5 Ways to Attract Millennial Talent to Your Small Business

By Liz Greene

Currently, millennials represent more than a quarter of the U.S. workforce, and it won’t be much longer before they’re the largest demographic in the workforce. As boomers retire and leave the workforce, the number of Gen Y employees is expected to grow to over 50 percent by 2020. These statistics paint a clear picture: It’s in your best interest to learn how to attract and retain millennial employees. Fortunately, this is easily done. All you have to know is what millennials expect as employees and offer it in spades.

Be Socially Responsible

Both as consumers and as employees, millennials want more from companies. They want to see brands actively working to better society and solve social issues. What’s more, they want companies to be loud and proud about their CSR efforts, sharing the successes of their pro-social initiatives on social media and in advertisements.

According to a study from Cone Communications, 76 percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Furthermore, 64 percent of them won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.

Not only do millennials feel companies should take a stance on social issues, they also expect them to be environmentally conscious. Sustainability plays a key role in where Gen Yers spend their money and where they’re employed.

Choose a cause (or two) to get behind and start donating, volunteering, and working toward a better future. It’s best if said cause is aligned with your company values. For instance, TOMS Shoes “One for One” campaign. For every pair of shoes they sell, another pair is donated to a child in need. Once you have a charitable cause nailed down, focus on going green. Not only will being environmentally responsible help you appeal to millennial employees, it will should significantly lower costs.

It’s important to remember that sincerity is key. Millennials are keen detectors of deception and pretense. If you’re only paying lip service to CSR, Gen Y will call you out publicly — and that’s bound to cause a whole world of problems.

Offer the Right Perks

Everyone and their dog is trying to pull in millennial talent by imitating the “world of perks” that is Google. While they certainly don’t hurt, free food and nap pods aren’t what millennials are truly looking for when it comes to employee benefits. If you want to appeal to Generation Y, forget the ping pong table and start offering perks that benefit work-life balance.

Millennial employees yearn for flexibility and a proper work-life balance. They want flex-time, remote work, paid family leave, and paid vacations. They want to be able to take a break without worrying about the financial burden it might cause. And speaking of financial burdens, one of the most coveted employee perks is student loan repayment assistance.

Some of the biggest brands have finally figured out the millennial mindset. Instead of offering free lunch, they’re extending the kind of benefits that make people fight tooth and nail to work with them. Netflix offers one paid year of family leave to new parents. Airbnb gives its employees an annual stipend of $2,000 to travel and stay in an Airbnb listing anywhere in the world. PwC offers its employees $1,200 per year for student loan debt reimbursement. Zillow pays to ship breast milk for traveling parents.

While you may not be financially stable enough to provide benefits on the same level as those above, you can still focus on what’s important. Skip the cereal bars and offer a few more paid days off per year instead. Once you have your perks figured out, advertise them to potential employees in job postings and on social media.

Be Respectful

As a general rule, millennials don’t automatically respect people in positions of authority. Gen Y is a cynical bunch, and if you want their respect, you have to earn it. Fortunately, winning the respect of millennials is as easy as offering it in return.

Millennials measure respect in a number of ways. The first is by being heard — they want to feel that their ideas are taken seriously. They also see the extent of your respect in what tasks you delegate, the way you communicate, and your level of honesty and transparency. They’re incredibly intelligent, and quick to pick up on even the smallest signs of disrespect.

You can demonstrate respect to your employees by treating them kindly, encouraging them to express opinions and ideas, implementing said suggestions, and obeying the golden rule:

treat them the way you would want to be treated. Earn their respect and you’ll end up with a group of employees who will go to the ends of the earth for you.

Be Transparent

Despite what is commonly believed, millennials don’t want their information sugarcoated — they want pure, unfiltered honesty. Gen Y has strongly-held opinions on what they should know about their company, and have no qualms asking questions and searching for answers. Lie to them, and they’ll look for another job.

Honest leadership is one of the best ways to attract and retain millennial talent. When it comes to transparency, think radical. Lay everything out on the table — even problems you don’t have a solution for yet. This level of honesty will generate a strong connection to the company and motivate millennial employees to do whatever they can to achieve the business’s goals.

Acknowledge Your Employees

Millennials crave feedback. It’s not an attention thing, or a need for a “participation trophy”, it’s simply how they gain the information they need to grow and succeed. Provide daily or weekly informal input and you’ll see their motivation soar. Don’t wait for department meetings or performance reviews to recognize a job well done — give it as soon as you see something worth applauding. Such immediate recognition enforces continued positive behavior and productivity going forward.

If daily feedback is too much too handle, you need to be acknowledging millennial employees hard work at least once a month. This recognition can come from different managers, or you can implement a colleague recognition program where workers can recognize each other’s contributions and accomplishments on a regular basis. To really get the point across, consider holding a yearly employee appreciation celebration.

Millennial employees aren’t the difficult, narcissistic crybabies the media has made them out to be. While they are different from the generations that came before them, they have their own unique strengths — strengths that can be leveraged to build a stronger, more successful company. Once you know how to engage this giant generation, you’ll be able to harness their amazing potential. And that’s something money just can’t buy.

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Liz Greene 300x300Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.