Like many hiring execs, I still have an employer account with Monster.com, even though the time when they dominated the job-hunting market has passed. Nowadays, they are not even at the top of the industry leaders list. Still, we got used to them in the 17 years they've been around. And they do try their best to provide the paying clients with value-added bells and whistles beyond the standard ad posting: resume matching, database searching, description writing, HR Resource Center, and whatnot.
One of these add-ons is the email service that blasts recruitment articles to all registered users. I usually ignore these emails, but the last one had an article with an enticing title The Real Reason Millennials are Leaving Your Company.
The first thing that caught my eye was the singular "Reason." I thought, "The author was able to identify a single, most fundamental cause of what appears to be a case of chronic pins and needles in the millennial butts? That's remarkable!"
I got even more curious reading the logline. It talked about an abundance of options, "a plethora of jobs" that allow millennials to be "super selective" in their career choices. Moreover, it promised expert advice to employers on how to keep the "valuable millennials" in the work seats. I was like: This must be one of those sci-fi imagine-if humorous thingies, because these statements, if not drenched in undiluted sarcasm, can only refer to some remote planet in an unknown universe. Here on Earth, right now, most of the millennials you and I know are either unemployed, or work jobs that have nothing to do with their chosen professions (let alone vocations), or stretch their schooling to avoid facing the bleakness of the job market. I mean, there are premium cable shows and broadcast sitcoms about it.
And, "valuable millennials?" Yes, they exist, in small numbers and tiny clusters, and you ought to be very lucky to have them around. But generally speaking: the state of our arts and entertainment is a testimony of young people's value and their values. And when it comes to hiring, you need to go through 800 entry-level resumes to find 3 candidates who can write a coherent sentence, even though (I'm talking to you, senator Sanders!), all of the applicants have college degrees.
Opening the article immediately dispelled all enthusiasm. Firstly, no pinnacle reasoning was crystallized. The piece was divided into subsections addressing different causes for millennials' job mobility. Since the author is not a Canadian afflicted by the national inability to pluralize words, I can only attribute the use of the single form in the title to writing and editing sloppiness. And, of course, there was not a single whiff of alien or any other humor.
In fact, the self-branded Talent Maximizer® Roberta Matuson, who wrote the article, takes herself and her "advisory" role very seriously. In complete solemnity she lists the following as the reasons why the millennials don't want to hold on to their jobs (with my commentaries):
- Millennials want to work for companies that help to improve society. Ms. Matuson suggests that those employers who want to retain Millennial workers should "take a closer look at the organizational purpose," assess how the company's mission impacts society, and redefine its purpose.
To paraphrase Woody Allen, "What's wrong with this? Everything!"
First of all, what does the lame formula "improved society" mean? What's a "better society" for one person, is hell for another. The massive support of Bernie Sanders by young voters clearly shows that they want to live in a welfare state. I, on the other hand, have been preaching no government interference and market economy my whole life. I would understand if the focus was more specific - let's say on environmental issues. If employees of different ages boycotted the fracking industry, for example, our society would seriously benefit in the long run. But I doubt we are talking about future impact here. I'm pretty sure that if the fracking industry started providing free daily lunches to local people, the millennials would think of them as employers with a positive mission! Never mind the explosions and the fiery faucets.
And what happened to the old-fashioned purpose of being profitable, staying in business, and continuously providing jobs? It's not good enough? Do all millennials want to work for non-profits spending grants, or public companies depleting investors' pension and college funds?
- Millennials need constant external motivation: nurture, praise, repeat. A shout-out here, a lunch with a boss there, or an invite to an off-site event, Ms. Matuson suggests, will help to demonstrate that the employers care. Otherwise, the millennials will leave, because "the recession is over."
Well, this is not the first time I am confronted with the suggestion that what I call "hugging motivation" is more important to younger people than fairness, objectivity, professional growth, adequate compensation, etc. Don't get me wrong, the acknowledgement of one's achievement is incredibly important, but only if it's deserved. Constantly patting on the back some unimpressive, low-value jackass out of fear that they will leave - that would be a betrayal of my work ethics and a violation of my fiduciary duty as a CFO. Merit-based rewards, people! That's what made America great in the first place and that's what will bring the greatness back!
And here she goes again with the sci-fi twist: the recession is over! Where? In Alpha Centauri? Oh, wait - on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and in government reports. In real life, we are in the permanently recessive stage of economic decline with no prospects for upward turn. This slow sliding may feel to the uninitiated as a flat plateau, but just you wait - we are bound to experience some dramatic crashes as well.
