As millennials grew into the largest generation in the workforce over the past few years, we’ve been treated to a deluge of breathless media coverage about how uniquely difficult they were to deal with and how they were ruining everything. From chain restaurants to jewelry, along with job loyalty and the 9-to-5 workday, the list of American institutions millennials are charged with killing is nearly endless. Meanwhile, business leaders have wrestled with the seemingly vast complexities their entry to the workforce has created. Most of the work-related challenges have proven to be more myth than truth, as our research at CEB (now Gartner) has found, along with other investigations by the Economist and the Pew Research Center, but the conventional wisdom endures that millennials are entitled, need constant hand-holding, and are therefore unusually hard to manage.
It appears the newest generation entering the workforce, Generation Z, is being similarly prejudged, according a recent survey of managers profiled by SHRM’s Dana Wilkie. In it, 36 percent of managers said they believed that Generation Z would be more difficult to manage than previous generations, while 29 percent believe it will be more difficult to train employees from Generation Z, 26 percent say it will be more difficult to communicate with the newest generation, and even 20 percent of millennial managers believe Generation Z represents a threat to company culture.
“There is a tendency and expectation of instantaneous gratification,” said Jeff Corbin, CEO of APPrise Mobile, the employee communications company which conducted the study. “They want the answers now. They are all about tweets and short responses. As a result, many Gen Zers are going to be too quick to respond rather than deliberate and thoughtful. … [T]he concept of professionalism, formality and quality in communications may be a foreign one to many in Gen Z, which could be problematic to older generations.”
It never hurts to be reminded that not everything you hear about millennials is true: In fact, most stereotypes about this generation turn out to be incorrect. Looking at US and European labor market data, the Economist is the latest to realize that in the US at least, millennials aren’t doing much job-hopping after all:
Data from America’s Bureau of Labour Statistics show workers aged 25 and over now spend a median of 5.1 years with their employers, slightly more than in 1983 (see chart). Job tenure has declined for the lower end of that age group, but only slightly. Men between the ages of 25 and 34 now spend a median of 2.9 years with each employer, down from 3.2 years in 1983.
This finding is old news to readers of Talent Daily or our research at CEB, now Gartner: A Pew study debunked the millennial job-hopper based on Labor Department data earlier this year, whereas a Namely survey released this summer found that tenures were shortening, but that older employees were job-hopping as much as millennials were.
What our research has found is that millennials do value a range of experiences early in their careers, but don’t necessarily feel the need to change jobs as long as they are getting that range of experiences and building that range of skills with one employer. As such, they value employers with significant internal mobility and internal labor markets, and if they are hopping from one organization to another, it’s because the first organization wasn’t meeting their needs in terms of learning and growth opportunities. This is one of several millennial myths we busted in our research back in 2014.
In its 2017 Young Workers Index, PwC surveyed the economies of the 35 OECD member countries, creating an indexed ranking of the countries’ expected productivity from younger workers. Switzerland, Iceland, and Germany, were the top three, while the US finished 12th and the UK landed in 18th: both moved up two spots from last year’s rankings.
Germany’s result is probably the most impressive given that it also has the fourth-highest GDP in the world. The US has the world’s largest GDP while the UK is fifth in the measure of economic productivity. France, which stands sixth in GDP, was ranked 29th in the Young Workers Index while Canada, with the world’s 10th-largest GDP, was ranked sixth.
The study also looked into the effects automation will have on job prospects for workers in this age cohort. It found that 39 percent of jobs for US workers aged 15-24 are at risk of being lost to automation, compared to 24 percent in Japan, 28 percent in the UK, and 38 percent in Germany.
One of the metrics tracked in the Young Workers Index, the NEET (not in education, employment or training) rate, is identified as a key metric for overcoming the risks of automation and driving growth. The study claims that if all 35 of the OECD countries lowered their NEET to that of Germany (9.3 percent), it would lead to $1.2 trillion in GDP growth. For the United States, it predicts a $428 billion, or 2.2 percent, rise in GDP by lowering NEET from 15.8 percent down to Germany’s level.
The annual Freelancing in America survey, released this week by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, paints a picture of a freelance workforce that is growing much faster than the US workforce in general. The report estimates the total number of US freelancers today at 57.3 million, or 36 percent of the total American workforce. That number has grown more than three times faster than the overall workforce in the past three years, and if this rate of change holds, freelancers are projected to compose a majority of the US workforce by 2027. Millennials are leading the trend in this direction, with 47 percent of millennial workers saying they freelanced.
