This guest post is by Neil Howe and Reena Nadler. Howe is a historian, economist, and demographer who writes on generational change in U.S. history. He is co-founder of LifeCourse Associates, a marketing, HR, and strategic planning consultancy serving corporate, government, and nonprofit clients. He has co-authored six books, including Millennials in the Workplace. Reena Nadler is program director at LifeCourse.

The millennials now entering the workforce are nothing like the Boomer or Gen X employees who preceded them. They are bonded to their parents and networked to their friends. They want structure and instant feedback. They expect to be doted on and served. They work well in teams and have complete confidence in their future. They fear risk and dread failure. They have conventional life goals. They want the system to work.

And they are transforming workplaces, as employers look for ways to recruit, retain, and maximize their productivity.

Some companies are ahead of the curve. Each year, Fortune magazine and the Great Place to Work Institute conduct a nationwide employer survey to find the 100 Best Companies to Work For. In 2008, Human Resource Executive magazine asked the Institute to sort the rankings by age of the respondents, and created a Millennial Magnets list of the companies ranked best in America by employees under age 25.

What can managers and HR professionals learn from these companies? In our analysis, we found that the Millennial Magnets share five basic best practices:

  • Personal-Touch recruiting. Many of the companies take an extremely active and personal role in the recruitment of young employees. FactSet, a software company based in Connecticut, sends new hires who are college seniors a gift basket and “good-luck” note before they take their finals.
  • Work-Life balance. These companies offer employees flexible schedules that allow them to have a balanced life. Marriott Hotels has instituted a “Teamwork-Innovations” program in which employees can increase efficiency by working together and scheduling their own hours.
  • Group socializing. Millennial Magnets understand that this generation enjoys working and socializing in groups. Kimley-Horn and Associates, an engineering firm in North Carolina, holds regular lunchtime forums in which employees get together to network, share advice and plan social get-togethers.
  • Recognition. The chosen companies know how to motivate Millennials through positive feedback. Scottrade, a Millennial Magnet firm based in St. Louis, has implemented an “Above-and-Beyond” program in which any employee can nominate another for recognition. Several of the Magnets make employees eligible for rewards such as jewelry and iPods.
  • Casual but professional environment. Many Millennial Magnet companies are crafting a “Google-style” corporate environment that is friendly, comfortable, and cutting edge. Umpqua Bank in Oregon has outfitted its branches with cafes and couches, and often provides recreational activities in the office for its employees. In a livable workplace, long hours — when necessary — will hardly be noticed.

The moral of the story? Targeted policy adjustments can make a big difference in recruiting, engaging, and energizing millennials. Employers who effectively harness their strengths will have a major advantage as this generation continues to fill the workplace.

Image credit, Andresr, via iStock

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28 Responses to “Models for managing your millennials”

  1. Ann Sabo says:

    When dealing with Millennials we find that a big issue tends to be the individual's movement from an academic to a work environment. Communication and developing a communications link between manager and employee is the key. We use the "Millennials Assessment" and performance development program from HRDT <a href="http:// (www.hrdt.net)” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(www.hrdt.net)” target=”_blank”>(www.hrdt.net). We find it is an excellent pre-hire screening tool and also use it post-hire for performance development. Since this instrument is non-judgemental and offers practical insight into the work related behavior and traits of the individual, it allows management sufficient insight into the individual to coach them and communicate with them in a manner they will accept.

  2. Scott says:

    Some interesting thoughts, but the parent in me comes out when I read through this. At what point do you stop catering to the imaturity of the group as a whole and expect them to grow up and stand on their own two feet? Much of what is written allows the generation to pass responsibility for their actions onto others. At some point it comes down to what the individual can and cannot do.

  3. Sally says:

    Amen, Scott. All I can say to this group is, "Grow up." Oh, yeah… and I am a Boomer. Left home and never had to go back because I made it on my own. So buck up, kiddies, the world is a rough place. Get used to it.

    • Lisa says:

      I think you have an increasingly obsolete POV. The workplace is changing, and like natural evolution, those unable to adapt will be left behind.

  4. Scott Asai says:

    What an awesome, proactive list of ideas to attract Millennials! If you want the most, hire the best. Create an attractive environment, and they will come.

  5. [...] And in today’s economy, when money is scarce … we all need to look at every way we can to attract, motivate and retain talent – no matter what generation. Amplify’d from smartblogs.com [...]

  6. E123 says:

    I feel compelled to address the disdain for millennials in this comment thread. Maybe some of you know a good number of coddled twenty-somethings, but many of us are hard workers just doing our best. We didn't create this economy, but we can't use it as an excuse when rent/bills/premiums are due, so we work to make ends meet, and try to make ourselves at least marginally happy. If my employer can't pay the equivalent salary she paid to Boomers in 1970, does it kill the organization to recognize me for a job well done? If my job no longer offers health insurance it offered to Boomers in 1970, but can promise me a good work-life balance, shouldn't the place get a little credit for trying to make the job a little less terrible? I don't see how any of these ideas constitute excessive catering to the young'uns, especially a group of young'uns embarking in the workforce in a rough economic period and who – to my knowledge – are not really asking for a lot.

