Millennials and the 2 Year Itch, Blog by Fuel50

The ‘2 Year Itch’ – No Longer Just for Millennials

The ‘7-year itch’ is usually a joke related to marriage, but it seems the ‘2-year itch’ that has long been considered a millennial affliction is now affecting workers of all generations.  


In 2016, we had a conversation with career coach Michael Strong of SGEi at a Fuel50 event in Las Vegas, during which she displayed her shock and surprise that millennials thought a 6-month tenure in a job showed good career stability. But now, having come out of the global pandemic of the early 2020s, it’s no longer just millennials who are job-hopping every two years or so. 


The 5 Generations in the Workforce 


Currently, there are five generations in the workforce, each with their own preferred ways of working and differing needs from their work: 

  • Traditionalists, a.k.a. the Silent Generation: 2% (born 1925–1945) 
  • Baby Boomers: 25% (born 1946–1964) 
  • Generation X: 33% (born 1965–1980) 
  • Millennials, a.k.a. Generation Y: 35% (born 1981–2000) 
  • Generation Z: 5% (born 2001–2020) 


The Traditionalists and Baby Boomers tend to value teamwork and face-to-face communication and prioritize long tenures. Gen X are typically more independent, happily communicate via email, and value their personal life over company profits. Millennials are much more purpose-driven and need to find meaning in their work. They prioritize work-life balance and require flexibility. The youngest group in the workforce, Gen Z, requires job stability and a lot of individual recognition. Plus, they have strong principles that may see them leaving an organization where these don’t align. 


Previous generations often joined a company once they finished their schooling and stayed with that company their entire working life. While this commitment to a single organization is admirable, the rate of change today is vastly different. As economies fluctuate and global situations shift, so too do the attitudes of millennials and their fellow colleagues. 


Embracing organizational change 


As organizations adopt more agile ways of working, switching from a title-based workforce structure to a skills-based one enables greater talent sharing and internal mobility. Workforce agility, according to one report The Key Drivers of Workforce Agility, is “An organization’s ability to alter its direction of adjust to operate successfully. An agile organization requires its workforce to swiftly adapt to the changing needs of customers, employees, and the marketplace. Being agile is a challenge HR should embrace.”  


The playbook continues to explain that “[Agile organizations] … prioritize learning and development to ensure their people have the skills they need now, and in the future, to be equipped and ready to handle changes within the market.”  


Reasons for shorter tenure 


While organizations need to be agile, firstly, there is still resistance to changing traditional ways of working and, secondly, limited capabilities or investment to ensure employees can develop new skills and then advance in their careers. Limited options for growth (real or perceived) are a top reason for employees leaving organizations. 


Employees who do not have visibility into internal career opportunities are 61% more likely to quit their jobs.  


Fostering a growth mindset 


Retaining employees, be they millennials or from other generational groups, requires providing individuals with visibility to the opportunities available across the organization. While a simple electronic and physical job noticeboard can help, they do not show each individual employee the bespoke learning and development required to move from their current position to another. Nor do they highlight who they can connect with for coaching and mentoring within the organization. A skills-based talent marketplace platform helps create workforce transparency for HR, leaders, and employees – to enable agile workforces and generate measurable results.  


Over 50% are more likely to stay if they have the opportunity to explore internal career opportunities. 


Millennials in conclusion 


For organizations wanting to help their millennials and other employees work through and past the “2-year itch”, investing in them is the way to go. If you want to truly understand and connect your workforce, talk to one of our experts today.


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