One hot topic in management today is hiring and managing Millennials. Everyone talks about how Millennials prefer flexibility over salary and growth over stability but what about small companies, the backbone of the American labor force, who can’t offer telecommuting and big title changes? How do you recruit and keep the newest labor force?

As a Millennial myself, working for a small company and with friends in similar situations I can offer some insight into what we are looking for when agreeing to work for a small company over working for a larger company. Going in, I knew that I would be required to work the standard 8-5 with very little opportunity for advancement and although the pay is ok, it’s definitely not the best I could have received having been in the workforce for 3 years already. So why did I chose to accept this position?

For one, I realized within minutes of my interview (which occurred with the three senior managers) that the company prided itself on a family atmosphere. Everyone knew about each other’s children and families (not in a creepy sort of way) and it was obvious that they cared about one another. Not to say all Millennials will feel the same way but in today’s world of social media and over sharing it was nice to know that I could talk about my family without someone giving me a weird look or acting uninterested, especially my would-be managers.

Secondly, it became apparent with talking with other employees that although I would be working 8-5, my “lunch hour” would be fluid and if something came up I wouldn’t be penalized for having to leave work. About 2 months in to my new job my tire went flat while pulling into the parking lot (yes, I hit a curb). I used my lunch hour to go and get a new tire put on my car, unfortunately, the errand did not go quite as quickly as I had hoped. After 2 hours sitting at the local car repair shop I was finally on my way back to work. Fortunately, not only did my managers not say a thing disparaging, they were completely understanding and sympathetic (and since I make hourly pay – my pay was not reduced). This is the kind of flexibility that a small company can offer. Yes, I have to be on site during work hours and no, I cannot work remotely or telecommute, but when life intrudes, as it often does, my manager remains human instead of the evil dictator that some in a management role become. Not to say that you should let employees take advantage or walk all over you, but certain situations need a bit of humanity and understanding.

And finally, it was made very clear to me that as long as I get all my work done (without my manager having to stand over my shoulder and nag me to death) I could conduct other work or leisure activities as I saw fit. This is great for me as I work a second job part-time (remotely and from home) and I have a small child. So when I have completed all my work and made sure that nothing else needs to be done, I can get online and Christmas shop or pay my bills or even work on my other job. My managers never care and they know that if they need something I’ll stop what I’m doing at once to do any work they need done. But they don’t harass me for being on Amazon when they walk by my work station and if they see a post on my facebook (yes, I am linked to the company) no one thinks poorly of me or calls me in for a “little talk.” This is very important to my generation. We need to know that we can conduct personal business during the day and won’t be “punished” for it. As long as all our work is getting done and we go above and beyond to be an asset to the company, why get upset when I’m on the phone with the cable company trying to negotiate my bill.

Small companies can offer Millennials the flexibility they need, managers just need to realize that not all of us have to work from home or have coffee shops on site. There is much to be said for a company that realizes their employees have lives outside of work and are happy to help them accommodate that.