Millennial Employees Aren’t Happy; 32% Plan to Quit in 6 Months

Posted By Terri Williams on December 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm
Millennial Employees Aren’t Happy; 32% Plan to Quit in 6 Months

“I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” That may accurately describe the average American’s incentive for showing up at work each day. Some research shows that as employees get older, they tend to find their jobs more fulfilling; however, this could be a result of getting closer to retirement age or simply appreciating the fact that they even have a job. Millennials and Gen-Z are joining forces to shape the workplace, but millennial employees also may  be shaking up the workforce in other ways, such as job-hopping.

According to a recent Clutch survey, when compared with Gen-X and Baby Boomers, millennials are more likely to have lukewarm feelings about their job or be downright unhappy at work, and millennials are also more likely to plan on leaving their current job within the next six months.

Job fulfillment among generations:

Millennials Gen-X Baby Boomers
Job is unfulfilling 19% 20% 12%
Job is neither fulfilling nor unfulfilling 21% 11% 12%
Job is fulfilling 61% 69% 78%


Likelihood of leaving current job in the next six months:

Millennials Gen-X Baby Boomers
Likely to leave job 32% 11% 12%
Neither likely nor unlikely to leave job 16% 20% 10%
Unlikely to leave job 51% 69% 78%


While there may be many reasons why millennials are not fulfilled at work, notice the connection between fulfillment levels in relation to how they responded to the question, “My manager accurately and consistently evaluates my performance.”

Agree Neither Agree nor Disagree Disagree
Job is unfulfilling 12% 21% 47%
Job is neither fulfilling nor unfulfilling 15% 31% 15%
Job is fulfilling 72% 48% 38%


Feedback is important to employees of every generation. But why is it so important to millennials? There are at least three key reasons:

Millennial employees are scorekeepers

According to Dr. Linda Henman, who is known as “The Decision Catalyst” and has worked with executives and boards in Fortune 500 companies and small organizations, millennials are much more likely to both expect and value feedback, and this is precisely why they will leave an organization if they don’t receive it. “Almost every person in the millennial age group played organized sports at one point or another, and as children, they learned that the coaches who do the best job of developing their talent end up winning the most games.”

But isn’t this also the “participation trophy” generation, and wouldn’t that diminish the effects of feedback? Not at all, in fact it may increase the desire to receive status updates.

Henman tells GoodCall the best players always want to win, and they continue to keep score. “They know that they won’t play their best games at work until and unless they know what to do to improve.” And for these employees, Henman explains that if the boss doesn’t tell them how to improve, they tend to get upset and want to find a better coach.

Millennials are accustomed to instant gratification

In addition to routine feedback, millennials have become used to receiving it immediately. Human resources consultant Christy Hopkins, PHR at, tells GoodCall that millennials have never been without feedback. “From participation trophies to the development of social media, millennials have been given feedback from the time they entered preschool in increasing forms.” As a result, Hopkins says they’ve grown accustomed to knowing where they stand at all times.

However, this doesn’t mean that they’re looking for a pat on the back. Even if the feedback is bad, they want to know how they’re doing. Michael Heller, CEO of iRevü and HR practitioner, tells GoodCall, “Rather than craving constant praise, millennials want to know how they are doing in all aspects of their career.”

Millennials want to improve

Along with instantaneous feedback, Heller says millennials also want to grow and develop. “Managers can give more frequent feedback, schedule ‘quick hit’ conversations with employees concerning specific and measurable goals, and leave them excited and refreshed about upcoming projects,” Heller explains.

In fact, growth and development are the primary reasons millennials want regular feedback. Nicole Francis, director of the Center of Recruiting Excellence at Manpower, tells GoodCall, “If millennials don’t feel as if they’re improving and succeeding in their current role, they’re willing to move elsewhere, even for the same pay, if a new role will provide them with more opportunities to learn new skills.”

Tips for improving feedback and engaging millennial employees

To keep millennial employees from bolting, Francis offers the following tips:

  • Appreciate your millennials: Maintain a high-touch approach and offer frequent, face-to-face feedback, and yes, affirmation. Find new channels that encourage recognition and sharing from managers and peers.
  • Offer job security: Demonstrate that staying with the company can lead to career enhancement. Share examples of people who have progressed through training and on-the-job learning in your organization. Appeal to the millennial aspiration to be more employable over the long-term, especially as millennial managers.
  • Focus on variety and mobility: Create opportunities for millennials to work on different projects with different teams to build experience and networks across the organization. Highlight the value of progression and not just promotion to build a portfolio of skills and experience.
  • Have regular career conversations: Check in with millennial employees regularly about their career path and development. Rather than annual reviews, focus on near-term objectives and implement plans to achieve them. Use these conversations to connect how their work today will enhance their career prospects and longer-term employability.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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