The 6 Secrets to Making Your Company Sexy to Millennials, Part 1

Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t as sexy as Google®, or Facebook®, or Uber. We don’t have ping pong tables in our lounges. Heck, we don’t even have lounges! Sure, we manage to pull-off the prerequisite lunch rooms, maybe even fancy capsule coffee machines, but our margins don’t afford us the luxury of fancy perks like free gourmet food, premium childcare, and the like.

So, while the Goggles and Ubers flaunt their perks, we gussy up our career fair displays. Write clever job descriptions. Pull out the stops in our interviews. And it works. A few Millennials actually come by. Then, while we’re mid-sentence describing our 401ks, their eyes dart away. They swoon at the ultimate workplaces, the mist clouds their corneas. And, right in front of us, they gush about being one of them someday.

For a while we thought we could convince ourselves to get by without Millennials. Then a new Global Leadership Forecast from DDI® confirmed what we always suspected: that “aggressive-growth” companies have a higher percentage of Millennials in leadership positions. In other words, more Millennial leaders equals better bottom line results. Okay! We get it. But how are we supposed to compete with all that Googley pandering? The reality is, we don’t have to.

Sexy isn’t about money, it’s about the greater good.

According to a huge survey by Telefónica, many Millennials believe they are destined to make a difference in the world. And they want you to help them do it. Which means that while surface level perks are getting all the airplay the real attraction is a meaty mission. (Yep, you guessed it. It’s what your mother always told you, inner beauty is more important than how you look.)

How does a business communicate inner beauty? Even the most unsexy business can be exciting if its leaders are able to articulate how their goals will make the world a better place. Companies that are cracking the code on this – Chipotle, Philz Coffee, DHL, and Alaska Airlines to name a few – are easily winning over the 18 – 33 year old crowd.

Need an example? One of the most effective leaders I’ve ever met helped his team understand that their actions and behaviors were an integral part of transforming their entire city. His job? He ran a team of garbage collectors who were true “waste management professionals.” His engagement numbers were over 85%. And his retention rate was at 95% (in an industry that averages a third of that). If this guy can create inspiration in a difficult world, we can too.

Tell them how you’re making the world a better place.

Here’s how you can start today. Listen closely to how your leaders are talking about your organization’s goals. Is it all about hitting a number, making a quota, or making the boss happy/stop yelling? If so, get everyone together and decide on new language. Not buzzwords or jargon! What we’re talking about here is the “language of leadership” — describing your goals in a way that is future focused and telling a story that helps your teams understand how they can contribute to achieving the goal.

In my example of the waste management leader, rather than talking about how many “pick-ups” they needed or how many more homes they could reach in a day, the manager talked about how his team members were “helping other households understand the value of recycling.” It sounds simplistic but it works. HINT: To make sure you avoid jargon, look at the emotion. If your new language results in flat emotions, sarcasm, and/or confusion, you’re using jargon. If your new language creates positive energy and active conversation, you’re probably on the mark.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes! And watch for my next post, “How to Make Your Company Sexy to Millennials, Part 2.”

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