The prevailing stereotype to many employers is that Gen Y are a bunch of job hoppers, and therefore training them in any significant way is likely a waste of time and money. In a few months, they’ll just take those skills you worked so hard to teach them down the road to your competitors.
But at least a few experts (and some statistics out of the BLS) disagree with this popular narrative of fickle young employees. In this alternative story, Gen Y are less froggy types who can never be expected to rein in their innate tendency to hop and more like feral cats – care for them well with training and you’ll be surprised how quickly they’re domesticated.
Need an example of this more optimistic view of Gen Y? Look no further than the usually less-than-cutting-edge accounting stalwart Deloitte, which deputized Stan Smith its Director of Next Generation Initiatives and charged him with attracting and retaining Gen Y. After studying what 20-somethings want out of work and the underlying reasons for their frequent career changes, Smith produced a report that suggested Gen Y’s job-hopping nature was not immutable. Time magazine summarized his work:
Convince them it's OK to stay
"His research reveals that job hopping is not an end in itself but something young workers do when they see no other choice. 'People would rather stay at one company and grow, but they don't think they can do that,' he says. 'Two-thirds of the people who left Deloitte left to do something they could have done with us, but we made it difficult for them to transition.' So Smith… created programs at Deloitte that focus on helping people figure out their next career move. Smith is betting that in many cases, the best place for a restless young person is simply another spot in Deloitte. This saves the company the $150,000 cost of losing an employee."
And Smith is not alone in his belief that expecting loyalty to precede investment in an employee is putting the cart before the horse. Robert Barnard, CEO of youth-focused consultancy Decode, agrees. In an interview, he also noted that young people don’t actually want to job-hop and suggests that much of the blame for their short tenure at many jobs actually rests with the employer:
Don't play to the stereotype
"Gen Y become job hoppers over time but a majority actually start with the intention of finding and staying at a great workplace. There is a big difference between the whether they think they WILL have multiple jobs/careers and whether they WANT to be job hoppers. They are actually seeking stability, but sadly employers likely start with an impression that this group will be disloyal and therefore a big investment would be unwise. I believe this lack of investment in the early stage of employment causes Gen Y to start looking as they gain some experience. If employers started with a better impression they might be able to maintain that inherent loyalty."
Overcome your prejudices and hand out a few nibbles of training and skittish Gen Y just might grow sleek, loyal and contented. Do you agree?
London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for BNET.com.