Why You Should Pay Millennials What They Deserve

August 18, 2016, 6:30 PM UTC
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The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Neil Ringel, executive vice president of Staples Business Advantage North America, has answered the question: “How do you attract millennial talent?”

As a member of the baby boomer generation, I can say firsthand that when it comes to the workplace, most of us are steeped in traditions: office spaces where doors can be shut for privacy and rows of cubicles occupy open space; standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules with an hour for lunch; and benefits like affordable healthcare and moderate vacation packages. We value stability and often remain loyal to organizations for decades, because when it comes to climbing the career ladder, we believe putting in time at one organization leads to success.

However, I obviously don’t represent the only generation in my office. Many of our workers are millennials, and they have different preferences and priorities. From my experience, here are four things to consider when looking to hire the best millennial talent:

Pay them better than your competitors do

Contrary to popular belief, millennials actually find compensation to be more important than boomers do. According to a recent Staples Business Advantage survey of over 3,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada, 52% of millennials who have changed jobs in the last 12 months have done so for a salary increase, compared to only 19% of boomers. It’s also their most important criterion for workplace happiness. Sixty-eight percent of millennials think an increased salary would improve happiness, compared to 60% of boomers.

Kill the cubicles

Millennials prefer hybrid work environments and care more about office design than boomers do, 51% to 33%. Boomers also like closed office spaces more than do millennials, who value more open, collaborative environments. Fifty-six percent of boomers feel most creative and innovative in a closed office, compared with only 40% of millennials. When considering workplace design, millennials are most interested in natural light (45%), standing desks (34%), and lounge areas (34%).

Ditch work-life balance for work-life blend

While all generations appreciate workplace flexibility, millennials have become more in tune with what is known as work-life blend: combining their work and personal lives, instead of turning one on and the other off. Millennials grow up with more acceptance of that blending than other generations; they check work email on their personal cell phones at all hours of the day and night, socialize more during work hours and therefore work more after hours, and pick up freelance jobs to satisfy other interests or bring in additional income.


Employers can play a role in facilitating this blend. Try instituting a telecommuting policy or flexible work schedules. According to our survey, 61% of millennials think their employer could help prevent burnout by providing a more flexible schedule, and 38% say the ability to have a flexible schedule contributes to their loyalty to their organization. When asked about telecommuting, 20% of boomers indicated they would not want to do so, compared to nine percent of millennials.

Give them tools for advancement

The rumors are true: Millennials change jobs more frequently than boomers. But it doesn’t have to do with lack of loyalty. Millennials are looking for career advancement, so it’s important to not only listen to their wants and needs, but also to give them the tools and guidance to succeed. Eighteen percent of millennials have changed jobs in the last 12 months, compared to just five percent of boomers. And 47% of those millennials who changed jobs did so for a better title. Only 10% of boomers left for a better job title.

Listen more closely to your millennial employees to see if you’re meeting their particular needs. This will help you not only recruit the best among them, but also keep your employees happy and loyal.