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Instead of Googling “How To Attract Millennials,” Why Don’t You Just Ask Us?


I was born in 1991. I had my first cell phone in middle school, my first email address when I was probably 10. And yes, I was given the much derided participation trophies and ribbons. But which generation was giving out those trophies exactly? We can put the inter-generational hostility aside. I’m not here to force you to learn internet slang and I expect you’re not going to force me to watch Cheers. You want to attract young professional Millennials, and we want jobs to pay off our student loans. We have a shared interest here.

As it turns out, it’s very easy to find Millennial talent. We comprise over a third of the global workforce and that percentage is only going up. There are a lot of us out there. We’re all hungry for work. The real surprise is how easy it can be to retain Millennial talent as well. Here are the two simple tricks that will get these young go-getters to stick around more than the oft-quoted 18 months we’re staying in jobs.

Treat Millennials like they are individuals, not a nebulous cloud of Facebook-using, Netflix-binge-watching, craft-beer-drinking automatons.

Nearly every article on the subject will tell you how Millennials prefer companies with open office floor plans, team-based work, and a strong internet presence. But here’s the thing: not every Millennial is the same person. Not every person wants to work in teams. Some people feel cozier having their own space distinct from their colleagues. Some want to be given an objective and left to find a solution themselves, others prefer having established procedures. In short, being born during a certain time does not completely define one’s personality.

What Millennials want, what they need, is to be treated like human beings. Not a nebulous concept. Lumping your entire future workforce into one group will serve only to foster an “us versus them” mentality, sharpening the age divide in your office. Furthermore, by instituting broad based policies for the entire group, you may be alienating the exact type of people you want to attract. By now you’re probably thinking, “This is too hard. How am I supposed to figure out what every employee wants?” This brings us to point number two.

Talk to your employees.

I’ll admit this about articles on my generation. It’s true: We want to know how we’re doing. Amazingly, people feel better about their jobs when they know they’re doing well. Why would anyone want to wait until the moment they’re fired to learn that they’ve been under-performing? Regular and more frequent feedback lets employees know where they stand and how they can do better.

As long as you’re talking to your employees more regularly, why not ask them directly what they want? If you’re worried about what Millennial employees expect from their employer, the easiest thing you can do is ask. I guarantee you will learn how you can maximize your employees’ comfort and productivity if you give them a say in the process.

You can read all the articles you want that will tell you how to attract top Millennial talent. But all you will end up doing is attracting the exact same type of Millennial talent, and likely end up alienating some of your older employees at the same time. Bottom line: Treat your employees as the individuals they are and ask them what they need. That is a sure fire way to retain a happy, productive workforce regardless of generation.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just one particular Millennial.