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How Leaders Can Appeal to Millennial Employees

It’s a question that’s on the mind of executives, recruiters, and mangers: How do we appeal to Millennials? As the fastest growing demographic in the US workforce, employers must be adaptive to the demands and unique characteristics that this cohort values. For many, the answer comes in the form of ‘company culture’. What is company culture? How do you build a strong and appealing company culture? Why do Millennials care about it so much?

By 2020, Millennials will make up nearly 50% of the entire working population of the United States. In the next 15 years, Millennials will make up a staggering 75% of the workforce. They are the single largest generation cohort in the country right now, both in the workforce and outside of it standing at nearly 80 million strong. This year, Millennials overtook the Baby Boomers to become the largest generation in American history, and are expected to continue growing as young immigrants join the ranks.

The generation before them, Generation X, only comprises 16% of the workforce in 2016. There are many fewer Gen Xers than Millennials, and combined with the increasing retirement of the Baby Boomers, Millennials are currently the single largest workforce population. So it comes as no surprise that businesses are concerned with how their companies are perceived, accepted, and respected by the Millennial population both as consumers and as employees.

Although it will be a few years before Millennials begin to fill the upper echelons of executive management, they are the majority of new hires and already are the largest group in many offices. When we try to talk about Millennials, we do so by comparing them to other generations, or what we think other generations look like. Of course, a good number of these traits assigned to any group are dependent upon age.

A single person in their twenties is more likely to switch jobs and desire flexibility in their workplace than a person in their sixties who has worked in the same industry for twenty years and is supporting a family. So this idea that Millennials are all entitled techies that sit behind a computer screen using social media to engage with their ‘personal brand’ needs to be taken with a heavy dose of salt rather than the usual grain.

Of course, as a Millennial, I don’t and can’t speak for all Millennials, nor do I intend to. My ideal workplace may look very different from yours, just as the work we wish we were doing may be light years apart from each other. But, as the Millennial population continues to grow into the workforce, many of us are looking for similar things in our ideal workplaces.

Collaboration is better than competition

As the most educated generation in history, Millennials are more socially conscious, globally engaged, and diverse than any prior generations. Growing up with technology has instilled in many a need for easy and fast communication and to feel as though their voices are heard.

The Intelligence Group report on Millennials found that 72% would like to be their own boss; if they do have to work for someone else, they want that boss to act as a mentor and collaborator. The same report found that 88% of Millennials prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one. Many are excellent team members and value collaboration as a pathway to innovation and value idea sharing at all levels.

Millennials want to work in companies where they feel valued, and that company values align with their own. According to Achieve’s 2016 Millennial Impact Report, that other than pay, having their talents used fully and belief in the company’s mission and impact are the most important factors that influence a Millennial’s decision to stay with their current company. This is really significant- 60% of Millennials will leave their current company within the next three years, and the average Millennial will make 4 job changes in their first ten years of post-graduation work.


So where does this leave employers?

Jessica Brack and Kip Kelly, in a report by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, write, “By all accounts, Millennials are unlike preceding generations. They view the world different and have redefined the meaning of success, personally and professionally.” Adapting to the needs and demands of your workforce is critical to a firm’s success.

Company culture is more than just how employees and management interact with each other. All companies have a culture, whether its been consciously curated or not and understanding how your employees feel about their workplace is the first step in addressing any potential changes.

Millennials value work-life balance and also work-life integration. While perks like beer tastings and ping pong tables in the office are flashy and easy to show off to potential recruits, Millennials are more interested in substantive benefits. As the generation with the most student loan debt and highest rates of unemployment and underemployment, money matters. Salary is obviously important but benefit packages like 401k matches, health care incentives, loan repayment and tuition reimbursements are all ways employers can encourage an employee’s retention.

Opportunities to have more flexible schedules or to work remotely are also gaining traction and are attractive to many, as 24% of employed Americans work remotely on a weekly basis. While offering remote workspaces might seem counterintuitive to building a connected workforce, offering the option signals to employees that you trust them enough to work outside of their desks. Millennials want to feel socially, behaviorally, intellectually and emotionally invested in their workplace and employers who can satisfy these needs have the best chance of lowering attrition rates.

Want to know what a Millennial is thinking? Ask them. More than 40% of companies employ 50 or more Millennials, and managers and HR have direct access to the very population that they’re hoping to reach. Engaging with employees to hear their suggestions encourages transparency and makes employees feel as though their voices are being heard. Surveys, polls, and statistics can only get you so far.

In order to build a company culture that encourages employees to invest themselves into the firm, ask what engages them about their workplace. What do they want more of? How can they be heard? Feasible and implementable suggestions may become the first step to building an engaging company culture.

Cassidy Welter on Twitter
Cassidy Welter
Staff Writer: Cassidy Welter is a Chicago based researcher at a consulting firm specializing in nonprofits. When she's not working, she's reading anything she can get her hands on, debating politics, watching the Pittsburgh Penguins and eating her way across the city's food scene. See more from Cassidy on Twitter at @CassidyWelter.

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Staff Writer: Cassidy Welter is a Chicago based researcher at a consulting firm specializing in nonprofits. When she's not working, she's reading anything she can get her hands on, debating politics, watching the Pittsburgh Penguins and eating her way across the city's food scene. See more from Cassidy on Twitter at @CassidyWelter.


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