Would Seeing Sustainability Help Slow Millennial Churn and Burn?

Right now, many employers are in a very challenging situation when it comes to finding employees, especially younger workers commonly known as millennials.   With the country’s unemployment rate at 3.7 percent, there are not that many available takers. And making matters worse, once you do have millennials working for you, don’t count on them staying around all that long.

A 2016 Gallup survey finds that 21 percent of the millennials they contacted have changed jobs in the past year. This is three times more than the non-millennials surveyed. Further, half of the millennials questioned said they expect to move on to a new job within the year.

This is just one more indication of how millennials are different from previous generations. After World War II, many young people in this country expected to work for the same employer most of their lives, just as their parents had done before them. By the 1970s, this idea of “one job for life” was over. Today, it is expected – if not recommended – that employees change jobs about every three or four years. But changing jobs as often as once per year is a millennial phenomenon, often referred to as “churn and burn.”

It’s costly as well. Gallup estimates that churn and burn costs the U.S. economy nearly $31 billion annually.

So, what can employers do to slow this turnover rate?

Human resource professionals suggest a wide range of solutions such as allowing more millennials to work at their own pace and in their own selected locations, whether that is the company office, a coffee shop or at home. Some suggest employers help millennials pay down their student loans, which often total $40,000 or more.

But one suggestion that most HR professionals agree on is that millennials like to work for companies that are practicing green and sustainability strategies. Millennials view it as so essential that, as we will discuss later, many employers now believe they need to keep these younger workers regularly updated on what the company has accomplished when it comes to sustainability and what it plans to achieve in the foreseeable future.

“They are naturally opinionated skeptics that are perpetually filtering overwhelming amounts of sources and misleading content,” says Daniel Fisher with Ecosphere, which helps companies reduce their environmental footprint.

“Millennials are inherently curious and often suspicious of [the] information they receive. They question the companies’ motives and authenticity as they see beyond the bright lights and catchy slogans.”

So, what does this mean? According to Fisher, it means that “trust,” especially when it comes to green and sustainability issues, is now a form of currency. Millennials want to support and work for companies that actively work to better society and expect the company that employs them to be “open and honest about their efforts and to be transparent about their… environmental impacts.” If not, these younger workers are not afraid to act, by quickly moving on to another job.

Because of this, businesses are feeling more pressure to not only adopt environmental and sustainability initiatives, but constantly remind their staff of what they have accomplished so far.

“One way they are doing this is to make sure their staff can see what is being accomplished,” says Katrina Saucier, program manager for Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC., a technology that allows facilities to measure and monitor such things as water, fuel, and energy consumption. “They are lifting this data from a computer screen and placing it on monitors, installed in prominent facility locations such as an employee break room.”

Here everyone can stop, see, and discuss the sustainability initiatives the company has taken. The information on the monitor helps business owners and facility managers tell their sustainability story, with the data to back it up, as well as giving it some meaning.

“For instance, if the facility is now using less paper today than a year ago, the data translates this into how many trees have actually been saved as a result of these actions. [Or] if the company has reduced energy needs, providing this information in megawatts means very little. But saying the reduction is the equivalent of so many homes, that is something everyone can relate to.”

We started this article discussing what a challenging place many businesses find themselves in today when it comes to hiring young people and keeping them on the ship. Making sure Green and sustainability programs are in place is a significant step in addressing this challenge. Further, allowing workers to be able to see sustainability by just pointing to a screen can make them proud of what their employer is accomplishing.

Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer on green and sustainability topics.


Millennial Stats

  • Today in the US, there are an estimated 92 million millennials.
  • By 2025, millennials will represent 75 percent of the U.S. workforce.
  • More than nine in 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause they care about.
  • Seventy-five percent would take a pay cut to work for a more sustainability-focused company.
  • While 70 percent of Americans say they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues, this number jumps to 83 percent for millennials

Sources: Huffington Post; Total Retail Magazine; Cone Communications, a marketing and communications company; Forbes.