"The new normal: 4 job changes by the time you're 32," declared one CNN Money headline earlier this year, while Gallup branded Millennials, "the job hopping generation" just this May.

I could go on, but I probably don't need too many links to prove to you that young people have a reputation as being fickle, disloyal, and aiming to jump ship at a moment's notice for their own career advancement at the expense of their employers. In fact, if you're a business owner, chances are you're already worried that your youngest employees aren't going to stick around much past the time it takes you to train them.

But according to new research by the Center for Talent Innovation written up by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Joan Snyder Kuhl on the HBR Blogs, this stereotype is wildly unfair. While you can't argue with data that shows Millennials are often forced to cycle through many gigs in their early careers, the idea that young people are actually seeking such short tenures is a myth, claims the study.

Job hopping is for rich kids.

In fact, it's only a tiny sliver of the most financially privileged Millennials who actually plan to hop from job to job. The rest, it turns out, are too broke to dream of anything beyond a decent, steady paycheck.

"Forty percent of Millennials with a financial safety net -- those who have families that could support them indefinitely if they were to quit or lose their job or who receive financial gifts from family members totaling at least $5,000 a year -- say they plan to leave their jobs within a year," report Hewlett and Snyder Kuhl.

And those who can't expect fat checks from mom and dad whenever their bank balance dips? Only a measly ten percent of this group plans to leave their employer in the immediate future.

The brutal truth then: only a tiny fraction of well off young people are nonchalantly bouncing from job to job. The vast majority of this generation is just trying to get by after a year upon year of bruising economic conditions (and in many cases, the authors point out, while carrying a ton of student debt).

What this means for employers (and journalists)

This research suggests that employers make some fundamental recalculations in how they view and deal with young employees. In short, Hewlett and Snyder Kuhl suggest most companies are far too reluctant to invest in developing Millennial talent, though check out the complete post for their specific recommendations about how companies should change their approach.

Besides this sort of practical takeaway, the findings also provide a reality check to hand-wringing older folks, including journalists like me, restoring some much needed fairness to the conversation around Millennials. In the past, both and I and many other writers have posted about stereotypical "Millennial" behavior, including job hopping and vacation starvation, without doing enough to highlight the financial pressures that drive much of it, or pointing out the gulf between the best and least well off members of this massive cohort. This study is a helpful corrective.

Do you think Millennials get a bum rap both in the job marketplace and the media?

Published on: Sep 9, 2016
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