Millennials Survey: 70% Say They May Change Jobs When Economy Improves

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The recession and slow economic recovery has had an effect on a great many workers, but here’s a new research study by SBR Consulting that shows the impact on one specific group — the Millennial Generation, sometimes known as Gen. Y.

Titled Millennial Generation Today: Impact of the economic environment on recruitment, retention, and engagement, the goal of the study “aims to determine how this generation feels about working in Corporate America, future employment decisions, what’s important about work and their future. Much has been said about this generation in the past five to 10 years, but has the recession and slow recovery changed their thoughts, perceptions and behaviors in regard to work?”

That’s a great question — and here are some of the highlights of what the research found:

  • Some 70 percent of Millennials say there is a possibility they will change jobs once the economy improves. We have entered a “flight pattern” of workers wanting to find new employment opportunities, and women are more likely to consider leaving for a new job than men are.
  • Nearly two in five Millennials (37 percent) say they do not trust big businesses. Consider the implications for attraction and retention of employees and customers. This will impact businesses as the economy improves and they court this generation to work for them and buy their stuff. But, this finding could work in favor of small to medium size businesses.
  • Compensation, a flexible work schedule, and an opportunity to make a difference are the top three priorities or needs that are most important to this generation.
  • Millennials recognize the high cost of higher education, and about two-thirds are graduating with debt at an average debt load of more than $20,000.
  • Despite the current economy, 70 percent are positive about their future in general.
  • Entreprenuerism has not hit a tipping point with this generation as only 9 percent say they plan to open a business within the next five years.

Some 36% “definitely or probably” jump

I was particularly interested in the finding that 70 percent of Millennials are considering changing jobs when the economy improves. It’s hard to figure out just how much better the economy needs to get before that happens, but the SBR Consulting survey is quick to point out that when it comes to the possibility of changing jobs, “the Millennials feel the same way as other generations in the workforce and in-line with other surveys.

Yes, 70 percent of Millennials “say there is a possibility they will change jobs once the economy improves,” but a much smaller number (36 percent) say they definitely or probably will jump to a new job. Smaller number or not, even that 36 percent that figure can’t be encouraging to employers.

Another finding in the survey that jumped out at me centered around the reasons why Millennials might be looking to change jobs. Here’s what the survey said about that:

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While it is well documented that as employees consider leaving due to low morale, stress, and an overwhelming workload, our survey found other factors in play with this generation. Thirty-eight percent agreed that if they left the company it would be because of the position or job they do. This is followed by 26% who agree the company itself would be the reason why they would leave and 22% agree their boss would be the reason why.

Seventy-three percent of women versus 67% of men say there is a possibility they will change jobs once the economy improves. There is some difference between the men and women in this study regarding how they feel about their jobs, which may have an influence on their reasons for changing jobs. Women are more likely than men (77% versus 68%, respectively) to believe that hard work improves one’s changes of promotion or moving ahead. Whereas, men more than women say that if they left their company it would be because of the company (29% versus 23%) or the boss (25% versus 21%). They both attribute the position similarly as a potential reason for leaving a company (38% each).”

Interesting survey methodology

I’m not surprised at this survey finding that job satisfaction (or lack thereof) is the biggest reason for Millennials to consider leaving for a new job, because we know from previous surveys that this generation considers job satisfaction to be very important. Plus, they probably aren’t as willing as other generations — such as the Baby Boomers — to simply be happy to have a job and be employed. They may get to that stage later on in life, but most of them don’t have the depth of work experiences to feel that way now.

There’s a lot more to chew on in the Millennial Generation Today survey, and I recommend you spend some time with it if you want some greater insight into just what your youngest workers are thinking. And one more thing: even the survey methodology — that is, who the survey participants are — is interesting.

A total of 1,147 Millennials born between 1980 and 1989 participated in the online survey. The survey data was collected February 1 through March 4 and March 13 through April 5, 2011. Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for results based on total sample.

Sixty-one percent of survey participants were female versus 39% male. The majority had completed higher education with 55% having a bachelor’s degree, master’s or Ph.D. Sixty-seven percent are employed full- or part-time, 15% are back in school and 18% are currently unemployed. Most are in the early stages of their careers with 38% saying they’re in entry-level jobs and 43% in mid-level jobs. Average income among Millennials in this study is $53,303. Sixty-two percent are single, 16% are married, 16% married with children and 7% single with children.”

Wow; that’s quite a snapshot of this generation, and it mirrors the point that  SBR Consulting and chief consultant Stacey Randall makes in the study’s conclusion:

Research like this is important because companies should continue to be aware of the changes, whether subtle or seismic, that affect the Millennials’ thoughts, perceptions and opinions of our world today, including work. They’re approximately 80-million strong, larger than the Baby Boomer generation and make up a considerable size of the workforce…and only growing. It is projected by 2014 the Millennial generation will make up nearly half of the workforce … Are you ready? is your company?”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


6 Comments on “Millennials Survey: 70% Say They May Change Jobs When Economy Improves

  1. As a member of this demographic, not too surprised by this data and frankly figured it would paint a much graver picture. Couple of the key areas that should be major red flags to organizations:

    – “Nearly two in five Millennials (37 percent) say they do not trust big businesses.”

