Millennials: Loyal or Fickle?

Are members of Gen Y the perennial job hoppers they are often portrayed as, or are they looking for more stable, long-term employment at a company? That seems to be the question du jour, as conflicting stats continue to circulate.

First, there’s the 2011 Mercer Workplace Survey , which showed that U.S. employees between ages 18 and 34 are increasingly fearful of being let go over the next year. It doesn’t seem to me like a terribly surprising finding that nearly half (48 percent) of respondents were fearful of losing their jobs, given the volatile nature of the economy and threats of Europe’s debt crises plunging the U.S. in another recession.

Think about it: A good chunk of Gen Y has entered the workforce during or after the start of the recession, so they are accustomed to seeing its effects firsthand — colleagues’ desks being cleared out with not so much as a notice or a chance to say goodbye. Is it any wonder they appear pessimistic, even if layoffs in their industry have dwindled or ceased?

Then again, a recent Wall Street Journal article revealed that employees under age 30 were actually most satisfied when it came to job security — that’s according to results of an online survey of 1,100-plus U.S. respondents.

These are seemingly contradictory stats, and it leads me to wonder if the discrepancy could be chalked up to a difference in mindset when it comes to this generation. For instance, millennials with wandering eyes looking for greener pastures probably wouldn’t list job security as a concern if they have no intention to stick around for long. Consider that a whopping 70 percent of millennials are toying with the idea of switching jobs when the economy improves, according to an SBR Consulting survey in June 2011 of 1,100-plus millennials.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? For one, it would behoove leaders to come to the realization that millennials don’t pick up and leave without reason just because they feel like it. If your company provides these individuals with meaningful work and career-advancing opportunities and creates an environment where they can contribute and thrive, it will give them less reason to take their talents elsewhere. Myriad studies have shown millennials aren’t as concerned with salary as their older peers, so there’s no reason the fluctuating economy should be an excuse to overlook this group.