You know what you call a millennial?
I have this cool old watch from my grandfather. It’s small and intricate and like nothing I’ve seen before. You have to wind it. My grandfather Gerard got it after spending more than 30 years doing something with valves at White-Rogers in Affton, Missouri. Can you imagine working for a company for over 30 years? The resumes and LinkedIn accounts I see rarely have stints longer than five years at any one company, and workers aged 25 to 34 average a mere 2.8 years per company. That’s likely due to millennials’ overly lofty expectations and their lack of tenacity when times get tough — according to many, none of whom are me.
I don’t even accept “millennials” as a term. When they were called “Gen Y,” no one derided them or poked fun at them. It wasn’t until they were branded “millennials“ that they drew the ire of older generations. I believe I have a better term for millennials: young people. But they’re not even that young anymore. They’re anywhere from their mid-20s to 40, which makes them the present and future of the American workforce.
That doesn’t bode well for organizations that are already failing to attract and retain their millennial employees. It’s not that millennials are flakey, they just have more options than the previous generation did. Today, you can find, apply for, and interview for an opening in Oakland all in one week. That used to take months, and even then there were still so many unknowns. Now, through Zoom, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor, you and the execs in Oakland can both assess each other with ease and accuracy.
That’s a radically different experience than the one I had when I was first job-hunting. I knew almost nothing about my first salaried job. All I knew was the name of the company: Broadcast News Channel. That alone should have been a decently sized red flag. I thought I was working at a real video production company, and it took me weeks to realize it was something else. We sold infomercials to companies under the guise that they had been selected into Terry Bradshaw’s Winner Circle. We would shoot 20 at a time, and they charged the companies $30K apiece. It was pretty successful until they ran out of companies to call and the whole thing went under.
Today, I could go on Glassdoor and make a much more informed decision about a new employer. Employees now have the power, and companies need to take note. I mean, the average cost of losing an employee to turnover is 33% of that employee’s salary That’s a big freaking deal. Having a great culture and treating people well isn’t just nice, it’s a shrewd business strategy.
I believe that we’ll see good companies retaining people for 20, 30, and 40 years just like my grandfather did. But Gerard didn’t have options, he was just a badass, hardworking Midwesterner who kept his head down (RIP G). Now we have almost too many options. And when you can go anywhere, companies must give employees every reason to stay. If you have good pay, flexible hours, remote work, child care, and mad respect from your employer, then why would you leave? Organizations of the future will need to build an infrastructure around employee retention so strong that there will be no reason to leave. And, like most things in life, when people have the power, everything is better.