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The Millennial Problem

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There’s a belief, at least around Silicon Valley, that the so-called Millennials (those born somewhere between the years 1980 and 2000) just simply aren’t engaged at work.

Source: Vimeo

This isn’t limited to startups. Companies like Google with enormous resources and brainpower are hiring “Millennial consultants” to better understand younger workers. Oracle and HBO want to stem employment churn and have made commitments to better understanding workforces in their 20s to early 30s.

When we look at our data (specifically, our New Tech Benchmark), we see a lot of this too. Workers under 33 years of age simply have lower overall engagement than other age groups. Scores are out of a possible 100.

However, if we factor for the question “I see myself at Company X in two years time,” and remove its influence on the overall engagement score, the cohort under 33 years of age appear to be just as engaged as everyone else.

This effect suggests that younger workers simply have no intentions to stay at the company they work for, across the board and regardless of situation — even if they are highly engaged.

This is a big deal because retaining workers consistently ranks as a high-priority for many organizations. It’s expensive to make up for the ones you’ve lost, even for an “average” worker. Not to mention the intangible damages like morale. But why is retention seemingly so much more difficult for Millennials?

Let’s look at the data:

Workforce Development Lags Behind

Particularly in Silicon Valley, the growth of technology is outpacing the need to learn it. Hell, the speed at which technology becomes obsolete is outpacing the speed at which someone can learn it.

Our data show a similar trend. People at their jobs are not too happy with the level of L&D they receive. Indeed, it is one of the overall lowest scoring metrics we collect:

In the gig economy, a good way to learn new skills is to leave your current job and go to a new one. Work a job for a few years, pick up new skills, and move on to the next with new skills in-hand. Top-ranked business schools like INSEAD are teaching people to build portfolios, telling people to “switch employers and industries frequently and change paths.”

“… the training or education programs of most companies tend to fall far behind employees’ needs.“ — Quartz

And Your Value Can Double By Leaving

Compounding the lack of training, there were 5 million job openings in April 2016, the highest number in history. Workers are finding that their skills are increasingly more valuable not just at their job, but everywhere else, too. If employers aren’t training their staff and won’t hire people that need training, the only choice is to hire people from other companies. This quickly turn into a very expensive bidding war for talent.

The signal to employees: you must shop around constantly for a better deal, or you are leaving money on the table. In Haseed Qureshi’s case, his salary more than doubled without a single day at a job.

Take Consideration of The Long Play

Let’s talk pensions — how many of us have them? Traditional Defined-Benefit (DB) pensions have decreased steadily at least for a couple of generations. Defined benefits are what people are usually talking about in America when they say “pension”— a guaranteed amount that’s paid out after retiring with your company — 80% of workers had these in 1985. In 20 years, or about one generation, that number has decreased to 34%.

Source: Social Security Administration

While there are benefits to having full control of your own retirement accounts and not being tied to a job until retirement, 401ks and IRAs will only be on par with DB pensions if people put (a lot) more money into them than they are right now. And the easiest way to do that is simply to earn more. An easy way to earn more is to get a new job.

Tying it Together

There are a lot of reasons for Millennials to be fickle about the workplace. The last few decades left them with no pensions, insufficient training in the areas they need, and the rise of the gig economy. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that companies are left asking why they can’t keep workers around by offering ping-pong tables and free beer at the price tag of $20,000 an hour.

But, there’s one giant catch: there is no evidence to suggest Millennials are leaving their jobs at a more frequent rate than previous generations.

The Problem of the Millennial Problem

When it comes to staying at a job, Millennials are no statistically different than generations past. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data shows that median tenure at a job has held steady across younger workers for at least 30 years.

Older workers, of course, have longer median tenures because they’ve been in the workforce longer. But what’s interesting is how steady the increases of medians are between cohorts. Our data shows a complementary effect: older workers answer more positively on retention-related questions (i.e. I plan on staying at Company X for the next two years) in a steadily increasing manner.

The implication here is younger people simply feel less confident about their career trajectory and and grow more confident as they are more established (obvious). Simultaneously, younger workers have been staying at their jobs at a consistent rate for decades. In short, there is nothing wrong with the kids these days. They are not leaving jobs more frequently. They are just as committed, proud, and motivated as everyone else.

Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt. — Horace

Though the factors stated earlier heavily coincide with the timing of Millennials entering the job market, it should be emphasized that these factors reflect the current reality of employment for everyone. Everyone cares about retirement, skills development, and making more money. These are the benefits of employment that every person has a right to and should care about — not just a specific, arbitrarily-chosen subsection of people born between a certain time period like Millennials or Sagittariusses. (Sagittarii? Sagitarians?)

But we also can’t forget that we live in a system of Catch-22s — train your workforce well and they might leave for a bigger paycheck; guaranteed pensions are unpopular with shareholders and investors; offer more money, and someone else will counter. But one thing is for sure: organizations that only provide people with a basic paycheck are at a disadvantage versus those companies that go beyond.

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About the Author

This article was written by Hyon S Chu. Hyon is a data scientist at Culture Amp — where we conduct analytics and research with data that comes from real people at companies like yours. Reach out to join the conversation.

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Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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