Why Millennials Are Leaving "Great Opportunities"

Boomers often complain that Millennials don’t know a good thing when they see one.

When I started my career, one CEO told me, if you found yourself in a good company with great opportunities, you stayed with them. I’ve been with this company for 20 years.

That company had a pretty high turnover rate for Millennial employees. On average, they were only sticking around for about 2 years.

That’s disgraceful, the CEO said. We do all the work to train them, and then they head off somewhere else.

Millennials Don’t Have a Blind Spot

The theory behind complaints like these is that Millennials are inherently less capable of seeing the potential in an opportunity. Boomers could see it; Millennials can’t.

How likely is that, really?

How likely is an entire generation that thinks “Career opportunity? I don’t care about that at all”?

Not very, is it. Millennials want to buy houses, have children, and settle into adult lives just like every generation before them. They’re not indifferent to career opportunities that would help them achieve that level of stability and growth.

In fact, they’d probably love opportunities that would help them build toward those goals.

Here’s what’s more likely: the opportunities this generation is looking for are different than the opportunities previous generations were looking for.

And since older generations like Boomers and Gen-Xers are the ones deciding what opportunities should be prioritized in their organizations, they’re not playing up the opportunities that Millennials think are worthwhile.

What Opportunities Are Worth Sacrificing For?

As we’ve covered previously, Millennials are getting paid 20% less than previous generations – and they’re actually producing more value for the company.

If you’re going to retain that valuable group of employees and reduce expensive turnover, you’ll want to be sure they love your workplace so much they wouldn’t dream of leaving it.

You do that by providing opportunities they can’t find elsewhere.

What opportunities do Millennials think are worth sticking around for?

The biggest one is opportunity for career advancement.

Millennials are more likely than previous generations to seek management positions, and they’re willing to develop the experience to be good at the job.

Millennials are in agreement with other generations that an employee should have at least 5 years of experience before taking a management position. So while they’re aspiring to become managers, they don’t expect the position to be handed to them.

What they do expect is a clear path to that goal.

What Does Career Advancement Opportunity Look Like?

Millennials aren’t believers in the idea that if you stick around long enough, you’ll be given an opportunity. They believe in making their own luck – and one of the ways they do that is by looking for the ways other employees have advanced in your company.

If it looks like other employees have advanced through seniority, luck, or favor, Millennials aren’t likely to stick around.

On the other hand, if a company invests in skill training sessions, career development one-on-one meetings with their employees, and other education, Millennials can see a clear path to a goal.

They’re willing to put in the work to make sure they have the skills you need them to have.

What they aren’t willing to do is work for five years in the hopes that someone will decide they’re “management material.”

What’s the Big Takeaway?

Want to avoid turnover and get the absolute most out of your Millennial employees? Create a clear path for career advancement, and make sure they know about it.

You don’t have to make the path easy. Make it realistic. List every requirement you have for a manager – good people skills, project management, leadership, organization – and make sure your employees have opportunities to develop those skills with your company.

When Millennials can see a clear path forward in your organization, they’re much less likely to hop to another, murkier path at a different company. That enhanced skill set will make them much more valuable to you, too – before and after they take on more responsibility.

Paige Cornetet