90% of Gen Y spends less than five years with an employer

London Business School finds promotion fails to retain talent


The vast majority of Generation Y employees plan to stay less than five years with one employer. More than a third (37%) plan to stay no more than two years.

Almost 40% start a new role already planning their next career move and they are rarely dissuaded by promotion prospects which take third place to work/life balance and organisational culture.

On 24 June at its annual Global Leadership Summit in partnership with Deloitte, London Business School will reveal the results of a five-year survey of participants from its Emerging Leaders executive education programme.

Representing 33 countries, the high-potential Gen Y respondents were asked what they value in an employer, how long they want to stay with one and how they will lead when they eventually reach the C-Suite. A startling 90% said they planned to stay no longer than five years with one employer.

According to experts in executive education at London Business School, the findings are further evidence of the failure of baby boomers and Generation X to offer benefits that appeal to the high-potential Y.

London Business School’s Director of Learning Solutions, Adam Kingl suggests a possible response: “One response is to revise the employer value proposition in favour of a quicker return to the employee. This might include: assigning a senior mentor to offer executive perspective unusually early, assigning Gen Ys to quick win 12-18 month team projects and an acknowledgement that while we may not work together for many years in one go, we may reunite when the Gen Y is a seasoned manager, reaping the benefits of growth without all the costs of nurturing it.”

An understanding of their ambitions is crucial. London Business School’s study shows that only 12% of emerging leaders aspire to emulate CEOs who focus on how the business is trading. Developing and promoting innovation is a top priority for Gen Y, 34% of whom want to be CEOs who take an entrepreneurial approach to company management. An even higher percentage (39%) say they want to be CEOs whose aim is to make the company and the world a better place.

With a later retirement age and longer working life, Richard Hytner, Adjunct Associate Professor of Marketing, London Business School and author of Consiglieri: Leading From The Shadows, believes portfolio careers could be the answer: “Leaders with ultimate accountability have to endure relentless dissatisfaction from shareholders, employers or customers and frequently all three. Always in the limelight, making and justifying often public and sometimes unpopular decisions, these leaders occupy a twilight zone of professional and personal trade-offs, leaving little time for the flexing of creative muscles and a more entrepreneurial approach”, Hytner says.

“With a later retirement age and longer working life, portfolio careers encompassing roles with ultimate accountability and roles demanding different leadership skills, those of the counsellor, coach or deputy, could be Gen Y’s best chance of securing the variety of experience and work/life balance that is so important to them.”