The survey of over 6,000 US adults also finds that freelancers are doing better than their traditionally employed peers at preparing themselves for their professional futures: 55 percent of freelancers said they had engaged in some kind of re-skilling activity in the past six months, compared to 30 percent of regular workers. In general, 65 percent of freelancers said they were updating their skills as work evolved, while just 45 percent of others said so.
Freelancers are also feeling the impact of technological change more acutely, with 49 percent saying their work had already been affected by AI and robotics, against just 18 percent of full-time employees. At the same time, technology is also bringing them more work, with 71 percent saying the amount of work they had found online had increased in the past year.
Another interesting finding is that while many people lump freelancers in with the gig economy, freelancers don’t: Only 10 percent of freelancers in the survey said they considered themselves a part of that economy. Indeed, we’ve seen from other research that the gig economy, properly speaking—meaning workers who make a living through platforms like Uber—is just one component of the new trend toward contingent and temporary employment in the US labor market. Fast Company’s Ruth Reader considers why freelancers might be rejecting the “gig economy” label:
It wasn’t long ago that trend spotters were declaring the suburban office park of late-20th-century fame dead and gone. With talent, especially millennial talent, more concentrated in urban centers and less willing to move out of them for job opportunities, suburban corporate campuses are increasingly considered obsolete. This trend was reflected in some high-profile relocations of corporate headquarters last year, such as GE’s move from Fairfield, Connecticut to downtown Boston and McDonald’s move from Oak Brook, Illinois, to central Chicago.
But don’t write off the suburbs just yet, Patrick Clark and Rebecca Greenfield write for Bloomberg. As those millennials get older and look to settle down and start families, jobs in the suburbs are becoming cool again—as long as they maintain some of what this generation values most about city life, like walkability and public transit:
Fresh college graduates might be attracted to downtown bars and carless commutes, but these days, for older millennials starting families and taking out mortgages, a job in the suburbs has its own appeal. “What people find is that the city offers a high quality of life at the income extremes,” says Lamphere, who is chief executive of Van Vlissingen & Co., a real-estate developer based in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, Ill. “The city is a difficult place for the average working family.”
In the wake of the Great Recession, young professionals migrated to Washington, DC and its surrounding suburbs in large numbers, attracted by a growing tech scene and the relative stability of a local economy anchored by the federal government. But now that job growth has picked up again in the rest of the country, many of the millennials who led DC’s transformation over the past decade are moving away, eschewing the capital’s high living costs for opportunities in more affordable cities, Aaron Gregg reported at the Washington Post on Saturday:
A new analysis by George Mason University researchers finds that, among those already in the United States, more people are leaving the region than arriving for the first time since the Great Recession. Millennial deserters — ages 20 to 29 — are one factor. But another big one is baby boomers leaving to begin retirement life elsewhere. Families and the unemployed are also going. …
The current exodus could complicate efforts to diversify the region’s mix of business and wean it off its dependence on the federal government. In recent years, Washington has persuaded large corporations like Nestle and Yelp to set up offices here, and local leaders are now mobilizing to lure Amazon.com’s second headquarters here.
We’ve heard of McDonald’s using Snapchat to target its recruiting efforts at young people, but other employers are turning to the youth-focused platform to recruit millennials and members of generation Z as well, including some major investment banks. Ellen Chang at The Street recently highlighted Morgan Stanley’s new Snapchat-based campus recruiting initiative:
Morgan Stanley launched its campaign with Snapchat earlier in 2016 in an effort to attract college students, and geofilters were created this summer for its analysts and associates. “We have to be where the students are,” said Lisa Manganello, head of integrated brand marketing at Morgan Stanley. “We want to build on the momentum and leverage and it fits naturally with student behaviors.” …
The bank could expand the geofilters to include other colleges across the U.S. if this initial program is successful to help them garner a broader and more diverse group of future investment bankers, Manganello said.
Other banks like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have experimented with advertising jobs on Snapchat as well. ERE‘s recruiting tech blogger Joel Cheesman thinks it’s a great idea:
Highbrow companies who dismiss Snapchat as a medium for greasy burgers and salty fries should now take notice. Snapchat is making strides to becoming a legitimate advertising platform. Need more proof? In addition to Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan actually started testing Snapchat as a recruiting tool last year.
The argument for using Snapchat as a platform for recruiting appears to hinge on the concept of meeting that their target audience in the digital space where they already are. I’m skeptical of the hype about these efforts to raise brand awareness, however, mainly because if big investment banks like Morgan Stanley are no longer competing just with each other for top talent, but with tech companies and startups as well, there is little evidence that simply being in the same digital space as their target audience has much impact on attracting talent or raising the quality of their applicant pool.