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Jenée Tibshraeny investigates what's driving the great millennial job-hop and what employers can do to hang onto their staff

Personal Finance
Jenée Tibshraeny investigates what's driving the great millennial job-hop and what employers can do to hang onto their staff

By Jenée Tibshraeny

Are millennials (Generation Y) heading back to work with only one foot in the door – their eyes scouring the landscape outside for anything better on offer?

A job that lets them work remotely, gives them a clearer pathway to progress their career, or spares a thought for the environment.

The answer is a resounding “yes” according to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey of 7,700 people in their 20s and early 30s.

Having surveyed employed millennials, with tertiary qualifications, from 29 countries around the world (excluding New Zealand), it has found one in four pledge to quit their jobs if the opportunity arises this year.

The figure increases to 44% when the timeframe is expanded to two years, while by the end of 2020, two in every three respondents hopes to have moved on to a new organisation.

Opportunistic, self-entitled, and idealistic you say? The managing director of Hays recruitment agency Jason Walker disagrees, arguing New Zealand millennials are different.

Memories of battling to enter the job market during the Global Financial Crisis are still fresh in their minds, they’re competing with an influx of migrants, they know the top jobs require experience, and they’re conscious of the mammoth task they face saving to buy their first home. 

“I think there’s a lot of realism that’s been put on their shoulders and they’re really willing to work and take opportunities,” Walker says.

Whether you’re on “Team Deloitte” or “Team Walker”, it’s important to note what millennials think about going to work because there’s a lot of them. They’ve recently inched past the other generations to become the largest share of the US labour market.

They’re also no longer leaders of tomorrow, but increasingly, leaders of today, with a number already occupying senior positions.

Global trends 

Examining global trends, Deloitte has found, “Millennials feel underutilised and believe they’re not being developed as leaders.

“They continue to express positive views of businesses’ role in society; they have softened their negative perceptions of corporate motivation and ethics, and cite a strong alignment of values.

“However, Millennials feel that most businesses have no ambition beyond profit, and there are distinct differences in what they believe the purpose of business should be and what they perceive it to currently be.

“Millennials often put their personal values ahead of organisational goals, and several have shunned assignments (and potential employers) that conflict with their beliefs.”

Market’s beaten any arrogance out of millennials

While Walker agrees parts of Deloitte’s observations apply to New Zealand, he says many of the stereotypes about millennials are over-blown.

He maintains the market has a greater influence on their behaviour than anything else.

“The market has beaten those stereotypes [of self-entitlement, idealism, etc] out of millennials. They’re not coming in with that same level of arrogance,” he says.

“Prior to 2007 and the GFC, millennials interviewed companies to find out whether or not they wanted to work for them. Then the crash happened and there’s really been a readjustment in their attitudes.

“Salaries haven’t moved more than 1 or 2% a year over the last five years. There have been very few opportunities for growth even within organisations, because they haven’t been generating revenue to increase salaries.

“Candidates have been insecure about moving, so they haven’t been moving and creating opportunities for other people.”

While Walker says sentiment is picking up in New Zealand, with construction peaking and more job vacancies being advertised, he says millennials are still aware of the fact organisations are looking for people with experience.

“When they’re moving across into different roles to gain that experience in different organisations, they’re finding that those people who have been there for two, three, four, or five years, are the ones who are getting the more senior opportunities,” he says.

Millennials forced to job hop

Walker recognises those who have been job hopping, have been doing so because their employers haven’t been providing the opportunities they want to develop their careers, leaving them stuck in a rut.

He says organisations tightening their purse strings, and opting to hire people on contractual rather than permanent basis, have also forced millennials to jump ship.

Being a contractor is almost a norm in the likes of the construction and IT industries.

Randstad recruitment agency’s country manager, Brien Keegan, agrees the market has in many ways forced millennials to be job-hoppers.

Yet he maintains they aren’t the only ones, with Randstad research indicating around 20% of New Zealand employees are looking to make a move within the next year.  

