The Truth about millennial employee turnover

Hey Guys,

I was having a conversation yesterday day with a friend. We are both in our mid twenties, so we fall into that demographic called the millennial’s. During the conversation we turned towards discussing coworkers, employee turnover, and how this  is affecting companies, employees and the economy. The general social feeling about this subject tends to point at millennial’s being flighty and changing jobs rapidly. We were unsure if this was generational character defect or if this was a tech age business issue or both. So I did some fact checking into the numbers.

Forbes put out an article in 2012 talking about how job hopping is the new norm. They quoted the bureau of labor statistics that states the median worker stays with an employer for 4.2 years, This is about the same in the recent report put out by the bureau called the 2018 employee tenure survey. This sounds like a shocking statistic, until you realize that his is practically unchanged for the last several decades. In fact when you look at the bureau Spotlight on Statistics report we can see that job tenure back in 2000 was only 3.5 years. It is clear that as employees age they move jobs less often. When you look at the complete economy what I think is happening is the Baby boomer generation is skewing the statistics to show a longer overall tenure than what we were seeing prior to the economic slowdown in 2008. This economic slowdown also taught many millennial’s that having a job regardless of if you like it is a wonderful thing.

To really get clear on the numbers we will need to look at the statistics by age range. When we do that we find that the workers who fall in the twenty to twenty four year old range are on average changing jobs every 1.3 years. Again, this may be a shocking statistic until you realize that this number is practically unchanged since the 1980’s when beginning workers were staying with new employers a whopping 1.5 years. So again no real significant change in the numbers here either.

So what is really going on with millennial’s…

Well for one… More are going to college. According to, Back in 1980 only 20% of males and 14% of females completed a four year degree this year it is 33 and 34% respectively. However before we jump up and down and get all excited for our students that are studying away so hard, let’s look at another type of turnover. That is the turnover of majors within college. Anywhere from 50- 70% of students will change their major at least once during their four years of study. Once these workers hit the economy we find that only 27% of employees have a job related to their field of study.

What does all of this mean? Well, Our generation has a tremendous desire to do meaningful work. To have a positive impact and to work in a positive environment. Now before you conjure up images of pillows, puppies and safe spaces. I think that overall the trend or desire to find a profession that you are a good fit for is a noble proposition. But how do we go about this without spending years hopping from one low paying job to another? Or worse yet, going into student loan debt only to find out that we don’t enjoy what we are doing.

Know yourself

First, I am going to quote Sun Tzu here from the art of war. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Being young, We know that technology is rapidly changing the workplace, so it may be unrealistic to expect us to know the enemy. To balance this out we need to know what we are good at. What we like, and why. My father used to ask me anytime I did something silly or stupid why did you do that. Being young it was easy to say “I don’t know.” This answer never flied with my father. He always would respond, you need to know why you do what you do.

It is rare for young people to be laser focused with one job, skill, or business in mind. Keep in mind that for every Gary Vaynerchuk and Mark Zuckerberg who hit it fairly early on in life there are many more Henry Ford's who founded Ford motor at 40 and Colonel Sanders who opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken at 62. I think that it is important for employees and employers alike to realize that it takes time to learn the skills of leadership, communication, persuasion, sales, and marketing. If you aren't engaging and educating your employees they will move to someone else that will.

Manage your expectations

Secondly, Find joy in what you are doing. Right now, today… Don’t leave your job to have fun. Take pride and joy in today and if you indeed do find that a move is in your future take that winning attitude with you. Don’t expect the move to fix your attitude for you.

Ask for help

Third, For many of us we don’t know what we are good at... yet. We don’t know what we don’t know. So in this arena it is imperative that we ask. Not your buddies, not the hooligans that you grew up with… but old and wise men who have been thru it all. Now more than ever with the internet we can find retired businessmen, tradesmen, and politicians near us. This older generation loves to be involved in passing along their wisdom. Many times all you have to do is ask and listen patiently for free advice. Then all that is left is to implement, take action, do the work. Live out today without regrets. I will leave you with one final quote.

Henry Dodd says, “The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work.”

Adam McClary