Creating a Company Structure That Supports the New Era of Millennial Retention

Here’s the problem – we’re trying to get a duck to act like something else and as they say if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck!  In a 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce Study, the report found that a 53% of hiring managers report difficulty finding and retaining Millennial talent, more than three times the number who say it is “easy.” The study also found that 58% of Millennials expect to stay in their jobs fewer than three years.  This is a very well documented phenomenon.  One of the main issues organizations are having with the Millennial generation is they won’t stay put!

The Millennials’ need to move and switch jobs contrasts with previous generations, with Gen X (born between 1965 – 1981) leaving a company in 5 years on average and Baby Boomers (born between 1945 – 1964) leaving in 7 years on average.  Let’s be honest, before the whole Recession people were staying with companies for decades if the values and beliefs aligned.

Here’s where the problem comes in – are we suppose to change the Millennial and figure out ways to keep them in our organizations?  Or, should we acknowledge this paradigm shift and figure out new ways to equip our organizations to handle the ‘swinging door’ of Millennials?  In essence, are we trying to make a duck different from what it actually is?

Let’s take a step back and try to analyze and observe why the Millennials might behave in this way.  The Millennial generation, also known as the ‘backpack’ generation for their desire to continually fill themselves with skills and value-added abilities, originates from their need to be ready.  When 9/11 happened and little school boys and girls of the Millennial generation watched as societal structures were brought down before their very eyes a deep rooted fear was planted in them.  Before 9/11 a Millennials’ world was held together with the common belief in the safety of civilians and that our country was impenetrable; these were non-negotiable. Then 9/11 came and wiped that belief from their minds.  In the years after 9/11 more societal structures fell and Millennials witnessed their mothers and fathers losing their jobs, their pensions, and their retirement funds, which left the Millennial to reconsider the very fundamental promises of our country.

From those pivotal moments in history came rise to the mobile generation - a generation that swore deep, deep down that they would never be caught off guard again.  They would always have a way to communicate, they would fill themselves with adaptable skills and abilities to move at a moments notice, they would rarely commit to anything and anyone especially companies, and they would build up a network of friends and family they could connect with at a moments notice.

So when we talk about figuring out the next way to keep Millennials in our organizations I’m happy to join the conversation, but perhaps we need to have a reality check and shift what the conversation is about.  We can push, pull, tweak and prod, but we may never fully be able to retain our Millennial workers.  They may just have to fly the coupe, go out and explore with some returning and some moving on to another company.  We may want to put our energy into new systems and models that help our organizations adapt to the mobile, moving generation instead of trying to create incentives to make them stay.

What do you think?  Have you considered new models or systems to have an organization that is nimble and agile to work with the Millennials’ need to change jobs every few years?