He says the fast-paced and ever-changing world we live in is forcing people to be adaptable and refresh their skill sets.

Keegan commends millennials for embracing this change, noting the way it has forced them to see their careers as portfolios including different roles, rather than following a single trajectory.

How to retain millennials

While they have slightly different views, Walker and Keegan agree employers need to be conscious of millennials’ attitudes to get the best out of them.

Walker says, “It’s not so much the “y” generation now, it’s more the “like” generation – they want a pat on the back just as they’d like to see how many likes they can get when they post a photo on Facebook.

“It’s very similar in the workplace. They want to be acknowledged by someone in senior management for a job well done.”

He says it’s not always about the money, but simple acknowledgement at a monthly team meeting is enough to keep a millennial motivated.

“Millennials have been brought up in a different generation… their parents are more of a friend and an advocate than a parent, and they expect their employer to be that way as well,” Walker says.

“So if you’re very authoritarian and dictator-like, you’re not going to keep them for very long. They want to have a matey relationship, rather than a hierarchical relationship.

“You see the structures of a lot of organisations have changed to reflect that as well.”

Workplaces already look different, with walls coming down and hot-desking becoming more popular.

Walker says millennials will build on this as they move into leadership positions.

“Who’s to say you’ll even have to be in your office to see your co-workers,” he says.

Keegan says, “One of the traits of millennials is that if you don’t provide clear progression, and they can’t see themselves moving forward through an organisation, the average lifetime they’ll work is usually 18 months.”

He says it is important employers let millennials know exactly what needs to be achieved by when, rather than working with vague targets.

Asked whether an older person would be equally as put off by an employer that doesn’t offer this as a millennial, Keegan says, “Typically baby boomers would be more loyal and looking for an employer for life. If you think about baby boomers, they really invented the concept of being a workaholic.”

He says employers should also be realistic with their expectations when hiring someone straight out of university, recognising it’s likely they’ll want to go overseas after a few years.

“How you say goodbye [to employees] is as important as how you say hello,” he says.

He suggests employers think about retention in the longer term, staying in touch with their former employees who head overseas for their OEs, to keep open the option of them being re-employed on their return. 

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I have changed my job 3 times in the last 2 years.

I earn now exactly double than 3 years ago, my job is much more interesting and I live now in my favourite place in NZ.

The employer has a responsibility to keep employees happy with a good salary, rewarding them and by giving them challenges. They must understand that staff is the BEST asset they can have. And if they don't understand this they will see young people leaving often.

I work in the Software Development industry and if I have learned something in my less than 10 years work experience is that the cost of opportunity is huge in today's market and shouldn't be overlooked.

I've met people in their 40s with senior positions, with big wages not because of their skills (which might have been relevant 10 years ago although useless nowadays) but because of their "loyalty" to the company and their capacity of occupying the same space for years and years.

The industry changes, many are too slow to adapt or too comfortable to improve their skills. Also they tend to occupy management roles so the whole company goes into that slow direction of not keeping pace with new technologies, better ways of doing things, etc. and eventually the company starts loosing clients in favour of better and cheaper alternatives. If for whatever reason they have to look for something else they realise how outdated they are in the real world.

They can blame immigration, discrimination towards older people, etc. I know some unfortunate cases, but the truth is that if you don't keep pace with the constantly changing world you might face problems in the future, and changing jobs is a good way to keep yourself updated to the market's needs.

The question should be: Why would anybody who understands how quickly industries change and how competitive the world is becoming decide not to change job if a better opportunity comes up?

PS: Ever wondered why the newest successful productive business's CEO are so so young? They are not geniuses, they are simply better adapted to the current needs and not tight to old ideas or capable of questioning them without feeling frustrated because "it was all they knew or all they were taught".


Also lets not forget that Millenials are the first generation lately with less output (job, salaries) per input (investment in their studies, courses, years of studying) so our level of attachment to a company and the business' goals is less than what previous generations had because we haven't seen the same rewards our parents had.

