Gen Y's Retention Deficit Syndrome

We recognize the signs. A young employee shows up late at work or for meetings, misses assignments or takes sick days when they're on top of their game.

As a boss your first instinct is to rattle their cage. But what will that accomplish?

Employers fret about holding onto Gen Y workers who may be less inclined than previous generations to stick around through thick and thin. Given the cost of recruiting young talent, employers are understandably concerned about return on investment - keeping an employee long enough for them to develop into strong contributors.

Still, loyalty isn't part of the "deal" any more between employers and employees, so it's no surprise that, according to a new study by Taleo, an HR software company, 41% of those who are no longer working for their first employer out of college left in less than two years. That doesn't strike me as an epidemic - a lot of first jobs simply aren't good fits.

Taleo teamed with Harris Interactive to conduct a survey of 2,045 adults ages 18 and older, a series of questions about their first jobs and first employers.

Three out of five respondents said that their first employer did not provide a clear path for advancement. Of course, the reality is that few employers provide a clear path to anything, much less to the corner office.

Other key findings:

  • Describing how their first job made them feel, 13% said they couldn't wait for Friday to arrive, 10% wanted to quit every day and 8% felt it was a waste of their time
  • 19% of 18-34 year olds wanted to quit their first job every day, compared to 3% of those 55 years old and over

There's no real way of telling from the data whether first jobs are worse than they used to be, or whether employers or employees are primarily to blame for the gap between expectations and experience.

How well do you remember your first job? I wasn't thrilled and I wasn't miserable but knew I wanted to move on before the first year was complete. There isn't always a retention solution for an employer, but money helps a little.

Maybe the survey results will strike you differently. As for me, I can't wait for Friday to arrive and I love what I do.

Rusty Weston, My Global Career • San Francisco, Ca •

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