Millennials are proving a somewhat slippery group for employers to hold onto.
A recent Deloitte survey found that two-thirds of millennials across the globe plan to leave their current organization by 2020 and one-quarter plan to change companies within the next year.
One reason millennials, who now make up the largest segment of the US workforce, are driven to job-hopping is that they don’t see enough opportunities for leadership development. But there’s a second reason behind millennials’ restlessness — and it’s considerably harder to fix.
The problem is what Deloitte calls the purpose gap, and it refers to the difference between what millennials want out of business and what business offers them.
According to the survey, 87% of millennials believe that the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.
So what kind of metrics do they value?
The important business outcomes that millennials feel their organizations are neglecting include: improving the skills, income, and satisfaction levels of employees; creating jobs; and providing services and goods that make a positive difference in people’s lives.
The survey found that among millennials planning to stay with their current company for more than five years, 88% said they were satisfied with the company’s sense of purpose. Meanwhile, only 63% of those planning to leave within two years were satisfied with that aspect of the organization.
To be sure, the survey notes that millennials aren’t opposed to focusing on profit: “Millennials are not anti-profit and recognize money making as a vital component of business success. They would simply advise against placing too much emphasis on short-term profit maximization.”
In fact, the survey found that pay and financial benefits are the most important factors when millennials are choosing where to work. It’s when they’re choosing between similar companies that other factors, like purpose, come into play.
This focus on purpose beyond profit is unique to millennials, compared with older generations of workers, said David Cruickshank, Deloitte’s global chairman.
Two decades ago, people joining the workforce were probably looking for “great training experience” but weren’t necessarily focused on an organization’s wider purpose, Cruickshank told Business Insider. Within the past five to 10 years, young workers have become much more concerned about the organization’s purpose, especially when deciding whether to stay with that organization.
Cruickshank said he was surprised to see that so many millennials were planning to leave their companies within a few years, given that organizations have recently started emphasizing people development.
“That’s obviously not having the right impact,” he said. “The number of people who want to leave nevertheless seems very high, so there’s a disconnect there.”
Cruickshank emphasized that the way to cultivate and communicate a greater purpose depends heavily on the individual organization and industry. In general, he said, it involves “using the organization’s strengths to do things in the wider society” and giving millennials the chance to participate.
As an example, he pointed to firms in London that often invest in outreach programs with disadvantaged local schools so they can help give students skills that will make them more employable.
Regardless of the specific organization or industry, Cruickshank said closing the purpose gap was “not an easy fix” and was a long-term process.
In fact, he said that any attempt to close the gap quickly “could do more damage than good” because people would see the efforts as superficial.
Cruickshank said that in the past five years or so companies had been placing greater emphasis on making sure their wider purpose is well understood within and outside their organizations. Those efforts could be a response to millennials’ needs or to the demands of clients who increasingly want to know what’s going on in the supply chain.
Whether they’re employees or customers, Cruickshank said, “people want to be associated with companies that are doing good things.”
Written for Business Insider by Shana Lebowitz