How Companies Are Changing Their Culture to Attract (And Retain) Millennials / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Is your business ready for Millennials? These are the things they want and need—chances are, you're doing a lot of things right already.

Millennials, Gen Y, Gen Next, Echo Boomers, the Baby-on-Board Generation, Screenagers, Facebookers—whatever you choose to call them, there are nearly 80 million of these young adults born (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) between 1981 and 2001.

Millennials will make up one-half of the workforce in the next five years, and a whopping 75 percent in the next decade! By comparison, the generation before them, Generation X (or Gen Xers), represent only 16 percent of today’s workforce.

The sheer volume of Millennials, combined with the relative lack of Gen Xers and the increasing retirement of Baby Boomers means that employers will be facing leadership gaps. And, they will be looking to Millennials to fill those gaps. Are you ready? 

Related Article: How to Lose a Millennial in 10 Days

What Makes Them Tick

Millennials are continuous learners, collaborators, achievement-oriented, socially conscious and highly educated. As a result, they are looking for more than a paycheck from their jobs. According to Business Insider, nearly 20% of Millennials say Google is their ideal employer, 13% said Apple and 9% listed Facebook as their ideal place to work.

All three of these companies share one shining point in common, and it’s the strength of their respective company cultures. This is important, because it transcends the idea that Millennials only want to flock to the biggest firms, and actively supports the idea that these companies got as big as they are because of they offered a more enticing working environment–– and your business can too.

Take a look at some Millennial findings from the Intelligence Group:

  • 64% say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place
  • 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor
  • 88% prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one
  • 74% want flexible work schedules
  • 88% want “work-life integration,” which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend inextricably

Adjusting corporate culture to appeal to this group is being adopted by more and more companies, and for good reason–– it's a mutually-beneficial relationship. During the White House Upskill Summit, the HR Policy Foundation released its “Talent Sustainability Report: The CHRO View From the Front Lines of the War on Talent.”  

Millennial Contribution to the Workplace

According to their survey, more than two-thirds of employers report their Millennial workforce is above average or exceptional. Employers also report Millennials are making great contributions to the workplace including technological skills; questioning the status quo; market knowledge; entrepreneurial spirit; and a drive to make a difference. As a result, 85% of companies have changed policies to appeal to Millennials. 

What Do They Want? 

While they certainly don't mind wearing flip flops to work on Friday, partaking in craft beer tastings, and getting Starbucks discounts, these types of superfluous perks are way down on the Millennial's list. Good pay, flexible scheduling, a collaborative work environment and performing mindful and purposeful work are what tops their list.

In other words, if you give them all icing with no cake they aren't biting. Millennials are not the high-maintenance enigmas some pockets of society have deemed them. What they're looking for is actually pretty basic and straight-forward. You may already be getting some of what they want right, you just might need to adapt and revamp some things.

Related Article: Defining Success: What Do Age & Gender Have to Do With It?

How to Attract (And Keep) 'Em

Provide the Opportunity to Do Meaningful Work

Millennials want to align their values and interests to the work they do and, more importantly, who they are working for.

Factors that Most Influence Millennials

According to Achieve’s 2014 Millennial Impact Report, other than compensation, the factors that most influence Millennials’ decision to stay with their current employer are: having their passions and talents used to the fullest (53%) and believing in the company’s mission and purpose (20%). In fact, over half of Millennials are willing to take a 15% pay cut to work at a company that matches their ideals.

It’s why Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Apple have all instituted and inspired others to take up their own forms of 20% time, which gives employees the ability to spend a day of their week researching projects that are important to them. Both Google Glass and the Google driverless car are the results of research born out of passion. When acting with a sense of purpose, Millennials will go above and beyond for you and your business.

Key Take-Aways: You don't have to be an industry phenom like Google and Apple to inject meaning and purpose into your employee's work. Giving Millennials ownership, autonomy and opportunities to influence positive change within your company are positive cultural shifts you can make without having to reinvent the wheel.

Offer a Competitive Compensation Package, Including Savings and Retirement Benefits

Millennials have been deeply affected by the recession, both from watching their relatives endure job loss and financial stress and from experiencing the post-recession economy. They are also the largest group carrying student loan debt. As a result, money is very important to them, as are long-term savings benefits. 

Business Insider found that 69% of Millennials said that money is their top incentive that motivates them to work harder and stay at their employer longer. This runs counter to the perception that Millennials are just out for a purpose crusade. They have real bills and real financial commitments, and as a result money does matter to them. 

Key Take-Aways: There's no need to break the bank to appeal to Millenials financially. In lieu of a top-dollar salary (go for competitive), consider offering loan repayment and tuition assistance, health care incentives and global work/travel opportunities––all things that appeal to Millennials.

Showcase the Talent You Already Have

Millennials want to work with people who are subject matter experts and willing to work as hard as they are. A study conducted by Randstad, found that nearly 69% of millennials say that their colleagues should enable their best work. Companies need to showcase the talent they already have and have a rigorous recruitment process in place to ensure only the best candidates get jobs.

One company that has mastered this is Amazon. They have "bar raisers," who are full-time employees that interview job candidates in other departments and have the power to reject any candidate before they get hired. 

Key Take-Aways: The beauty of this cultural shift is bridging a potential generation gap. Gen Xer's who may be feeling a tad threatened can be put at ease and feel valued by sharing their experience and expertise. And, if you employ stand-out Millennials currently, well, who could be better in ushering in more!

Provide Engaging and Interactive Onboarding and Ongoing Training   

Many companies are trying some internal strategies to speed the development and keep the interest of Millennials, including: developing influence leader programs; accelerated training programs; corporate YouTube Channels; networking with senior managers; and mentorship programs.

Key Take-Aways: Like using your talent to attract talent, looking towards your current workforce to help onboard and train Millennials is smart. Just make sure they are properly trained and get the "collaborative" nature of the Millennial. To help mitigate any uneasiness on both sides many companies are instituting “try before you buy” internship programs. This type of arrangement eliminates risk for both parties.

Accommodate Flexibility in When, Where and How Work Gets Done

Millennials don't believe in a 9-to-5 workday and value the ability to work from home, a co-working space or even a coffee shop. As digital natives, millennials are versed in technologies that can make telecommuting seamless and don't necessarily believe work can only get done in an office. Many companies are already catching on to this, as about 24% of employed Americans work remotely on a weekly basis.

As millennials grow older, flexible hours will become even more important to them because they will be married and have children. A recent PwC study shows that 64% of millennials would like to occasionally work from home, and 66% would like the option to occasionally shift their work hours.

Realizing the importance of giving millennials flexible hours, American Express created the BlueWork program, which connects various work styles with the appropriate work spaces. As a result, millennials are happier and Amex saves millions of dollars annually in real estate costs. 

Key Take-Aways: The notion of employees working remotely can be somewhat of a nail bitter for employers as it constitutes a leap of faith. However, this level of flexibility also gives employees a sense of control and lessens their stress which in turn results in increased loyalty and commitment to their benevolent employers.

There's no doubt Millennials are changing the corporate landscape. And, it would seem for the better. Adapting and refining corporate culture to appeal to these game changers is key to a company's continued success. Tap into a wealth of information on these game changers here. 


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