Leaders, are you paying attention to the younger employees on your team—members of the so-called millennial generation, in particular?
I occasionally see comments that are dismissive of these younger workers—alleging that they are too tech-obsessed, they are always glued to their phone, or what have you—but in my experience none of the common complaints about millennials actually hold true. These folks always seem pretty sharp and pretty substantive, as far as I can tell—and that’s a good thing: As of last year, they represent the single largest generational demographic in the workforce.
They are not going anywhere, either, so it’s important to try to understand what drives them. What drives members of this generation may be different from what drives older employees. Millennials aren’t just out for a paycheck. What they’re after is a richer array of benefits: A flexible work environment. Opportunities to learn and to develop themselves. Companies that have a distinct vision, and invite employees to be a part of it.
In other words, what millennials want is culture.
There are a variety of explanations for this. First, millennials came of age during the Great Recession, and as such they know how tenuous employment can be. Chances for professional growth and development matter nearly as much as a steady paycheck, then, because even if the paycheck goes away, the skills mastered can be carried over into a new position.
Meanwhile, the consumer environment in which millennials have grown up places a clear premium on ideas over tangible goods. Think about how the vision and ethos of Airbnb, Uber, and even tech companies like Google have united people, provided a sense of belonging and social engagement.
There are a few takeaways from all this. First and foremost, if you want to recruit top talents from this critical demographic, you’ve got to offer more than the standard salary-and-benefits package. You’ve got to offer a culture to which they feel like they belong. You’ve got to invest in them.
And even if you don’t hire any young folks any time soon, you can take a page out of their playbook. Remember that there is more to your company than what you see with your own two eyes. Some of the things that mark a company’s culture are esoteric, even unexplainable—yet so important to what makes that company unique. Employees know it, consumers know it—and hopefully, you know it too!