One of the UK’s most prominent think tanks has urged older millennials to consider moving jobs, to make up for ground lost on wages thanks to the global financial crisis.

Announcing the 3 February publication of its latest Earnings Outlook, [1] the Resolution Foundation notes: “Those who were young workers in their twenties during the financial crisis were by far the worst affected by the initial crisis’ real pay squeeze – falling 11% from peak to trough – and there are worrying signs that this has had lasting ‘scarring’ effects on their earnings. While there are now signs of strengthening pay for those in their twenties today, their predecessors are still feeling the effect of the financial crisis, with the pay of workers today in their thirties now furthest from pre-crisis levels.”

The Foundation explained: “While the pay of workers aged 50 and over is above pre-crisis levels, typical pay levels for all workers remains 3% lower than pre-crisis levels – [and] pay for workers in their thirties is still 7% down compared to a decade ago.”

In the Foundation’s view, “this latest data adds to the evidence that many of those who entered the labour market during the crisis have seen their pay packets permanently scarred. This risks making it even harder to cope with the income pressures they are likely to be facing in their thirties – including raising children.”

On that basis, it says: “For workers of all ages looking for stronger pay growth, the Outlook does offer clear evidence-based advice: ditch your current employer and enjoy a 4% ‘disloyalty bonus’. It finds that people staying in the same job last year enjoyed real pay growth of just 0.5%, compared to 4.5% for people that changed job.”

However, the Foundation adds, “people in their thirties and forties tend to move jobs around half as frequently as people in their twenties – just 0.7% of workers in their thirties and forties voluntarily moved jobs last year.” With that in mind, the Foundation says, “for these pay-squeezed millennials, now might be the time to finally make a reality of their long-held stereotype, and start job-hopping.”

Given this strong message of encouragement for older millennials to jump ship, what should leaders do to hold on to the talents they employ from this age group?

Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “Generation theory suggests that, as a result of being exposed to the same world events, people who were born around the same time will have a similar outlook on life. And that is the basis for much of the commentary we hear about millennials.

She notes: “The assertion that people in this demographic have been left unrewarded for their loyalty does make a lot of sense: in a recent webinar, we quoted figures indicating that people who are currently employed, but are looking around for other jobs, are doing so because they feel undervalued by their managers. Indeed, according to those figures, that push factor is actually stronger than the pull factors associated with promotions and pay rises. So that sense of feeling underappreciated is widespread, and one could reasonably expect many millennials to be included in that groundswell.

“However, for those who entered the workforce in the run up to, during or just after the flashpoint of the 2008 crisis, that experience would undoubtedly have informed their view of the jobs market. Many of them would have counted themselves lucky for having found work – and subsequently held on to it – at a time when large-scale redundancies were rolling like a purge across every sector.”

Cooper points out: “Another important point here is that, in the years since then, a lot of older millennials’ lifestyles would have developed. Many would by now have commitments in terms of home ownership, children and perhaps even caring responsibilities for older relatives. Those factors would naturally root them to specific, geographical locations linked to schooling, and/or the proximity of relatives’ homes. People will use their jobs to support their lives in the areas where they’ve chosen to live. So, even though some older millennials may feel undervalued at work, their post-2008 experiences and evolving lifestyles would have instilled them with a certain caution about switching jobs.”

That said, she adds: “The Foundation does make a compelling case for older millennials to show a greater curiosity in the jobs market – a message that may well prompt people to examine more closely any dissatisfaction they may have with their current roles. For leaders and managers who are unable to offer financial reasons for those people to stick around, it is vital to explore non-financial alternatives such as flexible working, skills training and assigning staff to charitable causes – the latter in particular a great way to harness older millennials’ desire to create meaning through their work.”

For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s resources on understanding HR

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