Millennials: why job turnover is no longer taboo

I recently attended a conference where a speaker attempted to approach the topic of hiring and retaining millennials as employees. While he meant well, I couldn't help but raise my hand and interject. He just wasn't getting it.


Traditional ways of retaining employees are not going to work on the new generation entering the workforce. Just as we have changed all the other rules, we are changing this one too.


When my employer sat me down to offer me a job, they slowly and specifically went over a phenomenal list of perks and benefits, including an excellent salary. Both of them assured me that turnover was non-existent in their business because the benefits were so good. While this was all very accurate and very flattering, it hardly got my heartbeat up. I think the two men looked at me like I was crazy when I swatted away their list of benefits and asked how much vacation time I'd be allowed.


My piers had the same reaction when I raised my hand at the conference and explained how salary and benefits mean much less to millennials than they do to our older counterparts.


While a 401(k) and insurance is very, very pleasing, it just doesn't do much to reach the heart and soul of a millennial.


Let's go back to what makes my generation tick.


  1. We want to feel a strong sense of purpose and we crave authentic experience more than stability and routine.

  2. We also have a very strong sense of priority. We've seen the generations before us put work above all else and that's not our goal. We believe in family first followed by amazing memories. That translates into time-off for both of those things and an understanding employer who can give us slack when an issue at home needs to be handled during work hours. These are the things that millennials value.

  3. We are the most educated generation and we are constantly striving to improve ourselves both personally and professionally. Things like professional development and continued learning on the job are very valuable to millennials.


(For further information on what makes millennials tick read: priorities.)


Now that I've explained what millennials want in a job setting, let me explain to you that turnover is still likely to happen.


Yup, you need to adapt your company to the changing desires of millennials, but you also need to be okay with the fact that we likely won't be working for you in another five years. When this happens, try not to take it personally. Turnover is no longer the taboo it has been in the past. Millennials can be head-over-heals in love with a job, yet they will still leave in order to broaden their experience or learn a new skill. While each individual situation is unique, here are a few reasons why I can guarantee that millennials will job hop despite your best efforts.


  1. We don't trust anyone. In 2008 my generation was in our teens. We watched the stock market crash. Our parents lost jobs. The banks were identified as scam-artists and the government was in on it too.

    This event shaped the worldview of millennials. Why should we trust the bank or the government or our employers when 83% of us believe another recession will happen in our lifetime?* It is for that reason that millennials are very independent of their personal development and financial wellness.

  2. We believe in the side-hustle. Millennials remember life without the internet, but we have also had a front row seat as the internet has evolved and as it continues to involve. Our piers are making thousands of dollars a year in side-hustle alone. Uber, Etsy, AirBnb and dozens of independent sales businesses such as MaryKay, Rodan+Fields and ItWorks have helped make millennials the masters of side-gigs. Again, this feeds back into our belief that we must be financially independent.

  3. Many of us grew up thinking one job for life wasn't for us. I remember telling my mother in high school that I just didn't see myself staying put at one job for the majority of my life. Again, we've been exposed to the unending knowledge of the internet. That means we are mores exposed to new ideas and we are also more exposed to courses and classes that make it easy for us to master new ideas. This has never been an option in the past. Brick and mortar education isn't the only option anymore.

  4. Experience trumps all. Millennials believe in meaningful experience. If that means quitting our job to travel the world or start a business or try a new career field, then by-golly that's what we're going to do. Raised on attaboy's and gold stars, we believe we can do anything and we know that regrets are very real for the generations before us, and that's something we don't want to have. While our job satisfaction may be high, we just don't want to miss out on a life-shaping experience.


It may be tempting to feel disappointed in yourself or your company when a millennials resigns from a position. Even though you provided plenty of volunteer opportunities, paid time off and gluten-free office snacks, they still chose to leave.

It is important to remember the old break-up cliché. “It's not you, it's me.” This is the same reason why millennials are often labeled as selfish, but the truth is, we just have strong priorities and a sense of purpose. As an employer, you must try to be understanding and encouraging as we enter in to a new journey towards these priorities and purpose.


Think of it as if your company is a helicopter parent, throwing out monetary gains and candy and love, trying to make their adult child stay at home. While all the praise and reward is nice, the adult child still needs to leave the next in pursuit of purpose and meaning. That child still loves you and appreciates all you did and continue to do for him, but he has to be true to hisself and his calling above all else. Surely you can be an understanding parent right?


It is also important to focus on the positive aspects of job turnover. Turnover isn't taboo, remember! Yes, there are positive aspects.


New faces means new ideas. I'm sure everyone has been in contact with a business full of comfortable faces who haven't changed a thing in years and don't care to change anything. While this is comfortable, it isn't innovative and it can cause a business to go stale in contrast with the ever-changing times. New employees will always bring something new to the table by way of past experience and perspective.


Be open to the new ideas and new employees that help create an ever-changing work environment. Change keeps you young and helps your mind's sharpness and creativity. Embrace it, rather than fight it and your business while love you for it.