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Millenial Manifesto: Loyalty

Even with my relatively healthy level of self-confidence, I would never presume to speak for or represent an entire generation of people. I cannot possibly know or articulate the sentiments of millions of people.

On the other hand, I have been reading more and more articles and opinions about the trends in the Millenial Generation (a.k.a. MY generation).

The talking heads seem to make blanket statements and proffer stark opinions about the penchants and preferences of my generation. We are “Entitled.” We are “Socially-Conscious.” We are “Transient.”

OK.

Honestly, I can see where many of these stereotypes originate. I have noticed trends in the behavior of my friends and classmates that echo these generalizations. So, I am not here to discredit or disagree with any label given to us Millenials.

What I can do is tell you what I notice about us. This is sort of an “Us. – by Us” type of post. But, as I said above, I don’t speak for “us”. I speak for me. Anything labelled as “Millenial Manifesto” is simply my observations on myself, my friends, and my acquaintances in our generation. These are inherently subjective and therefore open to argument, but I feel obligated to clarify a few misconceptions about my generation since I have a forum in which to do so.

So, without further delay, let’s discuss . . . loyalty.

One of the common observations I hear about the Millenials is our transience. We tend to move jobs, switch careers, change cities, and generally shift major aspects of our lives on a dime. We can discuss the benefits and costs of this constant change later, but for now I would like to discuss one aspect of that ever-shifting life: employer loyalty.

Maybe the biggest knock on our generation of young workers is the perceived lack of loyalty or “staying power’ that we have as potential employees. If a potential employer sees us a wild card employees who may up-and-leave or switch careers suddenly or jump ship for a better opportunity, I can understand a hesitation in hiring. I have heard that employees from our generation will have as many as 10 employers before we turn 40 years old whereas employees of our grandparents generation may have had 2 employers by 40 years old.

On the surface, the statistics seem to favor the stereotype. But let’s dig into the assumptions of that type of statistic for a moment.

Employers seem to assume that employee retention of 45-year-olds and employee retention of 25-year-olds is roughly the same concept. It’s not. Not even close. If I need to explain to you how a 25-year-old employee and a 45-year-old employee have different motivations and vastly different lifestyles, then you should stop reading now because we are about to go deep.

I would also like to point out that a 25-year-old in 2012 is VASTLY different than a 25-year-old in 1992. That 25-year-old in 1992 probably didn’t have internet access, didn’t have a cell phone, and had never heard of email. Think about that. How much of our business today is conducted through one of those three mediums? The business world of 1992 and the business world of 2012 are so astronomically different that it is almost laughable to compare the two. So why to potential employers try to do so? Why are they comparing the way you compensated, trained, and retained employees from before the internet was integrated into business to after? How can you possibly compare those two business environments and their respective employer-employee relationships?

Thinking about it intuitively, wouldn’t you expect staggering different business structures and practices from the days of (snail) mail to the days of Email? I would.

So, all I am trying to point out is that we are not comparing apples-to-apples here. To say that employees today behave differently than employees of past generations is absurdly obvious. Business changes. So do employees. Comparing the non-interent generation to the interent generation is a pointless exercise because none of us can accurately predict how Gen Y or The Greatest Gen or The Hippies or whoever would have reacted to instant information.

I am a couple Google searches, LinkedIn conversations, and cell phone calls away from figuring out the compensation and benefits package of an acquisition position in Kuala Lumpur. I could make an informed business decision about my career in another position in another country in less than 1 day. Does it surprise you that people move, shift, and change so much these days? They do because they can. Can anyone say that other generations would have behaved differently?

If our grandparents could have had instant access to infinite information all over the planet, don’t you think they may have considered more than two employers before 40 came calling?

Maybe. Maybe not. The point is: I don’t know. And neither do you. So let’s stop wasting time by comparing apple-to-oranges. The constraints of our business environment are so vastly different than their business environment that it is a nonsensical comparison to relate the two career paths because none of us can say with certainty what Brokaw’s Greatest Generation would have done with infinite information.

And let me further turn this argument on its head.

Simply put, if you motivate workers to stay, they will stay. It’s a simple as that. If I am convinced that the best course of action for my family and my career is to stay with my current employer, why would I leave? I’m not going to switch and change just for change’s sake. I will leave when I feel there is a better opportunity elsewhere. That’s it. That’s the only reason I can think of to leave a company.

So, as employers put the blame on Millenial employees for their “whimsy” or “moodiness,” I will offer a piece of the blame right back at them. Our generation has a different set of needs, a different lifestyle, and different values than our parents, their parents, or any previous generation. We have shifted from our predecessors and if you haven’t shifted with us, then don’t be surprised when we leave for greener pastures. if you convince us we should stay, we’ll stay. Why wouldn’t we?

The trick is, what do we want?

(I want to reiterate that I speak only for myself and my friends here.) It’s rarely money. Money DOES matter as most of us cling onto whatever paycheck we can get our hands on in this dismal job market, but once a paycheck is more assured I find that the company that offers the most money is rarely the best option.

This topic about what motivates Millenials has been well-discussed and argued in other forums and we can certainly discuss it here. But that is an article for another date. For now, I just want to leave you with this parting thought:

We Millenails aren’t as different from other generations as you might think. We have our unique issues and desires, but at our core we are very similar to the preceding generations that have made this country into what it is today. And as far as loyalty goes, the trick is the same with us as it was with every generation before us. Figure out what it takes to make us stay and we will stay. That may be easier said than done, but isn’t that exactly what was done for every other generation?

Food for thought.

– Duke

 

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