By Melissa J. Anderson

Is Gen Y a generation of job-hoppers? According to a recent study by Millennial Branding, a social media marketing company, yes. Millennials spend an average of 2 years on the job. The company based its study on an analysis of 4 million Gen Y Facebook profiles.

According to Dan Schawbel, Founder of Millennial Branding and Bestselling Author of Me 2.0, the research shows the enterprising nature of the generation – in fact, he says, the fifth most popular job title for Gen Y is “owner.”

He believes companies can learn much about attracting and retaining the newest generation of employees to enter the workforce by looking at the aggregate Facebook data – particularly when it comes to how they identify themselves in relation to their employer.

Friends and Coworkers

According to the study, 82% of millennial employees listed at least one work friend, 53% have at least five, and 40% have at least ten work friends on Facebook. Nevertheless, it continues, “64% of Gen-Y fails to list their employer on their profiles, yet they add an average of 16 co-workers each to their ‘friend’ group.”

This could point out to a preference for personal relationships over being part of an employer brand. For this reason, companies looking to retain and promote millennial employees should focus on building a culture based on collegial relationships – rather than a more paternalistic or corporate-name based employer brand. Deloitte was the largest corporate employer.

The study also pointed out the entrepreneurial nature of the group. Millennial Branding says:

“’Owner’ is the fifth most popular job title for Gen-Y because they are an entrepreneurial generation. Even though most of their companies won’t succeed, they are demonstrating an unprecedented entrepreneurial spirit. Companies need to allow Gen-Yers to operate entrepreneurially within the corporation by giving them control over their time, activities and budgets as much as possible.”

In fact, very few Millennials have ever worked for a large company, the analysis showed. Only 10% of Gen Y employees has ever listed a Fortune 500 company as am employer, and even fewer continue to work for one. The study said:

“Only 7% of Gen-Y works for a Fortune 500 company because startups are dominating the workforce for this demographic in today’s economy. If large corporations want to remain competitive, they need to aggressively recruit Gen-Y workers.”

Finally the company pointed out, many Millennials are either in school or have yet to find a job outside the bartending or waiting tables, due to the economic downturn. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t work to engage those hourly employees for corporate jobs later on.

It says, “Companies such as Walmart and Starbucks ranked high and should focus on training their in-store workers to become corporate employees when they graduate.”

Changing the Workforce

According to Caroline Dowd-Higgins, Director of Career and Professional Development and Adjunct Faculty at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, the research shows that Millennials are looking to break down the barriers between their personal and professional lives – and, she continues, this means a change in employee processes for everyone.

In a recent Huffington Post article, she wrote:

“I see a shift happening in a variety of sectors that are accommodating part-time, flex-time, and tele-commuting options for their employees. Gen Y has helped us all remember that quality of life is important if we are to be successful as professionals and healthy as individuals.

“Large law firms, for example, have begun to add staff attorneys or contract attorneys into their employment menu for lawyers who don’t want to work on the traditional partner track. The legal industry is exploring this off-track model to retain great talent and give more flexible opportunities to those who don’t value the prestige or earning potential of the high level partner-track positions. It all boils down to professional values.”

She added:

“I am encouraged that work/life integration is something employers are finally addressing since burn out, stress related illness, and toxic work environments continue to cause serious problems in the workforce. Perhaps Gen Y’s request for this “balance” up front will generate a paradigm shift and help to restructure the workforce since balanced, healthy people perform better on the job.”

While the Millennial Branding’s research may reveal as much about how Gen Y is using Facebook as it does about how they feel about their employer,  it is clear that as this generation rises up through the ranks, companies will have to shift the ways in which they do business to attract and retain their high performing employees.