When you constantly see reports describing millennials, the generation born between 1984 and 2004, as lazy or entitled, it might be easy to think you don’t need them in your business model.

However, if your company’s like most, you’re probably having a hard time filling open jobs with good candidates, even though millions of Americans are unemployed.

According to a report by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, millennials are expected to make up at least 36% of the work force by the end of this year. And by 2020, the same study predicts the work force will be made up of at least 46% millennials. By then, almost all Baby Boomers will be retired, and Generation Xers will make up less than 20% of the work force.

Can your business really afford to ignore half of the potential work force while still finding the best talent?

Make them fit

Millennials don’t have to be the “bad guys” they’re made out to be, but the way they like to work can be very different from past generations, and ultimately, pretty scary for a business that’s always done things traditionally. Whereas the Baby Boomers wanted to work hard to move up the ladder and get higher salaries, the millennials don’t care nearly as much about tradition at work.

According to an info graphic by WorkShare Limited, they care most about work-life balance, sustainability, social responsibility, quality of life, mobility, opportunities for learning and their colleagues. And if your company isn’t offering these things, they’ll likely walk the other way.

Millennials are different than any generation so far in that 83 percent of this generation sleeps with a mobile phone in or next to their bed. The have grown so reliant on their connection to the world that 33% of millennials agree the Internet is as important as air, water, food and shelter, according to the 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report.

They are the most educated generation, the most ethnically diverse generation, the most independent generation and the most empowered generation.

Maybe they aren’t so bad

There’s just one scary statistic to mention. More than half of all millennials would rather not work in a traditional office.

It’s no surprise, however, that businesses aren’t ready to make the jump to satellite offices and telecommuting. But, in order to attract highly talented and well educated employees, employers must find ways to give millennials the freedom and flexibility they’ve come to know as a basic rights.

Some employers attract millennials with flexible scheduling or a four-day work week, while others might offer free food (or at least an on-site cafeteria), game rooms, fitness centers and increased paid time off, just to name of few.

Ready, set, start hiring millennials

It’s no doubt the changes in the workforce makeup are driving a change in the workplace. But either way, this huge generation can’t be ignored. If you’re not sure where to start developing ways to attract the flex-everything generation, just ask.

If you already have millennial employees, conduct a company survey or set aside time to talk about what benefits and perks they wish your company offered. If you’ve never hired millennials successfully before, don’t be afraid to talk through potential benefits during interviews— just make sure you follow through on your interview promises to keep your new employees around.

If you’re still thinking you’ll just ignore the millennials in favor of more traditional generations, you might want to consider what’s coming next: Generation Z. While the millennials are tech-savvy, Generation Z is completely tech-dependent. After all, members of Generation Z have never lived a day without high-speed Internet and smart phones.

By: Aaron Grossman
Originally Posted on Crain’s Cleveland

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