Do You Have to Be Downtown to Attract Gen Y Talent?

Do You Have to Be Downtown to Attract Gen Y Talent?You want your company to stay innovative and attract the next generation of customers, so you’re pretty keen to hire the best and brightest 20-somethings. If you’re firm is located in SoHo or San Francisco that shouldn’t be much trouble – the streets are filled with work-hungry members of so-called Generation Y. But what if you’re in a less hip location outside of the city center? Are you efforts doomed?


Human Resources Executive magazine regrets to inform you this just might be the case. A recent article in the online version of the journal reports that several studies show a vast majority of Gen Y (aka, the Millennials) want an urban life. According to real estate firm RCLCO, 88 percent prefer to live in a an urban area, while tech company Johnson Controls, Inc. conducted a survey that showed 70 percent are city mice. Take your pick of the numbers, neither are very good for companies located in the ‘burbs.

The article goes on to say that companies including Allstate, AT&T, GE Capital and Motorola are all considering moves downtown to attract hip, young workers. But is this the whole story?

How Far Does the Apple Fall?

As with many things Gen Y, things are not as simple as they seem in some media reports  — with a generation 80 million strong sussing out single, actionable trends tends to get complicated. Business Insider, for instance, has conflicting evidence from the census that any recruitment benefit from a city center location will be pretty short lived. Just like their parents before them, Gen Y are fleeing to the leafy suburbs as soon as a family looks to be on the cards:

The 2000 census showing an explosion of 25-34 year-olds living in inner cities was cited by urban planners and demographers as evidence that American youth were reversing their parents' movements and were moving back to the city. But the newer data shows that this trend has now reversed itself: this generation, now ten years older, has moved back to the suburbs to settle down.

So what’s a company to do? Should you pack up and relocate to a hipper locale or stick it out in more spacious (and probably more affordable) accommodation elsewhere?

Hold the Packing Peanuts

The bottom line appears to be that it’s a balancing act depending on the skills your company needs and the culture it’s trying to create. But Gen Y shouldn’t weigh too heavily in the scales, as they’re not a game changer.

If you’re a social marketing firm with blow-up furniture, a foosball table in the break room and a constant need for fresh voices, of course you’re better in the Mission than Minneapolis. But if you’re a firm who plans to retain talent for a number of years and which relies on middle aged employees as much as youth than think hard before picking up and moving.

London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for

(Image courtesy of Flickr user wrestlingentropy, CC 2.0)

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