The era of the baby boomers as the dominant generation is coming to an end as our parents start to retire, Baby boomers have been called a golden generation for enterprise and entrepreneurialism and that is evinced by the multinational corporations that dominate the global stock markets.


With this change in demographics big businesses are facing a real threat that they will struggle to attract replacements. The reason for this? Millennials – the generation soon to make up the majority of the workforce – prefer to work for small companies where they see better opportunities to serve their ambition, realise their potential and harness their creativity.

The cultural difference

Millennials aren’t anti-big business (no matter how many beardy hipsters you see rage-tweeting about globalisation and the erosion of local industry on their ubiquitous smartphones using Starbucks’ free Wi-Fi) they are just wired differently to their parents.

You might want to sit down for this…salary is not the most important thing to Gen Y. These technology-obsessed-selfie-loving-social-media-addicts are more motivated by career progression; responsibility; flexibility and work-life balance.

Essentially it is about culture. In the last decade culture has become more of a generational thing with Millennials 5000 miles apart having more in common than family members separated by 30 years or so.

This is reflected in the workplace with the baby boomers culture being one of organisation and willingness to work long hours whilst Generation Y is about career/personal development, technology, collaboration and work/life balance. There’s a bit of a culture clash where some more experienced colleagues see characteristics of Gen Y such as the desire for quick promotion, positive emotional reinforcement and the need to socialise as weakness or immaturity.

This cultural gulf is partly why Gen Y prefers start-ups and small businesses that do better at offering the responsibility and challenges they crave.

How to create a Millennial-friendly culture

If big business is to survive the retirement exodus (sounds like an epic movie starring ageing actors) on the horizon they need to appeal to Millennials through the business culture.


We’re going to let you into a little secret about Gen Y: they really love Nando’s. Okay, that’s not so much of a secret, the real secret is they don’t conform to schedules. It’s not that they are unorganised; they just don’t have the 9-5 routine programmed into them. Sure, they can remember every free WiFi password in a 3 mile radius but asking them to work a regimented day and you’re going to short-circuit a few motherboards.

It’s worth remembering that Millennials have grown up in an era of 24hr TV, the Internet, Netflix bingers and on-demand everything. They don’t have bedtimes anymore even if most of them still live with their parents (believe me, it’s not through choice).

They work best to their own schedules so give them that flexibility and power to balance their own time. Flexible working and telecommuting is vital to productivity.

Trust them as adults

Let them use Facebook at work and trust them to do the work. Seriously, don’t treat them like children, a few minutes checking Facebook or Twitter isn’t going to cost you anything but barring such websites is a bit Draconian and it will impact your business in the long-run.

Also, drop the dress code where possible. Employee piercings and/or tattoos aren’t going to affect how they do their job so don’t make them feel like they have to be a fundamentally different person at work. If they’re going out to meet clients they know not to turn up in their Slipknot tee. Just because they get nostalgic over Pokémon or play video games doesn’t mean they aren’t adults and they’ll resent any insinuation to the contrary.

Trust is paramount and embodies the sort of culture that attracts bright young minds

Positive reinforcement

Gen Y is a result-oriented generation and small businesses give them more recognition than large companies do. If you want to keep your Gen Y employees and attract more you need to tell them they’re doing a good job – a lot. This isn’t because they are needy, it’s because they’re a more emotionally switched on generation and vibe off of positive energy.


One thing Gen Y loves about small business is that they feel their bosses are more receptive to their opinions and ideas. Make senior management more available to employees and take advantage of the innovations of your young workforce.

You don’t need to move to a Pokestop and have permanent lure modules going to keep Millennials on board, you just need to make positive changes to your culture that will convince them to join and help your business continue to succeed.