Your best (young) employees are being poached, but not by competing companies
Most employment is based on a premise that doesn’t necessarily hold true for many of today’s Millennials. The premise? That we need the money, and if we quit this job it would only be to take another very similar job at a comparable salary.
Because of that, employers think they are primarily in competition only with other similar employers.
The employer thinks: The insurance company down the street offers casual Fridays? OK, we’ll offer casual Friday. The competing accounting firm offers four weeks paid vacation? OK, we’ll offer four weeks. The software developer offers pet insurance … OK … we’ll offer pet insurance, but damn, this competition is really escalating to dangerous levels.
A few of the Millennial employees might be stoked about these benefits. But a good portion of them are rolling their eyes.
They just don’t get it.
One of the biggest competitors for the Millennial labor pool is the unbearably seductive idea of quitting your job and traveling for a year. Or more.
Sure, lots of people want that and fantasize about that all the time, right? But unless they or their parents are filthy rich, they can’t actually afford to do that. Right?
FALSE. There are dozens of travel blogs that detail how to get by traveling all over the world for between $1,000 and $1,200 a month, and on a typical starter salary of $2,000 a month, it’s not that hard to save between $500 and $1,000 a month (unless you live in New York, D.C. or San Francisco). Give it a year or two, and bam, the Millennial in your office, who is young enough to still be on her parents’ health insurance, could be looking at a healthy bank account, and everyday might be weighing the pros and cons of quitting and living her dreams for a year.
Why is this any different from past generations? A few things. First off, there’s the often-observed Millennial mindset that prioritizes experiences over things, or even career advancement. Two, we’re inundated with travel blogs that detail how and why we should take a year off. We can’t get away from photos and stories of people doing exactly what we want to do, and making it by just fine. But most importantly, and this is what distinguishes us from our older counterparts, most of us are unshackled by the financial burden of mortgages and children, and in many instances, even car payments.
Sure, a lot of Millennials are limited by student loans. But for as much press as the mounting student debt crisis gets, it doesn’t apply to everyone. In my life, I know dozens of people who, like me, graduated college debt-free through a combination of merit-based scholarships, working through high school and college, and transferring from community college. And of course there are many parents who made it a priority to save up to pay for the entire degree. I recognize that the opportunities that lead to being able to graduate debt-free indicate a significant amount of privilege and don’t apply to everyone. But even if you’re not that lucky and you still have a $350/month payment, saving for a year of traveling is still within reach. It just takes a little longer.
Or, with options like online tutoring, online freelancing, and all of the other iterations of the growing gig economy, there are many ways to make up that $350 a month, or more, from ANYWHERE in the world.
It’s within reach for more people than even realize it. And for the ones that do, employers should take note.
As an employer, do you get what you’re up against? Thanks to the Internet, we’re faced everyday with images and videos and stories that remind us just how big the world is, and what we’re missing out on by warming a desk chair from 9 to 5. A chorus of what if, what if, what if runs like a broken record in our heads all day long.
It’s an extension of the opt-in concept that I wrote about a few weeks ago. But beyond just opting in for a particular day, it’s opting into the corporate culture at all.
Employers who want to succeed at attracting and retaining Millennials need to understand this fundamental difference in our approach to a job. For those of us without the financial burdens of a mortgage, children and student loans, our first job out of college is often seen as a tradeoff: a life of directing our own schedule and pursuing our passions, or a stable salary with opportunities for mentoring and growth.
Here’s the biggest problem. For most of us, there is no mentoring, and almostzero opportunity for growth at our current jobs, besides what we pursue on our own (through outside-of-work mentoring relationships we set up, professional societies we attend on our own time, and other opportunities that we could pursue regardless of whether we had a full-time job).
Unless you’re among the lucky few who land in a career that excites their deepest passions from the get-go, the only perk of having a job becomes having a stable salary, which, when you think about it, isn’t really a good reason to sacrifice your dreams.
Instead, employers need to figure out how to eliminate the tradeoff and offer all four of the crucial ingredients of a fulfilling job (for any person of any age):
- Direct their own schedule, with an option of working remotely for more than half of the time;
- Pursue their passions;
- Work with people who mentor, coach and inspire them to grow to be a better person and a better employee; and
- Receive a stable, livable income.
Forget about open office design and fancy benefits. I would happily take a job in a dirty, smelly warehouse (by the way, most warehouses and factories these days are neither dirty nor smelly) or the most drab cube farm with minimal vacation and benefits if those four factors were met. Granted, the flexible schedule would mean I wouldn’t have to spend all of my time in said smelly/drab warehouse/cube farm.
I’ve heard disparaging comments about my generation being lazy for sometimes settling for less-than-full-time jobs that pay below their maximum earning potential. The critics assume that those people represent a completely different labor pool — the underachiever labor pool, who could never succeed in a professional, full-time setting.
But laziness in any form is just acting from a different set of priorities. And if you assume that making money chained to a desk while life and youth slips away is the number one priority of all your employees, then you will miss opportunities to engage them on another level.
It doesn’t help that any time we bring up the idea of ‘taking a year off to travel’ to our older mentors, they say, “Do it! You’ll never regret something like that. If only I had had the financial freedom to do that…”
Maybe the employer thinks, “If they choose to leave, there are a dozen equally qualified Millennials lining up to take their place.” But how do you know they won’t leave for the same reason as the first employee?
The point of all this is that as an employer, competing against ‘world traveling freedom’ is not an unwinnable contest. Quitting a job to travel the world takes disciplined saving and guts to pull off, and many of us love the stability of living in one place long term, especially if we have family and friends in that area. But knowing that’s on the minds of many of your employees should raise the stakes of the competition for talent far beyond just what’s going on in another office a mile down the road.
Olivia Barrow covers manufacturing, travel and tourism for the Milwaukee Business Journal, and blogs on LinkedIn about life as a young journalist in a rapidly changing media landscape. Follow her personal blog for all career posts, along with posts on fitness and sexuality.
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503