Recently, younger workers aged 16-34 have been causing all kinds of good and bad conundrums in the workplace. According to global consulting firm Mercer, employees in this cohort are much more likely to be considering an exit from their workplace than their older colleagues.
The findings came from Mercer’s “What’s Working” study, a survey of nearly 30,000 workers in 17 geographic markets conducted during the fourth quarter of 2010 through the second quarter of 2011.
Asked if they were seriously considering leaving their organisation at the time, the percentage of “yes” responses among employees aged 16-34 was notably higher in nine of the 17 global markets polled.
Commenting on why young workers are more likely to leave, Brenda Wilson, Mercer’s Asia-Pacific leader for talent management consulting, says it may be a result of the world being smaller and more connected.
“This is the most technologically wired segment of the workforce – they have grown up with access to the world stage on hand, 24/7. This makes it easier for them and the workforce-at-large to know more about their competitors than they know about the opportunities internally, and it is significantly easier for employees to navigate their own career,” she says.
In other words, Wilson explains, organisations are missing an opportunity by not leveraging what a younger workforce already does naturally. “Employees live in a high-tech world but operate in an old-school world at work, and [there’s] a disconnect between how employees operate outside of work,” she says.
Wilson adds that historians and anthropologists have noted that members of this younger generation are more focused on the future, the world and the “here and now”. For this reason, they are significantly more choice-focused and, with instant access to information about different choices at their fingertips, they are less loyal.
“Employers need to seriously reconsider their value proposition and how they deliver it so they can engage this cadre of the workforce,” she says.
However, it is not just this generation that is less loyal, as employee engagement across all cultures and generations has considerably eroded since the last time the survey was conducted in 2004-2005. Wilson points out that this is most likely due to the economic situation and the lack of investment in the workforce on the part of employers.
To counter this,Wilson says that employers need to better package and communicate their employment offers to appeal to generational differences.
“As we start to worry again about global economic stability, employers will be served well by taking a much more segmented approach to the workforce,” she says. “In other words, being very clear which 20 per cent of the workforce generates 80 per cent of value and ensuring the right level of engagement and investment in those segments.”