  7. Fred Ernsting says:

    This is getting so crazy. Why not use these methods to handle Millenials also: (1) Start the day with Show and Tell, to discuss everyone's new high-tech devices, like smart phones, iPads, etc; (2) Cookies and milk at mid-morning; (3) Recess right after lunch; (4) Nap time around mid-afternoon; (5) a brief movie late in the day. At all other times, the Millenials can cruise the Internet, spewing mindless OMG's & LOL's, and also playing with foolish farms on Facebook or screwing around on any other sites of choice. For God's sake, how about handling Millenials just like anyone else: Pay for a day's work and expect it; remove and replace said Millenial if they cannot effectively deal with the program.

  8. Rog-geo says:

    E123: Great comments. As a Boomer w/ millennial kids entering the work force, I completely agree with you that the "deal" they are being offered is different than the deal I was offered at the age they are now.

  9. Someone says:

    Whether you like it or not, Boomers, you are being replaced. This is called change, evolution. The millennials will be replaced later, but for now, they’re taking over. Don’t worry though. Keep being crotchety. It will prepare you well for your upcoming retirement. Drink your cheap coffee. Plan ways to spend your social security. I’ll do my best to stay off your lawn.

  10. The crux of the article is: Employers who effectively harness their strengths will have a major advantage as this generation continues to fill the workplace. Employers must have a blueprint for growth and at the same time maximize resource utilization. Meaning if they employ the millennials productivity on their resource usage must go up. France is seeing the crisis of extending the workforce by 2 years of Boomers. Employers at the same time went berserk losing $20 trillion, see inside job. What's the way out? Governance that ensures productivity. See my note to Obama: http://jayaribcm.wordpress.com/category/uncategor

  11. Jaymar says:

    I also firmly believe that the Millennial generation tends to gravitate toward workplaces that "stand for something." Companies that go beyond the simple scope of their business models by engaging with the world in a socially positive manner. Ideally – companies that INTEGRATE social impact into their business models.

    From an HR standpoint, a great way to catalyze this type of good will in the workplace might be through employee volunteerism. Full disclosure: I work with a company whose product facilitates employee volunteerism. But the honest truth is, I believe in employee volunteerism (for a number of reasons). And there are simple ways to get your employees doing social good, ways that sidestep the obstacles of geography of and long-term time commitments. Here is a good place to start looking: <a href="http://www.sparked.com” target=”_blank”>www.sparked.com

  12. Carol Bradshaw says:

    I see what the Millenials want from the employer. What is the employer getting in return for making these concessions? It sounds like these folks need more supervision, more hand-holding, more structure, more guidance, more play time and require more supervisory time. These are hard things to wring out of the supervisory employees who have not been laid off. Plus, if we keep doing this, when/how do they become professionals who can be entrusted with a challenge to figure out and implement a solution? I'd like to see some articles offering ideas on how to grow-up the Millenials.

  13. BEK says:

    I can see many of the points above being relevant if Millenials are being hired by a big corporation where the corporate culture has been designed around their policies and procedures. However, the traditional work communication structure of the 70's and 80's didn't enable people to easily work remote from long-distance areas. And even if people did, there were significant overhead expenses and inconveniences to consider (long distance charges, finding a pay phone, etc… heck, we didn't have laptops)

    Our digital age has given us the gift of convenience and choosing to work in a manner that is the MOST effective and productive. After all, at the end of the day, employers want high quality work– not half-ass work that was produced while experiencing a 3pm energy slump in hopes to leave the office "a little early".

    Millenials have grown up only knowing convenience and understanding that they can communicate in almost any location via multiple outlets on their cell phones (text, email, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.).
    Any HR department that is not willing to at the very least consider this new shift in work culture will significantly miss out on hiring the best of the best (to Jayaraman Rajah Iyer's point/post above).

  14. LEU says:

    Much has been said about companies bending over backwards to accomodate millenials. Well, what about the other? Why don't milennials start developing skills and traits which fit the organization they are entering? Why should an organization change direction to accomodate a few coddled individuals who haven't developed the skills necessary to adapt to a workplace which is "alien" to their basement-dwelling-in-Mom's-house mentality? An organization can change with the times (and most do to some degree), but work ethic and productivity remain paramount and it is incumbent upon the employees to fit into that workplace rather than the reverse.

  15. Employee engagement is critical to every organization's success, no matter the industry or generation of workers. The composition of the workforce is shifting, and innovative strategies aimed at attracting, retaining and engaging Millennials in the workplace today will play a key role in shaping a company's success in the future, particularly since we will be dependent on them to replace the vast number of Boomers that account for our workforce today.

