US millennials and entry-level workers report higher levels of boredom and are more likely to leave their companies. Here's how you can keep them engaged.
Millennials are nearly twice as likely to be bored at work than baby boomers, according to a recent survey from Udemy for Business.
And employees of all ages who report feeling bored at work are twice as likely to leave a company than those who do not, the survey found.
"Highly functioning and high performing organizations are driven by high engagement," said Darren Shimkus, general manager for Udemy for Business. Yet a Gallup report found that as of 2012, only 30% of American workers were engaged at their workplace. Gallup estimated that actively disengaged employees cost the US between $450 billion and $550 billion in lost productivity per year.
"The millennial generation is looking for different things to drive satisfaction in their jobs," Shimkus said. "Climbing the career ladder or chasing a higher salary aren't fundamental drivers." Instead, this age cohort tends to look for a job that is meaningful to them, in which they can grow and learn new skills, he added.
Toluna Group surveyed 1,000 full-time office workers in the US on behalf of Udemy for Business. Employees reported the following reasons for feeling bored at work (and could select more than one option):
- Lack of opportunity to learn new skills (46%)
- Unchallenging work that doesn't use my education (44%)
- Not enough to do (30%)
- Social media distractions (29%)
- Too much to do (25%)
"Millennials report higher levels of boredom at work because they are the most disengaged generation in the workforce globally," said Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace and author of Promote Yourself. "They require constant feedback, training, mentoring and new career opportunities. If they aren't challenged at work, they immediately start looking at new jobs and will continue to job hop until their needs are satisfied."
Since millennials are early in their careers, they are still trying to identify their strengths and aligned them to the best fit job, Schawbel said.
"Millennials are the largest generation in the US workforce now," said Jason Dorsey, cofounder and researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics. "Engagement is not just about more money or the latest tech or a new yoga room—it's about understanding what your employees want, and being able to give it to them in a feasible way that makes them feel valued."
The entry-level challenge
Some researchers say that the problem is not that millennials are bored, but that they tend to hold lower-level positions. The Udemy survey found that people in entry to mid-level jobs reported feeling more bored (46%) than those at senior levels.
Jennifer Deal, senior research scientists at the Center for Creative Leadership and co-author of the book What Millennials Want From Work, said that while millennials don't enjoy repetitive, boring work, neither does any other generation. "We also found that people who thought their work was boring or routine were more likely to be at lower levels—it wasn't their generation that explained the differences, but their level in the organization," Deal said.
People with higher positions in a company tend to say their work has more variety, is less routine, and is more interesting than those at lower levels.
Deal recommends minimizing repetitive work as much as possible for all employees. "Managers need to think about how they're distributing routine work, and its effect on employees," Deal said.
"When people have a lot of repetitive, boring work, it's a good idea for managers to sit down with the people assigned to this work and explain to them why it matters," Deal said. "Often people don't understand how it is contributing to what the team or larger organization is doing. If the manager can't explain that, perhaps someone should rethink the work being done."
Managers can also provide some retrospective experience, on how performing similar tasks at the beginning of their career helped them do their job better later, Deal said.
Managers should expose job candidates and new hires to the company culture and expectations very quickly, to better alignment, Dorsey said. Disengagement and boredom often occur when the wrong person is hired for the job, he added.
Some of the best ways that employers, especially tech companies, can keep millennials engaged is to mentor them, provide them with adequate training, allow them to take risks, and enable them to move within the company, Schawbel said. "Employers need to invest in millennials' careers if they want millennials to invest in the company, which is a different mindset than older generations had," he said.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- A recent survey from Udemy for Business found that millennials are nearly twice as likely to be bored at work than baby boomers.
- Entry-level workers were also more likely to report disengagement at work than other employees, which could explain the disparity.
- To keep employees engaged, managers can offer mentoring, training, and paths for upward movement.
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