Models for Managing Your Millennials

October 25, 2010 | By Neil Howe and Reena Nadler

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.