- (Brace yourself for this one, cause contrary to the previous statement:) Compensation is important to millennials, especially if they have student loans. "If you don't pay the millennial whatever he or she thinks they are worth," they will leave.
So, no matter how much you praise them, and hug them, and take them to lunch, the old-school paycheck still matters! Except there is nothing old-school about it either. Back in the day, wages were determined by clear and tangible factors: the sophistication of the job, the level of expertise, the scarcity of QUALIFIED professionals on the market. But apparently it doesn't work like that with the generation of people who were born after The Breakfast Club and Back to the Future came out. The key to their adequate compensation is their own self-worth. We must pay them whatever they think we must pay them. And don't forget, the employers need to account for the student loans! Essentially the implication is that we have to pay them what they NEED and not what they earn. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" maybe sounds right to Sanders's supporters, but it is not the principle that lies in the American foundation. You know whose principle that is? Marxists-communists!
- Millennials require work-life balance.
Just the millennials? Is that what the article's author actually believes? That millennials should be treated preferentially when it comes to working hours, paid time-off, etc.? That there should be two different HR policies in every company, one for millennials and another for the rest of us chickens? That's age-based discrimination, isn't it?
I've always believed in the importance of work-life balance and regularly wrestle with the owners to ensure that every employee has access to the same set of benefits and perks. And what my experience shows is that the millennials take the full advantage of these packages like no one else; sometimes to the point of abuse. 90% run out of the office the minute the clock strikes the official end time, no matter what's happening with the work. Many don't even spare a few seconds to shut down their computers (yet all of them fancy themselves "environmentalists"). Just last year, I had a millennial employee who was out for 15 working days in the 5 months I tolerated her bullshit. I've never had to deal with that kind of attitude before the millennials entered the workforce.
The truth is that you don't need to be an HR expert to formulate your ideas about the reasons behind the millennials' prevalent job discontent. Any experienced manager with a keen eye and some human insight can draw up a comprehensive list. And here is mine (in no particular order):
- Many millennials, especially liberal arts majors, have a hard time defining their purpose and developing a sense of belonging at a job. This is primarily because they go to college to learn... nothing. I'm not even talking about slacking and partying. There are so many narrow-niche bullshit "liberal arts" degrees out there, most bachelor graduates acquire no practical knowledge. And it makes thinking of a career path very difficult.
- Much scarier, they are not equipped with any basic learning skills. They can neither study on their own, nor operate with minimal supervision. Not able to absorb new knowledge, they feel like failures and will eventually leave for an "easier" job.
- Turns out that the damned phone is a millennial Achilles heel. The millennials are so used to texting, tweeting, and posting, 85% of them are afraid of talking on the phone. When confronted with a job that entails constant voice-to-voice interactions, which are a plenty, they opt to quit.
- Aside from athletes and health freaks, young people nowadays live incredibly passive lives. Some people say that the abundance of streaming content is to blame, but we all know that way before YouTube (2005) and Netflix's streaming (2008), young people were already glued to their computers and game consoles. Thus, they suffer terribly on the jobs that require them to be out of the office most of the time - selling, pitching, servicing, etc. According to some HR professionals, this is one of the millennials' biggest complains.
- The bulk of this generation grew up with no discipline or structure, both at home and at school. While being a non-conformist is an invaluable quality when it comes to independent thinking and artistic expression, in a survival-driven business environment the lack of self-control, inability to follow rules of conduct, and disregard for subordination can make one's life pretty unbearable.
- They want to be hugged and cuddled all the time. Many of them crumble under pressure and cannot deal with reprimands.
- I know it sounds like a cliche at this point, but it is true - they do want trophies just for showing up, because that's what they are used to. As a result, they develop a clinical deficiency of self-motivation for achieving merit-based recognition. They shy away from competitive environments where hard work and achievement translates into tangible rewards of raises, bonuses, and promotions.
- Celebrity-saturated social media made the majority of millennials into unsettled zombies who are preoccupied with fantasies of becoming instantaneously rich and famous. I guarantee that the star-struck ones will continue moving from one job to another, feeling extremely discontent.
- The majority of the millennials are not prepared to be self-reliant. The livelihood of many a chronic quitter usually doesn't depend on their own paychecks; they expect to be continuously supported by their parents.
- And some young people, just like in every generation before them, are restless because they want to be adventurers; they are afraid that Life will pass them by. The boring job can wait; while they pursue their dreams. And, of course, sadly, most of them are confused, and don't know what they want, and don't have any ideas, or talents, or clues. But let me tell you: that is the only good reason to quit your job (assuming you can afford it). All the others are just weaknesses and incompetence.