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 to win the “war for talent.” They set up in urban centers in an effort to recruit and retain city-loving millennials. But a report by commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE upends this assumption. It asserts that, if you create the right environment, millennials are likely to follow, including to suburbs and towns. 

“Millennials’ top priority is to join a great company,” said Jeff Pion, a Vice Chairman with CBRE in LA. “If that company simultaneously offers a flexible, creative, collaborative environment, the opportunity to attract talented millennials increases exponentially. The good news is that you can do that anywhere." 

For startups seeking to leverage this opportunity, CBRE research outlines millennials’ preferences:  

Choice, please. Millennials are often thought to be happiest in open offices. In truth, they 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. Think private areas for contemplative work, tech-enabled spaces for collaboration and spaces for events. 

Pragmatic needs. Another misperception? Millennials want kooky, fun amenities. In fact, you can forget the foosball table. And abandon the bean bags. According to the CBRE research, millennials’ 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.  

“The office serves as a second home for so many workers,” said Shay Bolton, Associate at CBRE in LA. “So it makes a sense that millennials are asking for spaces that offer the same comfort and adaptability they’d find at home.”

Location preferences. It’s true that cities are millennials’ favorite workplace location, but suburban and small-to-mid-sized towns follow close behind. “LA itself reinforces the fact that suburban versus urban is a myth when it comes to attracting workers,” said Max Saia, Senior Research Analyst at CBRE, Southern California and Los Angeles Research. Saia notes the many companies that, of late, have set up in less central areas like Hollywood, Playa, Culver City and El Segundo. 

Why, then, do so many millennials tend to live in city centers, where they struggle to find affordable housing? The answer here, too, is practical: That’s where the best jobs are.

“But they don’t have to be,” said Michelle Esquivel-Hall, Senior Vice President at CBRE in LA. “Companies are increasingly taking advantage of more affordable real estate options — without fear of losing people. This reflects a greater understanding that the office environment can be a powerful recruitment tool.” 

Willing to sacrifice. According to the study, 78 percent of millennials say that a company’s ability to meet their workplace preferences is an important factor when choosing 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.”  

Transferrable benefits. Petra Durnin, Director Research & Analysis at CBRE, Southern California Research, notes that millennials are in good company: “Millennials might be driving the demand for these types of amenities,” said Durnin. “But workers of all generations want the same things to stay engaged and productive.”

It’s another reason to put resources into creating an amenities-rich workplace: When you upgrade your environment according to millennial preferences, the benefits transfer across your organization. And you’re likely to attract and retain top workers of all generations.

Photos via 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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