Millennials have a growing reputation in the HR universe as serial job hoppers. Recent studies say the phenomenon isn’t actually limited to the young, but true or not, employers’ belief that their 20-something employees are liable to jump ship in a matter of months has significant effects. For one, it limits their willingness to shell out for training.
Lance Haun, an HR pro who blogs at Rehaul.com, explains the implications of this attitude towards young workers in a thought-provoking post entitled If Gen Y Gets Their Way, Training Goes The Way of the 8-Track.
"College education doesn’t adequately prepare most people for their job. Many other people aren’t even following their degree into a corresponding position. So where are people learning transferable, mobile skills? On the job, at some company sponsored training (internal or external) or on their own time.
"In the mobile world of job hopping hoping though, don’t expect those first two to be around much longer. If you want to move around to five jobs in two years, you’re going to be paying for any of your training in the near future.
"Say goodbye to that entry-level position with upward advancement. Unless the training is incredibly superficial, employers will want mercenary employees to have the skills necessary to perform the job today. Struggling internal development and promotion programs will be seeing more of their budget going into recruiting as the cost of turnover is fully realized."
Haun makes a convincing case that job hopping is hurting employee development, but the next generation of employees will have to get trained eventually (and not everyone can bear the cost of additional self-education on top of the hefty price tag for college), so what’s the solution to this problem?
Of all places, Suzanne Tindal at ZDNet is looking to the Tasmanian police for inspiration. Tindal reports that the police force on the Australian island are locking in recruits with a ten-year contract before training them to investigate complex cyber-crime. The idea of tying down supposedly flighty Gen Y with contracts appeals to Tindal:
Companies and governments are tearing their hair out about employees who learn the rudiments of a job, then let themselves be poached by another more desperate company that's willing to pay more….
I think enforced loyalty in the form of contracts may be necessary. It allows companies to take a punt on a keen, bright yet untrained person without losing out. For the employee, it allows them to change their direction into an occupation they really want so that they don't have to just take a job for which they have the know-how.
Does Haun agree that contracts are a feasible solution? We asked him:
Ten years is a long time, not just for Gen Y, but for anyone. It seems like a more reasonable term of time would be one to four years where companies could recoup costs and it would be more like a hands-on trade school than a prison sentence. For companies with more advanced needs, you could re-sign them for another term to become a specialist in an area.
Could that work for Gen Y? Sure, there are still Millennial's signing up for the army, Peace Corp or rotational programs with time commitments. If it became the norm like college has become (or better yet, an alternative), I could see it working.
Do you think contracts could be the solution to Gen Y’s training woes?
London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for BNET.com.