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Millennials: The Grand Enigma
Commentary by Desirée Patno
Millennials are an enigma constantly challenging the behaviors of previous generations. Currently the largest population sector—overtaking baby boomers in 2016, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates—millennials' role in the workforce is imperative, and understanding what these young Americans seek is germane to recruiting and retaining them in the workforce.

One view of the millennial generation, supported by research, is that they move often and job-hop with frequency. According to a 2016 Gallup study, "Millennials: The Job-Hopping Generation," six in 10 millennials are open to new job opportunities, remaining the least-engaged generation in the workplace.

The report also found that 21 percent of millennials changed jobs in the past year, and only 50 percent expect to be working at their current company one year from now.

However, data also show that millennials aren't moving or trading jobs as much as previous generations. Recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) data show that millennials are just as probable as Gen Xers to remain at their companies:
  • In January 2016, 63.4 percent of working millennials had worked for their current employer at least 13 months.
  • In February 2000, 59.9 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds, most of whom comprise today's Gen X, reported comparable job tenure.
  • Twenty-two percent of millennial workers had worked at the same company for at least five years as of 2016, compared to 21.8 percent of Gen X workers in 2000.
Pew Research Center data reveal that millennials aren't moving at the same rate as previous generations. In 2016, only 20 percent of millennials reported living at a different address one year prior. This is a significantly lower percentage than that reported by members of the Silent Generation (26 percent) in 1963 and Gen X (26 percent) in 2000.

How do you retain millennials? According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey:
  • Millennials receive a greater feeling of influence from opportunities to work with "good causes," which are often offered by employers.
  • Millennials do not support leaders who "take divisive positions, or aim for radical transformation rather than gradual change."
  • Flexibility in working arrangements is connected to improved performance and employee retention. Millennials at companies with flexibility reported that it supported greater productivity and employee engagement while contributing to their health, happiness and well-being.
The needs of America's young workers have shifted over the years. While millennials want some of the same aspects as past generations, they're especially searching to feel rewarded and considered.

This poses challenges to workforce norms, as things like greater flexibility—possibly regarded in the past as an opportunity for workers to take it easy—have resulted in better performance and productivity.

Generations of Americans are changing; in order to retain them, the workplace has to develop  accordingly.

Desirée Patno is president and CEO of the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB). For more information, please visit www.nawrb.com.

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