Millennial workers are less picky about company location than you think

Tiffany Meyers

By 2020, millennials born between 1980 and 2000 will comprise half of the global workforce. 

Smart startups cater to this group in order to win the “war for talent.” They often set up in urban centers like Chicago, hoping to snag sought-after, city-loving millennials. But a report by commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE upends this assumption, asserting that if you create the right environment, millennials are likely to follow you, including to suburbs and towns. 

“That’s surprising for a lot of startups,” said Brad Serot, Executive VP of CBRE in Chicago. “Over the last five years, many companies have moved from suburban to urban environments specifically with millennial recruitment and retention in mind. But for a company that can create an environment in alignment with millennial values, it’s a tremendous opportunity.”

The CBRE study examined the type of work environment this young group favors. These four insights might surprise you:

Choice, please. Collaborative millennials are thought to be happiest in open offices. Actually, millennials want variety. CBRE recommends devising an office that fosters “activity-based working.” Here, employees can choose the space that will be most conducive to a given task. That might include private areas for contemplative work, tech-enabled spaces for collaboration, and event spaces. “When a company moves from a traditional to progressive environment with activity-based working,” said Serot, “the culture improves exponentially in terms of employee happiness and engagement.”

Pragmatic needs. Another misperception? Millennials want kooky, fun amenities. In fact, you can forget the foosball. And abandon the bean bags. According to the CBRE research, their favorite feature is the office cafeteria. And 36 percent want wellness and rest features. These “active design” elements might include standing desks, desk treadmills and stairways.

Location preferences. It’s true that cities are millennials’ favorite workplace location, but suburban and small-to-mid-sized towns follow close behind. One-third of millennials would even be happy in a business park or campus setting. (Buyer beware: Rural areas are the least appealing.) Why, then, do millennials tend to live in cities, where they struggle to find affordable housing and often live with their parents? That’s where the best jobs are.  

Willing to sacrifice. According to the study, 78 percent of millennials say that a company’s ability to meet their preferences is an important factor when they choose employers. Moreover, 69 percent said they’d be willing to make sacrifices for the right workplace. Of these, 21 percent would accept a longer commute and 20 percent would move to a “less attractive location.”   

“But it doesn’t have to be ‘less attractive,’” said Serot. “For one, a great job can make all sorts of locations appealing. And if a company builds their environment in the right way, these employees have everything they need at their fingertips.”  

Startups, take note: For millennial workers, the right job and workplace trumps zip code. Just be sure to upgrade your environment according to millennial preferences. If you build it right, in other words, they will come.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, delivers industry-leading facilities and project management, transaction and portfolio services and consulting that drive bottom-line impact and streamlined workplaces. Learn more here.

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