Millennials Survey: 70% Say They May Change Jobs When Economy Improves

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The recession and slow economic recovery has had an effect on a great many workers, but here’s a new research study by SBR Consulting that shows the impact on one specific group — the Millennial Generation, sometimes known as Gen. Y.

Titled Millennial Generation Today: Impact of the economic environment on recruitment, retention, and engagement, the goal of the study “aims to determine how this generation feels about working in Corporate America, future employment decisions, what’s important about work and their future. Much has been said about this generation in the past five to 10 years, but has the recession and slow recovery changed their thoughts, perceptions and behaviors in regard to work?”

That’s a great question — and here are some of the highlights of what the research found:

  • Some 70 percent of Millennials say there is a possibility they will change jobs once the economy improves. We have entered a “flight pattern” of workers wanting to find new employment opportunities, and women are more likely to consider leaving for a new job than men are.
  • Nearly two in five Millennials (37 percent) say they do not trust big businesses. Consider the implications for attraction and retention of employees and customers. This will impact businesses as the economy improves and they court this generation to work for them and buy their stuff. But, this finding could work in favor of small to medium size businesses.
  • Compensation, a flexible work schedule, and an opportunity to make a difference are the top three priorities or needs that are most important to this generation.
  • Millennials recognize the high cost of higher education, and about two-thirds are graduating with debt at an average debt load of more than $20,000.
  • Despite the current economy, 70 percent are positive about their future in general.
  • Entreprenuerism has not hit a tipping point with this generation as only 9 percent say they plan to open a business within the next five years.

Some 36% “definitely or probably” jump

I was particularly interested in the finding that 70 percent of Millennials are considering changing jobs when the economy improves. It’s hard to figure out just how much better the economy needs to get before that happens, but the SBR Consulting survey is quick to point out that when it comes to the possibility of changing jobs, “the Millennials feel the same way as other generations in the workforce and in-line with other surveys.

Yes, 70 percent of Millennials “say there is a possibility they will change jobs once the economy improves,” but a much smaller number (36 percent) say they definitely or probably will jump to a new job. Smaller number or not, even that 36 percent that figure can’t be encouraging to employers.

Another finding in the survey that jumped out at me centered around the reasons why Millennials might be looking to change jobs. Here’s what the survey said about that:

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While it is well documented that as employees consider leaving due to low morale, stress, and an overwhelming workload, our survey found other factors in play with this generation. Thirty-eight percent agreed that if they left the company it would be because of the position or job they do. This is followed by 26% who agree the company itself would be the reason why they would leave and 22% agree their boss would be the reason why.

Seventy-three percent of women versus 67% of men say there is a possibility they will change jobs once the economy improves. There is some difference between the men and women in this study regarding how they feel about their jobs, which may have an influence on their reasons for changing jobs. Women are more likely than men (77% versus 68%, respectively) to believe that hard work improves one’s changes of promotion or moving ahead. Whereas, men more than women say that if they left their company it would be because of the company (29% versus 23%) or the boss (25% versus 21%). They both attribute the position similarly as a potential reason for leaving a company (38% each).”

Interesting survey methodology

I’m not surprised at this survey finding that job satisfaction (or lack thereof) is the biggest reason for Millennials to consider leaving for a new job, because we know from previous surveys that this generation considers job satisfaction to be very important. Plus, they probably aren’t as willing as other generations — such as the Baby Boomers — to simply be happy to have a job and be employed. They may get to that stage later on in life, but most of them don’t have the depth of work experiences to feel that way now.

There’s a lot more to chew on in the Millennial Generation Today survey, and I recommend you spend some time with it if you want some greater insight into just what your youngest workers are thinking. And one more thing: even the survey methodology — that is, who the survey participants are — is interesting.

A total of 1,147 Millennials born between 1980 and 1989 participated in the online survey. The survey data was collected February 1 through March 4 and March 13 through April 5, 2011. Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for results based on total sample.

Sixty-one percent of survey participants were female versus 39% male. The majority had completed higher education with 55% having a bachelor’s degree, master’s or Ph.D. Sixty-seven percent are employed full- or part-time, 15% are back in school and 18% are currently unemployed. Most are in the early stages of their careers with 38% saying they’re in entry-level jobs and 43% in mid-level jobs. Average income among Millennials in this study is $53,303. Sixty-two percent are single, 16% are married, 16% married with children and 7% single with children.”

Wow; that’s quite a snapshot of this generation, and it mirrors the point that  SBR Consulting and chief consultant Stacey Randall makes in the study’s conclusion:

Research like this is important because companies should continue to be aware of the changes, whether subtle or seismic, that affect the Millennials’ thoughts, perceptions and opinions of our world today, including work. They’re approximately 80-million strong, larger than the Baby Boomer generation and make up a considerable size of the workforce…and only growing. It is projected by 2014 the Millennial generation will make up nearly half of the workforce … Are you ready? is your company?”

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.