Amanda Groves

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The 54 million working members of the Millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, came of age in a period characterized by shaky economic conditions and rapid advances in technology. Their perspective differs considerably from that of previous generations, and their entry into the workforce is dramatically changing how we do business.

Of all generations currently working, Millennials have the highest entrepreneurial tendencies. Their parents inspired the term “helicopter-parenting”, and they are used to a collaborative everyone-wins mentality. Millennials are looking for a new kind of working environment, and they aren’t afraid to pass up good paying jobs with companies reputed to have so-so cultures for so-so paying jobs reputed to have great cultures.

Once hired, they stay for the management style and working relationships, rather than the rapid advancement and large financial rewards coveted by older colleagues. Future-thinking organizations are transforming outdated practices in order to attract and retain the Millennials they need to staff their businesses.

Creating Company Cultures that Attract Millennials

Your talent brand is the reputation you have with both active and passive Millennial job seekers, and it is based almost entirely on the elements of your culture that are visible from outside the company. Consider what your current employees are saying to family, friends, and professional acquaintances. If they wouldn’t refer a candidate to you, your talent brand is broken. Correcting branding issues requires commitment from all levels of leadership.

  • Community partnerships and media reputation: Potential Millennial applicants will notice your contributions to the community, both financial and in-kind, and they will determine their interest in your company by your reputation in the media. For example, CVS Health became a media darling after its 2014 decision to go tobacco-free. On the other hand, a Google search of Monsanto brings up pages and pages of bad press. Companies with negative images like Monsanto’s have a long road ahead when it comes to creating a talent brand that appeals to Millennials.
  • Professional development: Show candidates that your culture is one of individualized development and you will be highly likely to interest Millennial applicants. These candidates want the chance to grow within an organization, and they expect non-traditional roads to reach that goal. Consider emerging methods like Employee Resource Groups, which offer staff members the opportunity to connect with all levels of the organization, as well as develop skills that might not otherwise be a part of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Maintaining Company Cultures that Retain Millennials

Companies can only succeed with contributions from Millennials, making engagement and retention of this generation critically important. This is evidenced by recent studies connecting employee engagement and profitability. For example, organizations on the 2009 Glassdoor Best Places to Work list beat the S&P 500 by 115.6 percent in the following five-year period, proving that these steps are critical to future growth:

  • Flatten Out: Millennials value a collaborative, team-based approach to a top-down queen bee/worker bee mentality. Create work teams with leaders acting as coaches – think mentors, rather than dictators – and reduce the levels of red tape required to reach decision-makers.
  • Train Managers in Partnership: Managers must adjust their strategy from giving step-by-step direction to thought partnership. Rather than planning the project, their role is to talk through challenges and remove obstacles, so that Millennials can move forward with their work independently.
  • Offer Personal and Professional Support: Being on the receiving end of helicopter parenting leaves Millennials with a desire for parent-style advice, both in the office and at home. New technology makes this easier than ever, with mobile apps for everything from professional mentors to financial planning to mental health counseling. These non-traditional benefits go a long way in creating a culture that retains Millennials.

Attracting and retaining Millennials is no longer an option – it’s a requirement for companies that need skilled talent to get the job done. Millennials are far more interested in a company’s culture than they are in its stock price, so creating and refining traditional cultures to better meet Millennials’ must-haves is the next big challenge for business.


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