In yet another story trying to shed some light on the mysterious and confusing behaviors of millennials, the claim that so many members of this generation are quitting their jobs to see the world doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. That said, there are things employers need to know to better understand their employees.
I’ve been with Hotel News Now for nearly four years now. According to the latest research on millennials, I’m way overdue for letting my editor know I’m quitting.
(Steph, I’m not really quitting.)
Forbes ran a piece earlier this week about a trend with millennials in the workplace. Yes, another story about this ever-mystifying generation. This one ran with the headline “How to prevent your millennial employees from leaving your company to travel the world.” It cites a 2018 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that states employees aged 25 to 34 have an average employment tenure of 2.8 years while those aged 55 to 64 are three more times as likely to stay at their jobs.
There are multiple reasons why younger employees might leave their jobs, and none of those reasons are included in the report. Pay, I would imagine, is a big one, especially considering how companies have become more competitive (finally) with what they’re paying employees, especially for entry-level jobs now that we’ve been out of the recession (for years now), and unemployment is low enough that employees can be a bit more selective in where they want to work.
But also consider the age range here. The age range highlighted is those who are 25 to 34 years old. While there are plenty of employees who are at the older end of that range, you also have to factor in there are a bunch at the younger end who have fairly recently entered the workforce. If you are 25 or slightly older, you’ve only been working for a few years (that’s assuming they received some level of higher education), which means they might have had some false starts with new jobs and switching jobs, and that could skew that average tenure down a bit. That might not seem like it would have a large effect, but when you consider the next age group in the report of 35 to 44 years old has an average employment tenure of 4.9 years, it might seem a little more significant.
As for the whole “millennials are quitting to travel” thing, I have my doubts that there are so many millennials who are leaving their jobs to become globe trotters. Don’t forget, the recession really kicked our butts. The Wall Street Journal just ran an in-depth piece on the effect the recession had on millennials’ earnings and reported that “new data show they’re in worse financial shape than every preceding living generation and may never recover.” I don’t know about you, but that certainly makes me want to quit my job and spend a whole bunch of money on travel without a new secure source of income.
To back up its headline, the aforementioned Forbes piece states, “Millennials are reportedly quitting their jobs to explore the world and live a more nomadic lifestyle,” citing a New York CBS2 article from July 2018 that states “a record number of millennials are quitting their jobs, because they don’t want to be tied down.”
That article doesn’t actually back up its claim over “a record number” with any sort of number, statistic or honestly anything else that would indicate this is actually happening. Instead, the article includes one millennial who quit her PR company because its vacation policy “was cramping her millennial lifestyle” to travel the world and represent a few clients while on the road. There’s also a psychotherapist (really?) talking about millennials “redefining the trajectory of success” and a brief mention of a survey (without a source or even a link) of 10,000 millennials in which 43% of respondents said they planned to quit their jobs within two years (but without sharing the reasons for wanting to quit). Oh yeah, the story also has two millennials in there who think quitting a steady job to travel isn’t for them.
Back to the Forbes piece. The contributor cites a couple other articles to back up the claim about millennials who “have quit their lucrative and six-figure salaried jobs to satiate their wanderlust.” First, I’m curious just how big a piece of the millennial pie is the number of employees ages 25 to 34 who are in “lucrative and six-figure salaried jobs,” especially given that Wall Street Journal article I mentioned before, but that would certainly explain why they would feel so comfortable quitting to travel. They can work to save up a nice cushion to allow them to travel while they figure out how to make it sustainable.
Anyway, the other articles. The Forbes piece states a “quick perusal of the internet will reveal story after story” about millennials quitting to travel, citing exactly two. One is from Oprah Magazine with the headline “I quit my glamorous corporate job to travel the world,” and the other is on FairyGodBoss and requires me to create an account that I don’t want to make, but the headline is “I ditched my 6-figure salary to travel the world—and here’s how I’m funding it.” Again, while this might be a trend among millennials who are in jobs with great pay, that’s certainly not an accurate reflection of the millennial generation as a whole.
Now, while I think the angle of the story about millennials quitting their jobs to travel is overstated at best and BS at worst, the story does share useful advice for employers of millennials and pay ranges. It says employers should provide more vacation time, which helps reduce burnout and gives employees the chance to scratch that travel itch. It also says employers should provide more business travel opportunities and even travel discounts and deals should the positions allow for it.
When I did my own search to see if I could find anything about millennials quitting their jobs to travel, I couldn’t find much that didn’t set off my skepticism alarm. I did, however, find a story by Utah Business about the reasons why millennials have quit their jobs, and that rang pretty true.
One of my favorite sections from this story falls under the subhead “It’s not about the ping-pong table.” The article includes an interview with millennial Eric Rea, who is the co-founder and CEO of Silicon Slopes tech company Podium. Rea said, “I think it’s a matter of engagement. It’s been my experience that millennial professionals deeply value being connected to what they are doing and the effect it is having on the world.
“I think we’ve been conditioned to believe that the attention of millennial professionals is bought with free drinks, fully-stocked kitchens, and ping-pong tables. If our company culture was built around these benefits, it wouldn’t have lasted longer than the Vanilla Coke in our break room. While these perks dominate recruiting efforts in the tech world, I think we are losing out on what millennials are actually wanting in the process.”
Though perhaps not all, many millennials want to find meaning in the work that they do. We recognize not every job is a dream job, and you rarely get your dream job just starting out and you have to work your way up, but at least knowing there is a way up and that our contributions matter makes a huge difference in job satisfaction. If there’s no room to grow, if the company doesn’t show that it cares about its employees and the job and responsibilities associated with it don’t seem to make a difference, it’s difficult to see a reason why to stay, especially when there are so many job openings out there at other companies that might have the missing pieces.
This isn’t all to say that every millennial feels this way, but I’m sure there are a hell of a lot more millennials who want this than there are those quitting their jobs to travel.
Any millennials out there who agree or disagree? Any bosses of millennials who would like to chime in? Feel free to comment in the section below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @HNN_Bryan.
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