People & Culture

Millennials. It’s not them, it’s us

Are Millennials obsessed with job hopping? Or are our outdated jobs just not cutting it with a generation that demands more?

“Why won’t millennials stay in the jobs we give them?”, “What can I do to make improve millennials retention?”, “My millennials change jobs like swiping left on Tinder!”

These are the cries of frustrated leaders, managers and HR people everywhere as they struggle with changing demands for change led by the growing millennial body in our workforce.

But whilst Millennials may seem to be obsessed with job hopping, they are not, it seems, as obsessed with company-hopping. 50% of millennials surveyed by Gallup strongly agree that in two years time they plan to be working in the same company as now. So it seems that many don’t plan to leave the company, but most do end up leaving the job.

Two things are happening. Firstly too many millennials are disengaged in the average workplace. They are the least engaged generation in Gallup research with 55% not engaged by their jobs and companies. But rather than thinking of them as a disengaged generation, think of our workplaces as disengaging to them. It’s better to own the problem than shift blame, when you own it you can fix it.

Its also not helpful blaming them for wanting to job move. Millennials are the consumers of the workplace, wishing they would change is tantamount to saying the customer is wrong. Instead we need to do a better job of designing learning, development and progression into roles. Because when we don’t they go and look for the challenge and the progression elsewhere. Like any consumer with choices would.

And not only is the millennial generation our best educated generation ever, it’s also the one we’ve studied and therefore understand the most. Workplace science and analysis is more advanced now than ever.

  • They want to work for companies who have a strong sense of mission and purpose

  • They want leaders who communicate openly and transparently and have strong and visible values

  • They want to have visibility on the impact they are making, recognition when they achieve and feedback on how to do better

  • They want to see progress — we took away the idea of job for life and we left them fending for themselves, they get that.

  • They want to work for companies that care about their wellbeing

It’s hard to see how these needs are at odds with what high performing companies want.

In fact rather than complaining about our millennials, we should see them as possibly the most workforce-ready, productive-positive generation of workers ever.

Millennials, or Gen Y already makes up more than a third of the US working population — the largest share of the workforce. Let’s get a grip on it. Gen Z is just around the corner and that’s going to be a whole different ball game.



Glenn Elliott is a technology entrepreneur, investor and advisor, MBA drop-out and recovering CEO with 20 years of experience. His bestselling book Build it: The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement is published by Wiley. He writes about people, culture, leadership and the future of work weekly at 

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