I agree with the advise of letting them go but keeping the door open. We suffer job promiscuity :)

If you treat well an employee, he might leave, but he might come back in the future and with an even better input for the business.

Also I agree with the hierarchy being a problem. Fortunately new ways of doing things in a more collaborative way where employees are more equal-ish (just team members, with different roles, not "levels") like Agile methodologies in my industry are helping to remain happy.

Leave authority for the army and places where you don't question instructions. Businesses require getting the best in everyone, and everyone is better than some other at something. It's a matter of finding each one's talents and use them to complement the team.


Ah, I remember being in my 20s ;)

Software engineer as well, doubled my salary every 3 years or so up until the late 20s where I was getting a fair bit above market rate for "competent senior" level engineer. But technical skills only get you to this ceiling, not further.

After reaching "competent senior" level, job hopping isn't going to get you a huge increase, because I think you will find it difficult for companies to justify paying you a 30% premium, just because you feel you're worth it :) The value of a technical contributor very definitely has a ceiling.

In NZ, this level is probably around 130-150k total comp at the moment. Good luck getting a manager who gets paid a slight premium over this range to make you an offer in excess of their own salary :)

(BTW, "engineer" in your job title has higher value than "developer", even if the work is identical, so try and arrange that for your next gig).

So, you will have some choices to make when you hit the ceiling:

- Mercenary track - Become a contractor/consultant, your upper bound is basically determined by how hard and long you can work, and how good you are at keeping the pipeline of work full. Probably good for getting up to maybe 200k but you'll need to start your own business to increase your earning significantly past that.

- Architecture track - Still an upper bound, but more visibility within the business, probably good for getting up to around 250-300k after a few years, if you make it into lead/chief role.

- Management track - This is when having more soft skills is going to be to your advantage, upper bound is obviously much higher, corner office is a possibility, but the skills required for this are almost entirely based on how well you work with other people, and how strategic your thinking is. 500k+

Good luck!

I chose architecture, but I sense starting my own business may be in my future :)


I'd be happy with $130k - $150 and remain hands on development :-)
Ideally working in distance often.. that's why I am focusing in developing my skills around the cloud and modern web applications development rather than enterprise-ish.

But yeah, you chose well, architects definitely get big bucks!


Last year I came across an elderly Manager reconciling his monthly accounts using a calculator with a roll of paper coming out the back of it with 3-4 folders of transactions on his desk. This would take him 1-2 days. A graduate Analyst put together a macro in Excel which allowed the whole thing to be completed in 30 minutes. The old chap earns 3 times as the Graduate. Fast forward 6 months and the old chap is still doing it the manual way.

In my sector there are more and more workers aged 55-70+ who have no intention of retiring OR changing their ways. There seems to be a real inter-generational clash starting to develop and high-turnover of those aged 20-40.


Moe - one of those factors I'm noticing is that many in that 55-70 age range who could retire are not doing so and hanging on longer simply because they can't currently get a sufficient return on their investments to give them the life style after retirement that they're looking for - and frankly they can't see when that's going to change. Although the younger generation, along with others, are having to pay through the nose for housing, the low inflation/low interest rate environment that at least provides some relief, isn't assisting them in getting into those higher level jobs are early as they might otherwise expect historically - everything has consequences I guess and this one I can't see changing for quite a few years.


What;s driving the millenials? Well not themselves these days...

"Just over three in four people ages 20 to 24 in 2014 possessed a driver's license, according to the report released Tuesday by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.

The exact figure — 76.7% — represented a sharp decline from 79.7% in 2011, 82% in 2008 and 91.8% in 1983, according to the report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle."…


yes because a software engineer really needs to drive to fix that bug.
Baby boomers really don't get it.
I see it everyday. My boss is more interested in how people is dressed or shaved than to how much they actually produce. No surprise the company is going bad when the only new ideas these people can come up with are new parking policies and dress codes.