Boomers as Workplace Loyalty Role Models? Hardly.

Posted On April 27, 2016

If you’re an employer you might worry about retaining workers, and the difficulties that high job turnover presents to your bottom line – such as the costs of finding and training new workers. Millennials, in particular, can’t hold down a steady job because they don’t know how to, and/or they don’t want to, or so we’re told. They are just too selfish to commit to anything or anyone, including the people who sign their pay-checks.

Fret not! Recent research highlighted on under the heading Millennials found that Millennial disloyalty is – a bit of a myth. Researchers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compared the number of jobs held by Millennials at the start of their careers (between the ages of 25 to 28) to the number of jobs held by Baby Boomers – those stalwarts of employer loyalty! – at the start of their careers. Guess what? Millennials had, on average, 2.5 jobs at that age, while Boomers had an average of 3 jobs.

So the Millennials are more loyal than the Boomers were? How can that be? Maybe this has something to do with economic conditions? When jobs are scarce, the reasoning goes, people are less likely to quit their job. There is some truth to this. The researchers at fivethirtyeight found that job-hopping decreased slightly among 22-28 year-old college graduates following the start of recessions in the early 1990s, early 2000s and the Great Recession of 2007. Job-hopping then increased slightly among the same age groups when the economy came out of recession. But the same is true for all workers, regardless of their age – in general people are less likely to quit their job if the prospects for finding another one are low.

In addition, the long-term trend is for younger workers to stay with their employers for the same amount of time that young workers did 30 years ago. Every two years the BLS, as part of the Current Population Survey, examines job tenure of workers. Among 25 to 35 year olds, the average years of service to the same employer has hovered around 3 to 3.2 years over the past 20 years (although it dipped to around 2.7 on the late 1990s). In 2014 it was the same as it was in 1983 – 3 years.

So why do the Millennials get such a bad rap for low loyalty? Part of the reason is that older workers have always had longer tenure than younger workers. In 1983 workers aged 45-54 had on average 9.5 years of service to their employer; in 2014 it was 7.9 years. With such tenure, they look upon the youth as job-hoppers not remembering that they, too, were exactly the same.

There is plenty of evidence that Millennials are different from Gen-Xers and Boomers. There is undeniable evidence that Millennials are attitudinally and demographically different from their parents. They might come across as more demanding in the workplace and they might expect to be promoted quicker than they deserve. But that doesn’t mean they are more likely to quit their job than their parents were their same age. The data says, in fact, that the Boomers were worse.

Categories: Baby Boomers, Generation Y / Millennials, Work, Workplace