    Additional thoughts: http://blog.yoh.com/2010/07/how-to-cultivate-gen-

  16. [...] Nicholson’s choice, and those of many others, suggest Millennials are looking for more out of work than just a job. They are looking for a place they can grow, and where their work will have meaning. Little surprise that the Great Place to Work Institute Survey identified Google, EBay, Starbucks, Container Store, ScottTrade, UMPQUA Bank, and CarMax as among the top 25 companies that people under 25 give exceptionally high marks. (For more on what makes these companies “Millennial Magnets”, read Neil Howe’s article, “Models for Managing Millennials“). [...]

  17. Bruce says:

    "They expect to be doted on and served." That one bothers me. If you really are like that, you need to get a grip! Do you really expect Boomers, Gen Xers, and your employer to do everything for you? That's not going to happen. The statement makes millenials sound like pathetic spoiled brats, but I don't know any millenials of worth in the marketplace like that. If they really need to be doted on and served, they won't survive long in the real world. The majority of millenials seem perfectly able to work well in the business place, as long as thy don't expect to be handed everything on a silver platter. Standard practice will remain to earn it first, then you'll get it.

    "They work well in teams and have complete confidence in their future." Teamwork is good practice, and I hope they are better than the previous generations at teamwork, but being conpletely confident in your future seems a bit irrational if you "fear risk and dread failure."

  18. Bruce says:

    I find the introductory comments confusing. The millenials "are nothing like the Boomer or Gen X employees who preceded them." What, they aren't humans with the same basic needs and abilities that Boomers and Gen Xers have? This isn't a new species, just a new generation.

    "They are bonded to their parents and networked to their friends." So are Boomers and Gen Xers, without being dependent, and their networks aren't as instantaneous since they aren't always connected on electronic social networks. Bonded to parents and networked to friends – really not much new under the sun.

    "They want structure and instant feedback." I don't know a Boomer or Gen Xer who doesn't.

  19. Bruce says:

    "They have conventional life goals. They want the system to work." How is that different from Boomers and Gen Xers?

    Why is anyone especially concerned about millenials? Barring a total collapse of the world economy (no, I'm not implying that it's not hurting badly), they'll be just fine. They – and employers – and Boomers – and Gen Xers – will learn to adapt, adjust behaviors, and learn from each other to maximize benefit for all of us. The free market is good about making that happen.

  20. MarCommLL says:

    Good grief, folks – who raised the Millenials? Maybe the you should stop blaming the kids and point your fingers at the parents who brought them up to expect everything handed to them without raising a finger to work for it. They were born into a connected world, one that has them wired from dawn to dusk on 100's of cable channels, billions of websites, and radio feeds that are delivered via satellite/Internet – rarely an actual radio. Parents plugged them into the TV or video games instead of nurturing their imaginations and self-sufficiency with Lincoln Logs, Legos (not the kits – just the basic blocks) let alone books! We've made them – time to pay the piper, folks. Deal with it.

    Look at Google – their wild success comes from nurturing their employees instead of exploiting them. Maybe it's time the Boomers start expecting more from their employers instead of just taking whatever b.s. is shoveled down our throats. Loyalty to the company used to mean you got full benefits, a good living wage, and a real pension so you could retire without having to eat dog food. I'm not saying companies need to bend over backwards, but if they treat their employees better, they'll get more out of them – without all the gripe sessions at the water cooler.

  21. [...] Nicholson’s choice, and those of many others, suggest Millennials are looking for more out of work than just a job. They are looking for a place they can grow, and where their work will have meaning. Little surprise that the Great Place to Work Institute Survey identified Google, EBay, Starbucks, Container Store, ScottTrade, UMPQUA Bank, and CarMax as among the top 25 companies that people under 25 give exceptionally high marks. (For more on what makes these companies “Millennial Magnets”, read Neil Howe’s article, “Models for Managing Millennials“). [...]

  22. [...] there’s plenty of advice out there for corporate cultures wishing to recruit and retain this group with their needs in mind, [...]

  23. [...] there’s plenty of advice out there for corporate cultures wishing to recruit and retain this group with their needs in mind, [...]

  24. [...] there’s plenty of advice out there for corporate cultures wishing to recruit and retain this group with their needs in mind, [...]

  25. [...] there’s plenty of advice out there for corporate cultures wishing to recruit and retain this group with their needs in mind, [...]

  26. [...] there’s plenty of advice out there for corporate cultures wishing to recruit and retain this group with their needs in mind, [...]

  27. Ed Chaffin says:

    I just had a conversation with my 28-year-old daughter this weekend where she proclaimed, "Dad, don’t take this the wrong way, but my generation is just so much smarter than yours!” Luckily, I didn't take it the wrong way. I realize that this generation has a much different way of approaching work (and the world) than their parents.

    As a baby boomer, I embrace the chance to pass on my knowledge and see what the millennials do with it! As a business coach, I work with companies to help them turn their young employees into future leaders.
    http://www.humancapitalinitiative.com/blog/2011/1

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