While Millennials may be cast as the most misunderstood generation, they’re quickly becoming the most studied and researched generation. Yet despite all the insights we’ve gained, it’s interesting that most Baby Boomers infer they simply don’t understand a Millennial’s perspective on life and work.

On the surface, Millennials may come across as being irresponsible, entitled, disengaged, arrogant, idealistic and overly confident. While some of these may be appropriate, from a practical perspective, Millennials tend to be competent, bright and highly focused. The chasm between the generations being, Millennials hold a significantly different worldview about life, their careers and what they expect from their employers.

So how should organizations deal with the so-called quirkiness of Millennials? To begin to answer this question, business leaders need to answer this first.

“Do you believe Millennials will gravitate to be more like Baby Boomers, or will organizations adapt to the desired work style of Millennials?”

I encourage you to think about this for a second, because it’s a defining question. If Baby Boomers believe they can shape Millennials in their likeness, then the answer is simple. Time and patience is on your side. However, if Baby Boomers are unable to shape Millennials in their likeness, then the answer is problematic. Time and patience is your enemy. If you’re a business leader of the Baby Boomer generation, which are you inclined to bet on?

In my work with business leaders, I’m concerned there is a false confidence that Millennials will eventually adopt the values and working styles of their Baby Boomer mentors. However, I’m not convinced this will occur. The reason is simple. Millennials possess portable skills that are in high demand, which correlates to their typical 2-3 year employment stints, and their values are well defined. Plus, organizations may not have time on their side. Quickly retiring Baby Boomers are placing demands on organizations that are time sensitive.

Fortunately, companies that meet the intrinsic needs of Millennials are discovering a vibrant, innovative, passionate and highly trainable workforce. Plus when done correctly, employee turnover rates are approaching more historical norms of 5 to 10 percent a year, versus the often-reported 25 to 40 percent per year.

So what are Millennials in search of in a job/career? Here are 7 key factors.

  1. Millennials want a work family that supports their achievements and career aspirations.
  2. Millennials want career opportunities where they can make an impact.
  3. Millennials hope to work for an organization where there’s a good cultural fit.
  4. Millennials want personal fulfillment in their work.
  5. Millennials tend to be impatient, and therefore want to work for organizations where new assignments occur regularly - every 12-24 months.
  6. Millennials tend to look for organizations where there is a social component, i.e climate, societal, etc.
  7. Millennials want to find organizations where there is a good work-life balance.

Of the seven, how many are you currently fulfilling? How many could you achieve if it were a priority?

The reason Millennial Talent seems to always be looking for the next best thing is simple, they haven’t found their ideal organization yet. They know what they’re looking for, and most organizations simply aren’t providing it. And until organizations figure out how to provide it – they will continue to search. Maybe its time for your organization to meet more of the wants/needs of the Millennial generation?


Rod_JohnsonRod Johnson is founder and president of Growing Your Leaders, a talent and leadership development firm. As an executive coach, consultant and keynote speaker, he works with organizations helping them understand, value and leverage their strategic talent assets.


Topics: Employee Engagement