Employees and Vendors

Growing a Millennial Workforce

    • sporhase-clint-headshot.jpg
    • Clint Sporhase

      Vice President, Business Banking
      Dec 05 2019

Growing a Millennial Workforce

The largest generation in the U.S. labor force offers the small business owner a bonanza of skills uniquely suited to the technological and cultural changes that are reshaping the workplace. By 2025, it is estimated that millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce, so understanding their values and attitudes and finding ways to motivate them can help you prepare for your company’s future.


Born between the early 1980s and the 2000s, millennials are the first generation to grow up connected to the Internet. With smartphones in hand, they have always had immediate access to news, online shopping and financial services, social media, and health and travel information. They communicate in real-time by texting or tweeting and are less likely to use television, newspapers, radio or magazines as a source of information.

Given their use of digital technology for instant gratification, millennials are unlikely to feel at home in a hierarchical business environment where highly structured layers of management can interfere with internal communication and create barriers to change. You are more likely to find millennials engaged in jobs that offer opportunities to learn and grow, as well as a sense of purpose.

In its report on How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” Gallup found that 59 percent of millennials viewed opportunities to learn and grow as an extremely important consideration when applying for a job. They also cited a preference for jobs that have meaning and the need for frequent feedback from managers as critical to remaining engaged as employees.

By offering a progressive environment with flexible work arrangements, opportunities to learn and grow, personal time off and casual dress code, your small business can create an appealing competitive advantage for millennials who are seeking a healthy work-life balance. Instead of focusing on how much your business is growing and its future growth strategies, a better approach would be to explain how your business is supporting its employees, its customers and its community through worthwhile activities and causes.

Entrepreneurial spirit

As entrepreneurs, millennials have a preference for owning independent businesses rather than franchises. According to a national study of “Millennials in Business,” which was published this year, 67 percent of millennial entrepreneurs own new, independent businesses compared to 36 percent of business owners from the “baby boomer” generation.

Millennial entrepreneurs are more diversified compared with other generations. Nearly half of millennial small business owners are Hispanic or African American, according to the study, while 28 percent are women, which is 12 percent higher than the national average.

The study found 80 percent of millennial businesses to be profitable, which was above the national average. More than half of millennial business owners reported being very happy, while acknowledging daily challenges such as a lack of cash flow, marketing and advertising, administrative work like bookkeeping and payroll, time management, and employee hiring and retention issues.

Many millennials working fulltime in traditional retail and service jobs also have a “side hustle,” which usually involves freelance or piecework that provides extra income. These hobby businesses can evolve into a full-time business that allows the millennial to pursue a passion for baking, cooking, or making handmade products such as furniture, shoes, bags or jewelry. In many cases, millennials are reviving artisan businesses that have been extinct in a community for decades.

Millennial mindset

Unlike employees and entrepreneurs from earlier generations who place a high priority on job security, millennials are more willing to disengage from a company to pursue new opportunities or accept new challenges. According to Gallup, more than one of five millennial workers changed jobs last year, which was three times the number of non-millennials who changed jobs. And 60 percent of millennials surveyed were open to new job opportunities compared to 45 percent of non-millennials.

For many small business owners, frequent job-hopping is a red flag, but in the case of millennials, a closer look at their values and attitudes about work reveals fundamental similarities with other generations. They want good jobs. They want engaging jobs and a purposeful lifestyle.

A report on “Millennial Careers” found 73 percent of millennials work more than 40 hours a week and nearly one quarter work more than 50 hours. And, like earlier generations, they value job security although given the chance for advancement they are willing to make a move.

As a small business owner forced to compete for talent in today’s tight labor market, knowing what is driving millennials based on their values, priorities and expectations can help you to create constructive work experiences that engage and motivate them as part of your team.

About the Author: Clint Sporhase leads First National Bank’s efforts to serve small business owners. Clint has 25 years of sales, marketing and strategy experience.

The articles in this blog are for informational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations. When making decisions about your financial situation, consult a financial professional for advice. Articles are not regularly updated, and information may become outdated.