The Trick to Attracting Millennials to Your Startup Brand



It used to be that decent pay, a flashy car and a suite of benefits were the simple ingredients needed to create and sustain employee happiness. But if you asked a millennial today if a corner office at work and a gas-guzzler at home would make him or her feel fulfilled, how do you think they’d answer?

As CEO of HourlyNerd, a SaaS company using data and technology to deliver consulting talent, every day I see the new generation of workers wants more to their careers than the familiar symbols of success and happiness. They want a career and a life that works toward the greater good of humanity or fulfills a deeper, personal mission. Just as a corner office doesn’t equate to success for millennials, big corporations that pump out products and rake in profits do not create trust. Outside of the workplace, millennials want to spend their dollars in a socially responsible way that benefits the world.

Today’s generation differs materially from its predecessors; more idealistic than the corporate-centric culture of the 1950s, but more socially conscious and altruistic than the “me-focused” generations that followed. The old American dream—getting married, buying a home and starting a family—is giving way to a new path, where millennials are looking to supplement those milestones by driving deeper meaning from their impact on the world as producers and as consumers.

This shift in how millennials engage and participate with the world (and the brands) around them exists because altruism and business are not mutually exclusive in their eyes.

Professional Impact

Thirty percent of millennials polled in this study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said that having a meaningful job is most important to them (whereas only 12 percent of their supervisors found meaningful jobs to be important). It’s possible that coming of professional age in tough economic times pushed millennials to look past the clear and obvious benefits of a job (pay) and search for a larger goal to achieve. As a business owner, there are many things that you can do to appeal to this need. Encourage a team wide volunteer day where employees donate a workday of their time to a local charity. This gets them out of the office, facilitates team bonding and develops people’s professional relationships.

Personal Impact    

The altruistic mindset plays out beyond professional lives as well. Millennials care about socially conscious corporations and sustainability. Chegg is a company that incorporates this well into their business model. They’re a textbook-renting service for college students who don’t want to overpay ridiculous textbook prices. Their model gives each student the opportunity to plant a tree in designated locations with every book they rent. Five books equals five planted trees, plus the feeling of making a personal impact on the world.

The push for sustainable food, led largely by millennials, means at least one farmer’s market will continue to pop up in every town in the country each year. Millennials will only put their trust in a brand when they know how their food, clothing and other products were made—never mind if it arrived at the doorstep via Amazon Prime.

That same desire for trustworthy brands directly affects how millennials view businesses and corporations today. A 2015 study showed more than 93 percent of respondents felt better about companies after learning about their socially conscious efforts. If a brand is authentic and honest, a millennial will become a loyal customer or perhaps even an employee. In the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, more than half of those polled noted a company’s social mission directly influenced whether they’d work for that company.

Capturing Their Attention

The trick to relating to and attracting millennials to a brand as employees and consumers is simple: forego the tricks. Be honest and adhere to a set of values that align with those of your customers. It can’t be a façade, it can’t be a gimmick and, most importantly, it can’t be the trite, disconnected afterthoughts of random volunteer days or year-end, lump-sum donations. Daily operations must align with the employee’s sense of purpose, and the positions offered must include coaching and solid leadership so millennials feel truly fulfilled. Understanding and speaking to millennial values allows brands to connect with this generation genuinely, and that validation is huge for consumers and employees alike.

Smart marketers and company leaders will forge a path for their millennial consumer or employee instead of hoping they’ll conform to what worked for their market years ago. This isn’t pandering; this is carving out a spot for the generation that will soon make up the better half of the workforce. Serving the greater good through your business doesn’t just mean you’re benefiting the millennial. You, too, are benefiting something bigger.




The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Image credit: CC by ICMA Photos

About the author: Rob Biederman

Rob Biederman is the cofounder and CEO of HourlyNerd, the leading technology platform delivering elite business talent. Prior to founding HourlyNerd, Rob was a private equity investor at Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital, where he focused on the health care and high technology industries. Originally from New York, Rob attended Princeton University and graduated from Harvard Business School.

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