Here come the Millennials

The fight to attract and retain a demographic
Here come the Millennials

We’ve been hearing it for a while now: Baby Boomers are starting to hit retirement age in droves, with ten thousand adults turning sixty-five each day. Here to fill those soon-to-be-vacated jobs are the Millennials, or young adults born between 1980 and 1995.

A much studied, discussed and scrutinized generation, Millennials are projected to make up the majority of the U.S. workforce in 2015, signaling that whether or not companies fully understand these young adults, they must figure out a way to recruit them and–the hard part–get them to stay with the company. Employers have reported having a hard time finding qualified workers of this generation, and stigmas around Millennial qualities like entitlement and laziness persist.

But the challenge goes both ways. Millennials aren’t having an easy time finding jobs that match their skills, even with a diploma or two in hand. Many start their post-college lives un- and underemployed, using those expensive degrees to work at clothing stores and serve pork belly tacos. There’s an imbalance. But as the economy continues along its path of recovery and more and more Millennials join the workforce, a shift in our general working culture seems inevitable.

Culture crave

There’s the issue of managers not finding the right Millennials to hire, and then there’s the issue of Millennials not finding the job they feel is right for them.

Increasingly, these young workers are weighing office culture as an important factor when taking a position at a company, just as they would with pay and benefits such as health insurance.

Two of the biggest workplace culture cravings are a casual, friendly environment and flexibility, which means both flexible hours and flexible location (working from home or a coffee shop or even a co-working space). While flexibility is definitely of value to Millennials, this benefit extends to Gen X, too. A 2014 survey of adults ages eighteen to forty-four conducted by staffing firm Mom Corps found that fifty-one percent of adults polled said they plan to look for a new job with more flexibility in the next three years.

Sound off with Niko Skievaski: A millennial entrepreneur discusses what his generation looks for in a job

You’re involved with the local startup community. What is it that draws Millennials to these companies?
My colleagues want to use their skills to do something “good” and provide value. In a large company, it’s often harder to feel how your efforts directly contribute to the value the company provides. And as a founder or a member of a small team, it’s very easy to see how your day-to-day work impacts the problems you’re trying to solve. I work probably fifty percent more as an entrepreneur than I did in my corporate jobs, yet feel one hundred percent more free and like I’m making a bigger impact.

Millennials change jobs more frequently. Why do you think this is?
Millennials won’t settle for a dead-end job, even if it pays well. I think prior generations may have been more content with less-fulfilling jobs if they paid the bills and offered enough benefits. They’re satisfied with living their lives in their non-work hours. I spend most of my time in the office; I’d like it to be a place I’m happy to consider life, not just work.

What can companies do to attract and retain Millennials?
Help them understand why they are important in the company. Give them freedom to create and solve problems. Don’t use processes and rules to guide work effort, as the frustration can cause them to feel like a replaceable cog. Give feedback often and openly, with enough freedom to improve.

Skievaski is the co-founder of 100state and Redox, among others. He previously worked at Wells Fargo and Epic.