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Your Younger Employees Can Be Bought, Cheap

by Chris Poindexter

To twist a phrase by Yogi Berra, the younger generation ain’t what it used to be. This is significant because young people, age 16-21, are entering the workforce in increasing numbers. If that person behind the desk looks like a kid, that’s because he or she probably is. They’re already a consumer force, surpassing both Gen X and Baby Boomers in terms of spending. Employers should be aware that the younger generation is bringing in its own set of workplace ethics and expectations.

Perhaps ironically the younger generation sees their older coworkers, including their managers, as entitled and finicky and they have a very narrow definition of loyalty.

Can Be Bought Cheap

According to a survey by marketing agency Moosylvania, almost forty percent of millennials would jump ship for a $1,000 raise, which translates to just fifty cents an hour. They would leave their current job for the fifty cent raise, even if they felt their current job was a good fit. Another twenty eight percent would bail for a $5,000 raise, roughly $2.50 an hour, and $10,000 would net another quarter. Only three percent would keep their current job.

Loyalty? What’s that?

Business has brought this change upon itself. Ever since the 1980s corporate lobbyists and attorneys have slaved away in the halls of Congress and the courts to chip away at anything remotely resembling loyalty or responsibility to employees. Americans can work faithfully for the same company for decades only to get tossed out on the street just short of retirement with nothing. Many of the younger generation saw that happen to their parents and, through the magic of the internet, everyone else heard about it via social media and YouTube. So, now that the economy is approaching statistical full employment, current employees think nothing of jumping ship for a better job. The price of employee loyalty these days is, literally, pocket change.

Their Connected World

The younger generation is also putting more of their lives online. Fitness monitors track their every move and they’re posting the most intimate details of their lives for all to see. They’re using social media resources to network, compare salaries, save money and ask for advice about career moves and how to deal with coworkers. Young people today have a vast world of knowledge at their fingertips in the form of their phone and they’re using it to make life better (and look at cat pictures). More than any generation before them, they know their value in the workforce and have grown up in a world where the idea of sticking with any job is as quaint as reruns of Leave It To Beaver.

Deal With It

For employers it’s going to be a difficult mental transition. Workers ages 18-34 now account for the largest segment of the U.S. labor market. Learning how to attract and retain that younger demographic, who statistically change jobs every five years, is an ongoing challenge. They’re not going to function well in a traditional top down environment, younger workers want more autonomy. That’s a transition that’s going to be difficult for employers steeped in tradition, like the U.S. military.

Other qualities young people are looking for are honesty and constructive feedback. This is not the “everybody gets a trophy” generation, they grew up in the midst of one of the worst economic catastrophes in recent memory. Some of them were kids when they got torn from their lives and schools when the bank foreclosed on their home. They can deal with turbulence and they don’t trust anyone but themselves for support. So place a value on relationships, be honest and constructive and have a little fun whenever you can. Run an old style, top-down business focused on the bottom line and you can look forward to watching competitors pick off your best workers for a song.

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