Millennials Saying Aloud What Others Are Thinking

laughs. Courtesy of Marc Kjerland
laughs.  Courtesy of Marc Kjerland.

The real reasons millennials are described as different is that people are jealous of their courage and freedom.  I can prove it.

There is an interesting report available online at the University of British Columbia (UBC).  In their 2014-15 Benchmark Report to the Board of Governors, UBC Human Resources developed insights about staff turnover that were new at the time.  In particular, they identified that staff turnover was mostly about career advancement.

One of the things this report straightens-out is turnover amongst new people and young people.  The challenge is that there is a large overlap.  A lot of the new employee are young, and vice versa.  To untangle these two populations the report shows a simple 2×2 diagram with subtotals and labels on the outside edge of the grid.  The results on pages 8-9 of the report look like this:

1-3 Years in Job 4+ Years in Job Total (All Lengths of Service)

Age 34 & Under




Age 35 & Over




Total (All Ages)

9.7% 4.1%


It takes a minute to get used to it, so look at it carefully.  Look at the (vertical) columns for years of service, and compare the percentages side-by-side between the 1-3 Years and 4+ Years length of service categories.  For younger staff (the top row) there’s only a 2% spread by years of service, and for older staff (one row down) the spread is 3%.  The total at the bottom shows that new staff quit at a rate that is 5.6% higher for all ages combined.  But that difference is skewed by a large number of younger-and-newer people in the upper-left corner.  When we look at it carefully, there is a very small difference in turnover according to length of service.

Then look horizontally at the rows.  Those age 34 and under have a quit rate of 13.5% in total, and in this case the number is relatively similar by years of service (13.8% for new people and 11.8% for those with longer service).  One row down, you see that those age 35 and over have a quit rate of 4.4% in total, and once again it’s relatively similar by age category.

This means the important information is the totals by age category.  Those aged 35 and over have a turnover rate of 4.4%, while those who are younger have a turnover rate of 13.5%, nine percentage points higher.  Simply put, younger people have a high quit rate.  This phenomenon is not unique to UBC, as the external benchmark provider had similar findings.

Why are young people quitting?  The report looks to three additional data sources and finds that young people largely resign from their jobs for reasons of career advancement.

However, it’s not entirely accurate to say that young people resign because of career advancement.  The problem is that everyone is concerned about career advancement, and it is a major workplace frustration.  What makes those under 35 different is that they are getting frustrated about career advancement and then quitting.  Think about the different home lives of those over the age of 35.  There are things that keep older people in place.  There is home ownership, mortgage payments, the obligation to support kids, spouses who have a job in the same city, and the commitment to their current profession.

It turns out that millennials did not have career expectations that were different from that of others.  They were just more likely to express their opinions in a display of freedom.  Millennials are the gregarious friend at the pub who says out loud what everyone else is thinking.  You can’t really scold them when you’re jealous they have the guts to tell it like it is.

To top it all off, Generation X and Baby Boomers behaved in a similar manner similar when they were that age.  A project by a small team of statistics students identified that it’s a person’s age and not their generation that drives turnover behavior.  As Neil Young puts it, “old man take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you.”

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