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Dear CEO: This Is Why Millennials Don't Want to Work for You

It's an issue that requires thinking outside the box--and if you can't, that's part of your problem.
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With all of the academic analysis and ongoing media coverage about Millennials, you would think that company executives might have a better understanding of Generation Y by now. But despite the increasing number of surveys, studies, and articles, it appears as though employers and marketers alike still don't understand (or really care) what makes Millennials tick, both as consumers and as employees.

The Millennial generation is the largest in our history, and soon, will command an unprecedented amount of spending power and make up the majority of the workforce as well. Thus, it's important for employers to understand what Gen Y employees are looking for from their jobs, and why they may not really want to work for you in the first place.

Millennials Want to Be Creative

Growing up with the Internet means that Millennials know a lot about a variety of topics. It also means that they're incredibly interconnected and that they enjoy staying in touch with friends or making new ones. As a result of their hyper-connectedness, Millennials love to collaborate, they love to be creative, and they dislike doing routine or mundane tasks. Of course, this isn't to say that Millennials don't specialize in one thing or another--they often do--but they very much like to challenge themselves, learn new skills, and keep their day fresh and exciting.

Let's say you've hired someone in this age group as an account executive. You've probably realized that asking that person to sit in front of the computer and answer emails or write reports all day isn't inspiring. Give the Millennial more of a chance to meet the creative side of the company, with clients or get a better understanding of the goals that the new hire is trying to achieve and how best to achieve them. This might make the employee happier and more fulfilled. Nobody wants to sit at a desk and run through the same tasks all day, every day, even if that's what you had to do when you started working years ago. Expecting employees to do that now is how you may frustrate them and drive them away.

Now, dear CEO, before you dismiss all of these ideas as unrealistic or too deferential to the Millennial, you might want to consider adjusting your thoughts. Give your Millennial employees various responsibilities within their given positions and don't limit them to any one or two particular tasks. Also, allow your Millennial employees to bring their ideas to the table and offer creative solutions to problems. Millennials definitely don't want to work for a company that crushes their creative will or doesn't value their opinions.

Millennials Value Ethics & Innovation

One of the more noticeable attributes of Gen Y individuals is their general motivation to make the world around them a better place. This means that they want the companies they work for to take a stance on societal issues and bring innovative solutions to the table to solve those issues. Millennial employees don't just care about the bottom line or their year-end salary. Yes, both of those are still important, but Millennials also want to know that their current employer isn't 100 percent business-focused, and that their work is positively affecting their community.

So if your company doesn't value anything more than your profit margin, don't expect Millennial employees to stick around too long. If you want to hire the best Gen Y talent, you should be able to prove that your company makes an effort to improve its community and strives to be an innovator in its niche.

Millennials Want to Be Leaders

Nearly 25 percent of Gen Y employees want a chance to prove their leadership ability in the workplace. Couple that with the fact that 70 percent of Millennials see themselves working independently at some point in their careers, and you've got pretty good evidence that Millennials often want to be leaders rather than followers. As such, Gen Y talent tends to look for, and flourish in, positions where they can lead others and collaborate with fellow employees. Thus, if Millennial employees don't think that they have room for growth and the potential for a leadership role within your company, they're not likely to stick around.

The Millennial generation is a fascinating one, and for many reasons. It's huge, it's incredibly connected, and it doesn't think the same way that previous generations did. Many Millennials don't even use the word "Millennial," as they think it's simply a marketing term. Regardless, many CEOs and business executives scratch their heads, wondering why younger talent doesn't want to work for them. If you study their behavior, you'll find that Millennials simply don't like to feel as though they're locked in, or bogged down by, any one thing. They value creativity, leadership, innovation, and morality, and they want to work for a company that does, too. The workplace is changing, and newer generations are playing a large part in that. Work-life balance matters more. To Millennials, business and work are a necessary part of life, but not the only part--and that's why, CEO, Millennials may not want to work for you.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Aug 22, 2014

JOHN BOITNOTT | Columnist

A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked at TV, newspaper, radio, and internet companies in California for 20 years.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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