3 tips chambers of commerce can use to help members attract and retain Millennials

Before the ink had dried on the newly coined term “Millennial”, a cottage industry sprang up to write think pieces about that generation’s self-centered, immature narcissism. They defer adulthood, we’re told, and they’re obsessed with social media and exotic grains. What is to be done with these Millennials?

Well, aside from the grotesque generalizations of these contentions, they also don’t give us any actionable insight. There are about 80 million Millennials, of which approximately 45 million are currently employed, representing about 33% of the workforce. Millennials have displaced Boomers as the workplace majority, bringing with them their own core values, experiences, and concerns.

Chambers of commerce must learn to address this evolving worldview if they want to stay relevant to the growing Millennial workforce. Let’s take a look at 3 key components of the Millennial mindset:

What do Millennials look for in a career?

Millennials love to explore and experiment. Opportunities to develop skills and grow professionally are more attractive than a simple 'job.'

21% of Millennial workers left their job in the last year to do something else, a number that is more than three times higher than that of non-Millennials who report doing the same. Ultimately, Millennials are consumers of the workplace. They shop around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals. More than ever, employers need to know and act on the factors that make their company appealing to these candidates. They have to make it easy for prospects to choose them over their competition. Millennials need to be convinced why and how an organization will help them learn, grow, and develop, and further their careers. Businesses need to operate as corporate lattices rather than corporate ladders.

PROTIP: Today’s high-performing companies bake flexibility into the core of their corporate culture, letting employees set their own schedules as long as they get their work done. Plenty of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers care about it too, but Millennials are leading the way in prioritizing job flexibility. According to PwC’s “Millennials at Work” study, many would give up pay or delay a promotion in favor of an ideal schedule.

Why do Millennials move to or from certain areas?

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of motivation when relocating:

  • Push: People think about leaving places that have few job opportunities, bad economic prospects, high cost of living, high crime, poor educational system, limited cultural opportunities, etc.
  • Pull: People think about relocating to places that have low unemployment, plentiful job opportunities, abundant natural resources, favorable business conditions, low cost of living, low crime, good educational system, plentiful cultural opportunities, etc.

For Millennials, however, traditional markers of a desirable place to live may not align with their values. For instance, abundant public transit and walkable neighborhoods tend to rank higher in the Millennial worldview than classic standard-of-living indicators such as affordable single-family houses. Likewise, abundant cultural opportunities may be as important in decision-making as low crime.

PROTIP: Chambers need to educate audiences about the benefits of living in their region and steer them toward specific actions that will make them more likely to commit. Text-heavy pamphlets are not going to resonate with Millennials and certainly won't trigger further action. Visually communicating a specific lifestyle through social and digital channels will be key in grabbing attention and creating responses. If your city isn’t a major metropolitan center, consider positioning the area as a limited opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a region on the precipice of revitalization.

How do Millennials communicate?

Much (virtual) ink has been spilled describing Millennials as “digital natives”, for whom instantaneous digital communication is second nature. In fact, in a recent Microsoft survey, 93% of Millennials said up-to-date technology is one of the most important aspects of a workplace. There is definitely a shift taking place from legacy communication tools like like phone, fax and even email to newer, more mobile-friendly tools. However, despite their heavy use of digital tech, Millennials still value in-person communication at work over digital. It’s not that they want to communicate exclusively online, but they are used to optimizing and evolving their digital toolbox, and expect their employers to do the same.

PROTIP: Chambers should address the reality that digital technology has become de rigueur in the workplace. Keeping members abreast of developments and news in this realm, as well as simple “best practice” education, are low-stakes ways of acknowledging the digital shift. Likewise, messaging of ANY type should live on multiple platforms. The days of a single newsletter or blog post are over.

Jon Vann Sprecher is the strategy manager at Beutler Ink. He specializes in helping chambers of commerce improve their value propositions in the digital age, ultimately increasing membership signups and retention.

Jonathan Vann Sprecher