How many times did you change jobs throughout your career? These days, the average person works approximately 12 jobs in their lifetime. If that seems like a lot, hold on to your computer chair because research shows that Millennials change jobs more frequently than any other generation. Shockingly, nearly half of Millennials don’t see themselves working for their current employer one year from now.
I’m a perfect example of that statistic. I wasn’t always a full-time writer. In fact, I wasn’t a writer at all for the first portion of my career. I bounced around a bit, eventually landing on high school English teacher. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but I enjoyed most of my day-to-day work and hadn’t planned on quitting or changing careers again. Yet, a few things happened in a short amount of time that made me realize I needed to get out—and fast.
We’re hearing similar stories from teachers across the country right now. Between the abysmal pay and lack of resources, no one is surprised teachers are fleeing left and right. But even though this is an isolated issue, the teacher shortage symbolizes a much more significant workplace shift among Millennials. Many young professionals are unhappy at work and jump from job to job seeking change. The more employers are willing to adapt to Millennials’ demands, the better they can convince this fickle generation to stick around for a while.
4 Rules & Rituals Millennials Despise
Of course, people leave their jobs for a slew of personal reasons. But Millennials across the board are rejecting some standard workplace processes and procedures, including the following:
- Unrealistic expectations. Thirty years ago, before email and cell phones became mainstream modes of communication, an obvious line separated work from home. Once leaving the office, workers were virtually unreachable without a pager or home phone. But over the years, as technology advanced, that line grew blurrier until it completely disappeared in 2020, when many professionals were forced to work from home due to the pandemic.
These days, we have constant access to our workplace, muddying the separation of professional versus private life. Millennials, now the largest generation in the workforce, are always on-call, resulting in unrealistic workloads and time expectations. This utter lack of work-life balance has caused a spike in anxiety and depression among Millennials, 45% of whom feel burned out due to their job demands.
- Lack of flexibility. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that mask acne is real. But it also taught us that many people don’t need to work in the office. Despite the popular assumption that people couldn’t be trusted to buckle down and work from the comfort of their couches, most folks were actually more productive when given the freedom to work from home.
There are obviously many benefits of going into the office, like real-time collaboration and greater separation of professional and private life, to name a couple. But for every positive, there’s an equally valid drawback. Therefore, requiring workers to visit the office daily puts the business before the people keeping the business afloat. Instead, Millennials want to choose where they work, creating a more flexible schedule than they had before.
- Poor productivity. Have you ever wondered where the 5-day workweek originated? Or why the 40-hour workweek is the norm? Well, it’s not based on current science at all; Rather, Ford Motor Companies first adopted a 5-day, 40-hour workweek in 1926, which became law 12 years later when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act. That’s a nearly 100-year-old practice based on antiquated working conditions!
This past summer, the UK launched the most extensive 4-day workweek pilot to date, involving more than 3,300 workers and 70 British companies, and their findings were remarkable. 46% of respondents reported their business productivity “maintained around the same level,” while 34% said that it “improved slightly,” leaving 15% stating it “improved significantly.” That means this change negatively impacted only 5% of respondents’ productivity levels. It begs the question, why are we really working 5 days a week?
- Unforgiving parental leave. Take a moment to review the minimum length of maternity leave offered in the following countries:
- Bulgaria: 58.6 weeks
- Greece: 43 weeks
- United Kingdom: 39 weeks
- Slovakia: 34 weeks
- Croatia: 30 weeks
- Chile: 30 weeks
- Czech Republic: 28 weeks
- Ireland: 26 weeks
- Hungary: 24 weeks
- New Zealand: 22 weeks
In Finland, couples are allowed 164 days, or about seven months, while single parents can take 328 days. By contrast, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the United States gives covered employees merely 12 weeks of unpaid family leave time. However, many exceptions exist, excusing far less time off.
This may have been reasonable before the feminist movement in the 1960s when many women weren’t members of the workforce. But today, women make up nearly half of the workforce. So you’d think that laws would represent them equally, right? Well, they don’t.
Once the arbitrary grace period of 12 weeks is up, most mothers must return to work because they need the extra income (Nowadays, both parents must work to have a livable income, as Millennials earn less than their parent’s generation, despite being better educated). But regardless of income needs, a woman’s body takes far longer than 3 months to recover from childbirth—and babies need their mothers for longer, too. The CDC’s US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend infants be “exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months,” three times longer than the allotted maternal leave. Clearly, the only entities benefitting from shortened maternity leave are businesses, and Millennials are fed up.
What Do Millennials Want from Their Employers?
I’ll get personal here for a moment. As a teacher, I couldn’t live a fulfilling life. I took all my work home because I was expected to accomplish more than was possible in the 40-hour workweek. I had absolutely no flexibility—I wasn’t permitted to leave the school to get lunch for 30 minutes, a privilege even my senior students were granted. I also would have been responsible for creating 12 weeks of daily lessons on my own time to be taught during my maternity leave (that’s approximately 200 hours of unpaid work). But the most horrific part of all was that I knew and accepted those constraints for years. I left the profession for a completely unrelated reason.
So I’ll leave you with this question: do your Millennial employees enjoy working at your company? Better yet, how do you know? (Don’t just assume unlimited PTO or summer Fridays are cutting it.) Think about it… when was the last time you surveyed your employees regarding the above practices and procedures? Because research shows that Millennials are unhappy and planning to leave their jobs within the year if they don’t see change.