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Kendra Elaine

A general negative connotation surrounds the topic of millennials. Whether it be the stereotype of being entitled, lazy and narcissistic or their propensity for quitting jobs, millennials have become a prevalent topic – rightfully so, with their being the largest generation in the nation’s workforce. (According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017 millennials made up 35 percent of American workers.)

While various generations have more commonalities than we might think, our differences cause conflict, like differences in upbringing, technology, culture and economy. Baby boomers and members of Generation X commonly complain, “I just don’t understand millennials.”

Recently a business owner at a coffee shop discussed millennials with me. He shared his biggest issue: He couldn’t get them motivated to work. As I shared contrasting insights, his face and entire demeanor changed when I said older generations must change how they engage millennials.

We starred at each other for a second before he put his coffee down and made this retort: “That’s interesting that you said we have to change. Don’t you mean they have to change?”

I couldn’t help chuckling on detecting his not-so-subtle underlying question: “Who do you millennials think you are?” As he resumed sipping his coffee, it soon became clear why millennials are characterized as entitled. The consensus of frustration seems to come from millennials’ failure to accept the status quo; instead of joining the workforce and accepting what’s deemed professional and standard, millennials are demanding change.

Although millennials have much to learn and most are eager to do so, to facilitate that learning, our older co-workers, managers and companies must change, too. Why? Because millennials are more likely to quit their jobs in protest of and frustration with their vocational environment.

In a survey of perceptions of employment opportunities conducted by the Job Application Center, 41 percent of millennials indicated they expect to be in their current job for less than two years. According to Gallup studies, 21 percent of millennials have changed jobs within the past year, three times that of non-millennials. Such studies also indicate that millennial turnover costs the domestic economy $30.5 billion annually. A Merrill Lynch study predicts these job-jumping millennials will make up 46 percent of the workforce by 2020. And that’s why companies must adapt to the generational change.

The good news? Adapting isn’t as hard as it may seem. Business owners and managers oughtn’t believe the snark that accommodating millennials demands remodeling the office and taking out a small loan for endless snacks. Retaining millennial talent starts with understanding millennials – why they do what they do and what motivates them. Once that happens, business leaders can begin to strategically align their operations not only to attract high-performing millennials but also to retain them.

Kendra Elaine, an accomplished millennial graduate of MICDS, uses her 10 years of corporate work experience to help organizations understand, attract and retain millennials. Contact her at kendra@kendraelaine.com.