Make sure your business appeals to younger workers

April 19, 2013 

"Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation."

~ Adlai Stevenson

As the economy starts to improve, business owners may begin seeing some turnover in their staff. Whether these employees are in search of higher salaries or simply choosing to make their move now that the job market is much healthier, so many young workers (those in the Millennial Generation) will want to migrate to new jobs.

Millennials (born after 1980) now make up more than a third of the work force and they are a dominant force as consumers as well. For these reasons, entrepreneurs need to pay careful attention to the desires and objectives of this generation.

Loyalty is just not something that typically motivates Millennials, and now that they are no longer in fear of an anemic job market, many may view this as an opportunity to find employment that better suits their wants. Businesses that do not know how to attract Millennials may find themselves dealing with some turnover, and

the cost of replacing these workers is incredibly high.

Millennials are not known to be the hardest of workers (unless properly motivated), but they do have a large social conscience. It is critical for each and every entrepreneur to understand this about Millennials.

This new group of workers needs to feel that the company they work for has a redeeming social purpose. They have seen the problems with unfettered capitalism and they see pure capitalism as a way for the rich to get richer without caring about the underserved or the environment in our country. To attract and retain this generation, businesses must become more committed to making our country a fairer and better place to be employed.

During my seminars, I frequently ask participants to tell me what they feel is the most important thing about working for a company. Normally, the responses vary by age group. Baby Boomers say they want more money, whereas Millennials typically say they want to be able to have a balanced life and be involved with a firm that cares about the environment or has a social conscience.

First Commerce Credit Union understands Millennials and does a particularly good job developing practices that appeal to their sensibilities.

To be fair, I must disclose that I am chairman of the board of directors of First Commerce Credit Union and receive zero salary for this position. However, I can say without bias that they do a great job encouraging each of their team members to get involved with a nonprofit group. Paid time off as well as financial support is provided as a means of empowering each team member to contribute to the organizations of their choice. Additionally, members of the First Commerce team and its volunteer board of directors go out of their way to help in so many other ways, including serving on other nonprofit boards.

As evidenced by these practices, First Commerce Credit Union clearly understands the importance of the Millennial generation as employees and customers or members. They understand their organizational mission must line up with the goals of this new generation.

Larger, national companies also demonstrate a clear understanding of how important it is for their businesses to have social goals. Examples are Whole Foods, Panera, Starbucks, Nordstrom's and Ben and Jerry's.

The point I am making here is all businesses must devote a portion of their strategic plan to fostering social issues if they are to appeal to the Millennial generation. As these younger customers continue to dominate the work force and consumer market, ignoring the issues they value will ultimately damage your business.

Now go out and make sure your strategic goals have significance for your business and society. Failing to do this will put your business at risk.

Jerry Osteryoung, the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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