It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of talent out there. Why? Baby boomers are retiring. Gen Xers, a smaller group to begin with, are also increasingly leaving the corporate workforce in pursuit of opportunities with better work/life balance. And millennials, the largest generation since the boomers, have vastly different expectations than those who came before them.

According to PwC’s Global CEO Survey, attracting top talent from the millennial generation is one of the biggest talent challenges they face today. And it’s crucial to find the answer, since millennials will comprise half the workforce by 2020.

Millennials and the challenge of attracting top talent

The millennial generation has high expectations for their work experience, and many are less than satisfied with where they find themselves.
According to a Deloitte survey of over 7,000 millennial workers, nearly half plan to change jobs within the next two years, and two-thirds hope to do so by 2020.

Those are eye-opening statistics. However, it’s important to realize that this situation poses both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is holding on to the talent you’ve already got. However, the knowledge that so many are actively seeking better positions is also a ripe opportunity for attracting top talent.

Read on to find out the most important factors influencing millennials’ employment choices, and learn strategies to get more top job seekers to choose your company.

3 proven strategies for attracting top talent and keeping it

Here’s something you may already know: it’s not all about the money. Millennials certainly do expect competitive salaries and financial incentives. Yet it’s even more important to them to have personal choice about where and how they work. They also want to work for a company whose values they share.

Attracting top talent from the millennial generation is about building a total employee value proposition that matches their priorities.


1. Develop a culture of empowerment

Millennials want to be judged based on the results they produce, instead of the number of hours they spend chained to a desk at the office. They learn best by doing (especially by leveraging technology) and gain inspiration from collaborating with others.

According to a workplace survey published by Harvard Business Review, the millennial generation values choice: “We found that knowledge workers whose companies allow them to help decide when, where, and how they work were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, performed better, and viewed their company as more innovative than competitors that didn’t offer such choices.”

A survey by human resources association WorldatWork also found that having an established workplace flexibility culture has a positive impact on employee engagement, satisfaction and turnover rate.

Given the challenges of attracting top talent today, organizations need to move away from the model of rigid work times and places, empowering employees to work the way that best enables them to accomplish goals.

Related article: 5 Ways to Get Management Buy-In For Flexible Working

2. Create a destination workplace that enables collaboration

Attracting top talent from this generation requires more than flexible hours and the ability to work from home. Employees also want more choices and more opportunities for collaboration within the office as well as out of the office. Rather than working at a fixed location, they want to move around as their job demands.

Workplace design is changing to reflect the choices millennials want, with more companies moving toward Activity Based Working (ABW). These are task-oriented spaces designed for different types of work activities, such as quiet areas for concentration, comfortable lounges for group collaboration, and “phone booths” for private phone conversations. An ABW environment is most effective for attracting top talent when combined with an agile working model. Workers are not assigned a seat but instead choose a space to work each day based on what they need to accomplish.

While millennials don’t want to be chained to a desk, they do highly value face-to-face collaboration. They are accustomed to working in teams, and they view the office as a meeting space. Youngers workers are most likely to be lured into the office because of a desire to work with and learn from others, particularly mentors. According to PwC’s research, “Millennials relish the opportunity to engage, interact and learn from senior management.”

A key to attracting top talent is creating a workplace where both senior leaders and young workers want to be. What’s why so many companies are moving away from traditional offices with cubical farms and leaders hidden away in corner offices. The workplace of the future offers comfortable and engaging collaborative spaces, as well as amenities like gyms and recreational spaces.

Related article: 8 Tips to Encourage Collaboration in the Agile Workplace

These features are not only attracting top talent from the millennial generation, but even drawing more senior workers back into the office. And now that they are no longer hidden behind closed doors, they are more accessible to teach and mentor the younger generation.


Australian architecture firm BVN has been involved in numerous workplace projects that have been proven to improve recruitment potential.

“The workplace becomes a direct and tangible reflection of the culture and leadership of organisations,” explained BVN Principal Bill Dowzer. “Clear markers have been transparency, connectivity and a lack of hierarchy in the design of space that have resonated with prospective talent. A major additional factor is the inclusion of wellness as a key aspiration element of a high performance workplace.”

One BVN client, large-scale legal firm Minter Ellison recently reported an 80% increase in acceptances of graduate offers that was in part due to the new workplace design. “The workspace is open and speaks of the opportunities for osmotic learning in a collegiate environment that puts people at the heart of the organisation. It also gave the opportunity to differentiate the culture of the firm from competitors, as a direct illustration of a contemporary forward looking firm,” said Dowzer. (Watch this video to learn more about the project.)

Planning your strategy for moving to an agile, collaborative workspace requires reliable intelligence about how your current space is being used. Learn more about the technologies used to gather and analyze that data with this informative guide: Managing Workplace Utilization.

3. Address workforce health and wellbeing

Work-life balance means more to the millennial generation than being able to choose the hours they work. They are committed to their health and wellbeing, both in and out of the office. Younger workers in particular are drawn to companies that demonstrate the same commitment to employees’ overall well-being.

While providing a gym at the office is a nice perk, progressive companies are doing much more. Supporting workforce health is a smart strategy for attracting top talent of all ages. It’s not just about showing you care about your employees’ heath, but about implementing programs that make a measurable impact. Here are just a few examples.

Enabling activity
Every day more studies are showing the impact of sedentary activities on both employee attitudes and health. Active furniture, such as sit-stand workstations and treadmill desks, allow employees to work out while working, rather than having to build gym time into their schedule.

Office spaces are also being designed specifically to encourage movement. That can mean installing well-placed staircases, and centrally located printers and copiers that encourage getting up and moving around. ABW and agile work environments further support activity as workers move to different spaces throughout the day.

Healthy eating options
It’s no surprise that being trapped in an office with no sustenance but coffee and vending machine fare can negatively impact employees’ health. Providing a variety of healthy food options is not only beneficial to their health and an increasingly popular strategy for attracting top talent. Busy millennials may not have much in the fridge at home, so food is another enticement to get them into the office.

Mood and well-being
Physical health is not the only area of concern when it comes to improving how employees function at work. Mood and mental well-being also have an enormous impact on both satisfaction and productivity. Companies are addressing two workplace factors that significantly impact mood: lighting and noise level.

Experts are increasingly touting good lighting and especially daylight as necessary for optimal productivity. They recommend designing open workspaces where more employees can see the view outside, especially when that view includes green space. These are the types of environments that help with attracting top talent.

Noise can be an even bigger problem that poor lighting. It’s not only distracting, but noise can aggravate mental health conditions. In a well-designed ABW environment, you’ll find quiet areas and group collaboration spaces separated for this reason.

LEED certified buildings
You know LEED certified buildings save money on energy expenses, but how does that help with attracting top talent? First of all, millennials care a great deal about social and environmental responsibility, including reducing pollution. Taking this step shows your commitment to the values they share.

But there is another benefit that can significantly impact employee health and well-being: indoor air quality (IAQ). There is a great body of evidence linking poor IAQ to illness, even systemic problems such as Sick Building Syndrome. Part of LEED certification involves addressing the issues that cause IAQ problems.

Related article: Workforce Health: Is Your Workplace Helping or Hurting?

Millennial job candidates are paying attention to the companies that provide them with the workplace environment they need to be productive. If you’re struggling with attracting top talent from this generation, it pays to create a workplace that aligns with their goals.

Is your company considering expanding into a new city? In an upcoming post, we’ll reveal some up and coming US markets that are ripe for hiring millennial talent. Don’t miss it!

Download creating an activity based working strategy today.