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Young workers want balance. Employers must adapt
Aug. 14, 2022 7:00 am
In June, 4.2 million Americans submitted their resignations. For some, it is an escape from a low-paying position, an overbearing supervisor or the legion of unsatisfiable customers who seem to derive their power from browbeating front-line personnel. For others, the reasons for moving on are not so cut and dry.
Younger generations are driving down the average tenure. Millennials are known for job-hopping; for many, seeking new employment every year or two is the logical option due to the far larger increases in pay associated with a new role. A 10 percent salary bump from a new employer is far more attractive than a 4-5 percent annual cost-of-living increase. Someone who starts out making $35,000 per year and job hops roughly every two years could come out $15,000 or more ahead of an employee who stays with their original employer.
Millennials now account for roughly 50 percent of the workforce. This generation is also looking at factors other than compensation, including opportunities to build their skill set, have a positive social impact and ample time outside of work to create a fulfilling and well-rounded life. I checked in with a friend in the corridor who recently let me know she is seeking other employment arrangements. I was surprised by this, because I know that she truly cares about her work.
We all know that the Great Resignation has been in full swing for some time now. As someone who has clearly been dedicated to overachieving, and who loves the work she does, what are the motivating factors for you in seeking different work?
“Being a divorced mom of two young children, I find it incredibly important to strike a balance between work life and home life. When I am at home with my kids, I want to be 100 percent engaged and not have my mind stuck at work or bring home workplace frustrations. Being an executive makes it difficult to detach from the office especially when I’ve created an environment of 24/7 accessibility. I take responsibility for that, but it’s difficult to step back from it once those social permissions have been granted. What I look for now in a new role is more predictability in the schedule and less stress overall.”
More than 80 percent of Millennials agree, citing work-life balance as an element they “very seriously” consider when choosing an employer.
For Gen Z, workplace relationships and fulfilling, enjoyable work are critical. Half of Gen Z LinkedIn survey respondents indicated that they stay at their current position because they enjoy it. Fully 72 percent have left a job due to an inflexible work policy; opportunities to work remotely and employers who value project completion over rigid daily schedules are far more attractive. In a job market where remote work has become commonplace (and in many industries, an expectation), more money may not compensate for the inability to log in for the staff meeting from an Airbnb in SoCal.
A local Gen Z tech professional described the aspects of employment prospects that tempt him to consider exiting his current role.
“I want to have flexibility within my work schedule: remote working whenever, the ability to leave when I am done with my work and no expectation to work well past my paid hours. There needs to be a level of respect when it comes to our working hours and life outside of work. I want my organization to automate as many mundane tasks as possible, as well as set guidelines and expectations for my external and internal work. I want to be given a competitive salary with bonuses based on my results, especially if you want me to stay at the company long-term.”
He described the limited resources of his organization to provide him with training opportunities and truly remote work as opposed to a day or two per week at home. His counterparts at other firms are learning and using tech tools that are far more advanced, while he spends a significant amount of time teaching his colleagues the basics of rudimentary technology that competitors out of state would consider obsolete. Much higher salaries are also on offer both nationally and worldwide, tempting him to exit the region altogether.
Members of Gen X are far less likely to leave their employer than either Gen Z or Millennials. Defined by Pew Research as the neglected middle child, Gen X is unfortunately also the most likely to be overlooked for promotion. The inability to advance at work is a huge push factor working against organizations who undervalue employees seeking growth.
A Gen X mid- level manager in Cedar Rapids told me that “Feeling as though you have room to grow with your job is a huge factor in retaining people. Great health insurance would be really hard to leave. I need a workplace that is mission oriented and works as a team. I also find it really important to work in an environment that is evaluating their commitment to DEI and actually taking steps to improve in that area.”
This leads to an important point — all this talk about generations doesn’t account for either marginalized populations or intersectionality (the multiple marginalized identities held by many people, i.e. existing as a Black trans person, or a person of color with a disability.)
For people who are members of marginalized groups, the list of what attracts and retains them looks different. Does the organization tolerate employees who perpetually microagress or behave in ways that are blatantly discriminatory to their colleagues? Are their global corporate behaviors in line with the PR narrative about commitment to diversity? Do you see people who look like you in the C-suite?
The Great Resignation has also seen baby boomers retiring at higher numbers. Many cited COVID, while others saw a financial boon from skyrocketing increases in the value of property.
No matter the reason for exit, the result is the same: Iowa employers will have to adapt to compete.
Sofia DeMartino is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: email@example.com
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