Millennials change jobs more than any other generation.
A study conducted by Price Water House Cooper stated that 54% of millennials expect to have 2-5 employers in their lifetime, with a quarter believing that they would have more than six. The reason isn’t because we’re getting fired from jobs, in fact it’s quite the contrary. Millennials willingly choose to uproot themselves when they feel stuck in unfulfilling roles. Why is fulfillment more important than stability to our generation? How does fulfillment stack up against other motivational work factors?
To start to question we must first look at other factors motivating millennials in the workplace. One of the most famous arguments around worker motivation is the Two Factor Theory, proposed by Frederick Herzberg. Even though he published his theory in the 80s, it’s still widely regarded today. He posited that coercing your employees into doing their jobs, or, a KITA (kick in the ass) approach as he referred to it, was an outdated and ineffective method and instead you had to create a self-motivating environment. To do this, employers have to satisfy two types of factors:
Hygienic Factors: Herzberg described first tier qualifiers such as workplace stability, salary, clean work environment, and adequate vacation as hygienic factors. He claims these are “maintenance” factors; they don’t necessarily cause satisfaction but failing to provide them for the employee will cause dissatisfaction. He states that while hygienic factors have to be met to eliminate job dissatisfaction, they won’t do enough to cause motivation. For that you need to create a work environment where motivational factors are present.
Motivational Factors: These include challenging work, autonomy, recognition and responsibility. By tying these motivational factors into an employee’s job, instead of needing “a kick in the ass”, an environment is created where they want to do the work and be successful.
Herzberg’s theory breaks down motivational factors on a deeper level but doesn’t seem to paint the full picture of how to retain and motivate millennial workers. Many of my peers have great salaries in jobs that offer plenty of autonomy but are still feeling unfulfilled. We can all probably point to an example of someone who didn’t wait for their employer to get it right and are willingly turned away from a job that satisfied both hygienic and motivational factors to pursue something more fulfilling on their own, sometimes ambiguous terms. If you’re feeling unfulfilled at work, start to zoom in on how. You might be feeling “off” because of:
A Bad Cultural Fit
Feeling like you aren’t fitting into your company’s culture can make a even jobs that provide a cushy office space, good salary and ample health benefits still feel quite empty. Culture goes beyond what people wear to the office or tapping a keg in the break room on Fridays. For a good cultural fit it’s important that your personal values align with the company’s corporate values. Millennials need to understand a company’s why and to know that it aligns and is authentic with their own personal values. That we’re choosing to leave jobs because they aren’t allowing us to contribute to society in a meaningful way is an optimistic sign to me in an otherwise tumultuous societal era. It signals that we really are trying to contribute to shape a better world for posterity, in a meaningful way and on our own terms. If this is the problem you’re having, it can be hard to reverse – it’s not likely that an entire company culture will bend to one individual.
No Plan for Job Growth
If you don’t feel as though there is room for upward mobility in your current role it can be stifling or causing you to frame your job as a dead end. Speak up the next time you have a one-on-one with your boss. Clearly outline how you’d like to see your role growing within the company and listen closely to their response and how they are going to help you get there. If after that they still aren’t addressing your concerns, then at least you know you spoke up before you started looking elsewhere.
Career out of “Necessity”
If you’ve read all that and thought, “Must be nice to feel ‘authentic’, but I don’t have the luxury of leaving my job that has zero room for growth and a terrible company culture because I’m an adult and I’ve got bills to pay”. Then to you I say, you’re making excuses. Most of us take our first job out of school with no idea what we want to do or what type of culture we’re after. This is why it’s crucial to ask yourself what feels off along the way so you can take small steps to better align yourself, even if that is taking up a hobby or a small side gig so you can explore what kind of work sparks fulfillment in you.
Employers and millennials alike take note: I think feeling authentic in your role, combined with work that challenges you in an environment that fits your individual work style will create the job fulfillment we’re all looking for. If you’re feeling unfulfilled, you owe it to yourself to ask the hard questions now so you don’t wake up in 20 years still feeling like you’re in the wrong job.