    We all know trust is key to employee engagement. If this is where the baseline is currently at and organizations do not have strategy in place to combat this, how much more damage is going to be done in the next economic dip that everybody knows is coming? Additionally, trust is finally getting more research attention to understand how it affects critical business factors like innovation.

    – “Despite the current economy, 70 percent are positive about their future in general” but yet only “9 percent say they plan to open a business within the next five years.”

    My intuition says that an optimistic individual is more likely to chase entrepreneurism, but clearly this isn’t the case (Standford computer programmers aside). My take is that the millennials are eager to commit to big business and will bring a lot to the table, but only if that trust (or employee value proposition) can be satisfied. Also, the hefty loan repayments for grads doesn’t encourage starting up a business either.

    – “Sixty-one percent of survey participants were female versus 39% male. 62% percent are single, 16% are married, 16% married with children and 7% single with children.”

    This shouldn’t be new news, but millennials are putting the career ahead of the family. It’s not just the males, but the females too. Org design needs to adapt to take advantage of this new dynamic. Deloitte is pushing the “corporate lattice” and from what I’ve seen it’s a step in the right direction to address career development bottlenecks and individual blockers.

    This is great info and obviously how it correlates to each individual’s organization and current millennial situation is unique.

  2. Great article John.  I was honored to be asked by SBR Consulting to help them reach out to Millennials in taking the survey.  It’s a very well done survey and like you, I highly recommend that corporate leaders and HR folks read the results & take action.

    As a former Fortune 500 executive, I agree with you and I can validate that Millennials don’t stay in a job just for the sake of having one.  We all know that loyalty is dead but preference is not. As an employer and more specifically, as a boss who wants to recruit and retain top talent, it’s important to make your team & your organization the preferred choice for Millennials.  The problem I see is that most organizations & leaders send a different message.  They believe Millennials will have to “get with the program” and accept the workplace as it is so they don’t try too hard to stand out as a preferred choice for Millennials. After all, every other group of 20-somethings has had to accept it in the past, right?  The
    more an organization holds on to outdated recruitment and retention techniques, the higher turnover they will see. 

    Recent studies have shown that unlike other recessions, turnover among the young has stayed fairly high these last few years. I believe that shows that Millennials are not content just to have a job. Over this past year, I worked with and interviewed Millennials who had been working between 1 to 5 years. Over 80% of them had already changed jobs or were aggressively looking.  The 2 primary reasons given for leaving were “lousy” bosses or unchallenging jobs which supports your points & the SBR Consulting survey results.

    Millennials are quickly becoming a major force in the workplace yet companies are still slow to adapt their 20th Century beliefs & priniciples to match the huge & varied changes embodied in that generation. I strongly believe the companies that recognize & act on those changes will be the ones securing the top talent that generation has to offer.  

    1. Alicia — some strong points, but I would disagree with your statement – “loyalty is dead”. It’s not that we’re disloyal, it’s that employers haven’t gotten with that 21st century belief and principle set; employees need challenging, rewarding work and opportunities for advancement. With 52% of employers having difficulty filling critical positions (largely because they’re not willing to pay people what they’re worth) — we’re going to have a HUGE brain drain when the Boomers retire.

      I’m 25 and became an entrepreneur after my 12th consecutive failed employment attempt. My business is taking off and I’m doing very well for myself; but I was never once accused of being disloyal.

      If anything, I was disrespected for my openness and honestness – I was once written up for being “overly articulate” for explaining why a particular business process wouldn’t work and another time for being “overly straightforward” after suggesting a solution that had been planned in the past but never executed on. Considering I think I’ve been called rude twice in my entire life, each occurrence led me to want to flee those companies as fast as possible.

      Companies simply aren’t giving us reasons to trust them; most businesses are loyal to their stockholders, when applicable, and to their top management, when not. Very few actually see employees as more than easily interchangeable cogs and not as the stakeholders which are – by every measure – just as invested as the stockholders.

      Trust is earned. Loyalty is earned. Companies are expecting it without earning it – and a paycheck isn’t enough to earn it.

  3. The findings make sense, and they beg a number of questions.  What can businesses do today to keep not only Millennials “happy”, but also keep Gen X, Boomers, and up-and-coming generational cohorts happy and productive?  The cost of turnover is high, in both wasted expenses and longer-term loss of rising talent.  Specifically, what is your company doing to keep quality people?  Does your firm differentiate between different cohort groups in terms of what you do with retention?

  4. Liz Horgan (see below) hit the nail on the head:

    “What can businesses do today to keep not only Millennials “happy”, but
    also keep Gen X, Boomers, and up-and-coming generational cohorts happy
    and productive?”

    One of the big “take away messages”I believe most people miss when they focus on what Millennials demand in a work experience is that they in large part want what other generations want–they’re just willing to ask for it or leave if they don’t get it.

    That’s why I see them as an employer’s Canary in the Coal Mine.

    See “The Hidden Gift Your Gen Y Employees Are Offering You” for more on that:

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