Why Are Companies Still Struggling to Attract Millennials?

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By 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. Despite this fact, some companies are still struggling to meet their employment expectations – which could have significant ramifications down the road.

Here, we’ll identify the traits millennials look for in a workplace and a few reasons why some companies are struggling to meet millennials’ needs in this regard. We’ll also offer tips and tools to help you create a more attractive workplace for this generation.

What Millennials Want

While older generations typically focus on traditional perks like great health benefits and 401(k)s, millennials are more interested in finding company cultures where they thrive. As blogger Erin Vaughan notes, millennials are increasingly interested in social activism, and they “carry this preference into the workplace. They value a purpose-driven job in which they can see their ideas coming to fruition.”

Research from Brookings aligns with Vaughan’s assessment, and it reveals other key millennial characteristics:

  1. An emphasis on ethical causes, with “stronger brand loyalty for companies offering solutions to specific social problems”
  2. A great interest in environmental responsibility
  3. A higher priority on experiences rather than material things

Why Some Companies Struggle

Although the needs of millennials are quite clear, some companies still struggle to meet these needs. Often, this is because what millennials desire differs dramatically from what previous generations desired.

For example, whereas older workers tend to seek better work/life balance, the millennials tend to seek work/life integration. As career expert Louis Efron explains, “The next-generation workforce is not interested in work. They are not lazy. They don’t think the world owes them a living. They want more out of life and want to leave the world a better place because they lived.”

Efron says that companies eager to capture millennial interest should encourage entrepreneurial cultures, facilitate success in areas of employees’ lives beyond their careers, and communicate clearly how their organization is changing the world.

How Your Organization Can Do Better

There are many benefits to hiring millennials. If your company is struggling to attract them, it may have something to do with the negative stereotypes that hiring managers often apply to the workers of Generation Y.

In an article for Inc., Mirasee Founder and CEO Danny Iny encourages millennials to be aware of stereotypes and address them – which is good advice for organizations as well. If managers investigate the stereotypes they hold, they’ll find the silver linings within. For example:

  1. Making the most of millennials’ “work smarter, not harder” attitude can drive efficiency and productivity throughout your ranks.
  2. Embracing millennials’ desire for rapid advancement can help you craft succession plans and start grooming your next leaders early.
  3. Addressing millennials’ typically short job tenures can lead to better retention efforts.

Perhaps the thing that millennials cherish most is being recognized as individuals with unique strengths. The University of Souther California’s online Master’s of Social Work program has created a diversity toolkit that includes exercises employers can use to nurture their employees’ personal and social identities in meaningful ways. Millennials value their individuality more than previous generations did, and using resources like this will reinforce to your millennial employees the notion that they are not just cogs in the corporate wheel.

Colleen O’Day is a digital PR manager and supports community outreach for 2U Inc.’s social work, mental health, and speech pathology programs.

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Alison Napolitano is a Senior Marketing Manager at 2U where she supports all community outreach for 2U's programs. Alison has a background in digital marketing and a passion for helping great brands succeed online.