Labels for Millennial Workers Missing the Mark

Young adults have one foot out the door at work, but there are ways to make them stay.

A quarter of global millennials would like to leave their current employer within a year, and two in three expect to move on by 2020, according to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey.

These findings, based on interviews with nearly 8,000 individuals from 29 countries, evoke common negative stereotypes of the finicky millennial. Before jumping to conclusions about the highly scrutinized generation, though, consider Julian Applebaum, a 25-year-old software engineer who lives in Brooklyn.

Applebaum knows a thing or two about loyalty. He ran competitively for seven straight years through high school and college and has been playing the same black Fender Jazz bass guitar for more than 10 years. He didn't give it up even after it took a battering from a ceiling fan and considers it better for its "road scars."

When it comes to work, Applebaum has a similar sense of allegiance. Only if an employer did something "outright morally objectionable" or if he stopped learning would he leave a company, he says. He interned with Squarespace, a web hosting and design firm that simplifies the process of building a website for users, and has stuck around going on three years, due largely in part to a sense that the company respects the value of his work and is invested in his development as an individual.

His global millennial peers are asking for the same.

Deloitte's report suggests that millennials' "lack of loyalty" may, in fact, be "a sign of neglect."

More than 70 percent of millennials expecting to leave their current employer within the next two years said that they are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed, according to the Deloitte report. Of those that plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years, a similar percentage say that there is a lot of support and training available to them.

Deloitte started surveying millennials in 2012 because the company's leaders saw generational gaps emerging and wanted to get in front of them, says Jim Moffatt, Deloitte Global Consulting CEO.

"Millennials are very open. They're willing to engage and the least filtered about feedback," he says. "They're giving [employers] a roadmap of what's important to them. It's not rocket science. Organizations need to understand the roadmap they're providing and the things they're asking for."

Key to cracking the legend to the millennial roadmap, he says, is understanding that millennials engage differently and creating environments that encourage open communication from the generation.

Squarespace's headquarters in New York's charming West Village occupy a building that used to house a large printing press operation. A walk through the lofted space is bright, with a large, open floor plan absent of office doors, peppered with pop-up meeting spaces and tied together with the minimalist color scheme of black, white and gray.

In its 12th year, the company continues to grow rapidly, making it difficult to pinpoint employment statistics. But a 2015 Fortune ranking of the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials put Squarespace third in terms of the share of millennials in the workforce, with 89 percent.

Employees are provided lunch along a heated buffet each day in a large common dining area and permitted unlimited vacation days.

Millennial Jessica Kausen, events manager, has been with Squarespace for three years and appreciates the flexible environment in which she is not afraid to ask for work-life balance.

Meet the man who coined the term 'millennial.'

"I had previous employers who I felt were taking advantage of me because I was young and willing to work for it," she says. "Squarespace had a start-up culture that didn't feel adolescent. It was refined, but didn't feel kitschy."

In organizations with high levels of employee satisfaction, millennials are more likely to report that their employer had "a strong sense of purpose beyond financial success," according to the Deloitte report, and almost half of global millennials have "chosen not to undertake a task at work because it went against their personal values or ethics."

For a generation that cares a lot about what a company stands for in a broad sense, extravagant work perks can sometimes backfire.

In an open letter that went viral, 25-year-old Yelp employee Talia Jane berated CEO Jeremy Stoppelman for the company's practice of stocking office fridges with thousands of dollars' worth of coconut water that, she said, no one drank. She says the money spent on stocking the office kitchens with snacks would be better spent toward a living wage or going to charity.

Rachel Williams, Yelp's head of diversity and inclusion, is "thankful" for the bigger conversation the open letter helped to start.

"All companies are hiring across generations and the [open letter] started a great dialogue around generational workers and their approach to work, minimum wage, the housing crisis most major cities are experiencing, and gentrification," she wrote in an email, noting that Yelp is the first corporate job for many of its new hires. Fortune reported that 91 percent of Yelp's employees were millennials in 2015.

Missing the mark on millennials can be expensive. Between activities associated with a departing employee, finding a replacement and time spent getting the new employee up to speed, the Society for Human Resource Management estimates the cost of employee turnover to be one to three times that employee's salary. This workforce volatility can be especially tough for employees and employers in developing economies.

In emerging markets, companies need to focus on building a viable business before they can use resources to develop programs that appeal to millennials' values, says Moffatt.

"There is less stability in the workforce and less formality around the things millennials care about, so instead, mentoring becomes important," Moffatt says. "Companies in developing markets are using mentoring to show millennial employees they care about them and offset that they don't have more formal programs established."

Millennials in developing economies are more conservative in their attitudes toward work and the workplace, too.

Research from the consulting firm Millennial Branding in partnership with Randstad, a large human resources and staffing firm, shows that millennials in South Africa and Turkey plan to work at only three companies in their lifetime, while Swedish millennials expect to work at seven.

"'Invest in us and we'll take care of you' was the old mantra," says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding. "Now, it's 'invest in me and I'll stay with you.'"

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Squarespace founder Anthony Casalena huddled with a small group of people in the office's spacious lobby planning the artwork that was be hung in the building. For him, "design is not a luxury" This is one of six core values upon which the company was founded.

Casalena, born in 1982, is technically a millennial. But, practically, he doesn't identify as such and doesn't think of his employees in that way, either.

"People that work for Squarespace have the same core values," he says. "People are applying here because they're aware of our mission statement, and they share a similar DNA no matter what their age."