How I managed millennials to $100 million in sales

Now that the last baby boomers have turned 50, corporate America has their eyes keenly focused on that elusive generation: the millennials.

Boomers worked hard to provide their millennial children with everything they did not get from their parents: healthy self-esteem, education infused with computer science, a confident can-do attitude and repeated positive reinforcement for every behavior. It is no secret now that we have a generation that believes they are smarter than their predecessors and feel they are the keepers of the coveted keys to all things technology.

Millennials working computer
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Unfortunately, sometime in the late 1990s, most of them were labeled entitled. Or perhaps we just perceive them as entitled when they simply want to do things differently. They learn by trying, do not want direction and never, ever do they accept, "Because that's how it has always been done."

I think the key is that managing millennials requires a fresh management style.

My theory is that, as a workforce, we collectively moved up Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The boomers were in postwar survival mode. They took a job and made a career because they needed to eat, dwell and provide modestly for their family. The millennials have transcended that model and have moved up to pairing the idea of "needs" with self-actualization aspirations.

The 6 keys to motivating millennials

So how do we capitalize on a workforce populated by those less interested in job promotion than in becoming an entrepreneur and who will quit if they feel they do not have freedom? How do you run a company at the apex of efficiency with kids who eschew traditional workplace norms and industrial age corporate culture?

My answer: You need to offer millennials the chance to be entrepreneurs within the company. My company, Ultra Mobile, offers a good example. We've grown to more than $100 million in sales in two years with a team that is primarily made up of millennials. We have 108 employees and 200+ contractors. Half (54) of the employees are millennials, and the contractors are almost entirely millennials. We are therefore well over 80 percent millennials.

We are hiring rapidly and have found it a challenge to hire, retain, train and motivate millennials. The millennials approach the workforce much differently than the the Gen Xers and baby boomers. Nonetheless, they are most savvy at software development and understanding the needs and wants of customers age 15 to 40. I've found that if they have the freedom, passion and conviviality, they will be happy, productive and loyal. In 2014 we had nearly 100 percent retention.

Here are six of the workplace keys I have discovered will make millennials work as a team for your company.

1. Prepare to be interviewed (yes, you read that right).

It starts with recruiting. Are you having an issue filling tech positions? Have you learned what I refer to as the Millennial Rule?

You are not interviewing millennials; they are interviewing you. Tech hires are the hardest to find and retain. At first contact, actively recruit, cheer and celebrate the candidate. Be excited they chose to meet your company, and make them feel special.

At Ultra, we show off our millennial-friendly environs by hosting happy hours for local communities of programmers. We actively reverse the entire interview process and treat each candidate as a visiting VIP and be sure to introduce them to employees who bring their individuality, hobbies and pets to the office. Nine out of 10 candidates do not get hired, so why not give those nine something to talk about? Have them proclaiming, "It wasn't a great fit for me, but you HAVE to interview with them."

We have become a millennial haven, with most of our new employees coming through referrals.

2. If you expect employees to "punch a clock," expect millennials to punch out—permanently.

It is not about the hours or days at the office anymore; it is about the accomplishment and fulfillment of duties. Millennials are allergic to the 9-to-5 office day. They do not want to be told how or when to do their jobs. I find that I have a hard time getting millennials to work at 9 a.m., but no issue whatsoever getting them to respond to anything asked of them at 9 p.m. Think of it this way: They are "in" for only six to seven hours per day, but "on" for 12 hours per day, plus weekends.

In our New York City offices, we regularly have impromptu happy hours as millennials enjoy hanging out, working into the evening while playing tunes on the Sonos (de rigor at all Ultra offices) and socializing while coding, strategizing or discussing hip new neighborhood restaurants well into the evening.

This results-based time clock applies to vacations as well. Sure, we give several weeks of vacation, but we are taking that further by launching unlimited vacation days based on accomplishments. You do not have to bonus millennials in cash for extra hours or a brilliant outcome—give them extra vacation. At the very least, they can tweet about all the vacation time they have.

"Millennials share on social media—it is basically their quest for bragging rights. So measure your company's brag factor. If our millennials cannot post weekly to their social media connections a concrete example demonstrating how they have the coolest job in the world, then we are not doing our job."

3. The job you are offering a millennial has to be cool enough for social media.

Your company's social media presence is less important than the social media fodder your company provides its millennials. It's part of being motivated by external or societal factors. Millennials share on social media—it is basically their quest for bragging rights. So measure your company's brag factor. If our millennials cannot post weekly to their social media connections a concrete example demonstrating how they have the coolest job in the world, then we are not doing our job. Sometimes it's not just about what millennials actually want and enjoy, but what they feel will play well on social media.

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For example, many pet shelters will bring adorable, adoptable puppies to your workplace for an hour. The employees will love to play with the pups, and perhaps one will adopt a permanent pet. Millennials will post photos to their friends of the cutest creatures that "just showed up to work" and receive accolades, likes and, of course, the most coveted comment of all, "Dude, you have the best job!"

4. Millennials are more Tigger than Eeyore.

Social networking has taught us happiness is contagious. Hanging with happy people not only improves most millennials' happiness but also makes the entire team more productive, as demonstrated by the studies performed by renowned industrial psychologist Peter Totterdell on team dynamics, proving that happier teams produce better overall performance.

Millennials have a more optimistic outlook on life. They skew more Tigger than Eeyore, willing to take more chances and bet on themselves. For example, they respond well to stock options and incentive compensation. Give them clear objectives and then get out of their way. It is not that they are less motivated at work; it just may seem that way with cohorts stuck in conventional compensation and archaic company cultures.

The trick is tapping into their passions and taking the time to understand what each millennial team member is striving to accomplish and have flexibility to help them achieve their goals. One of our top executives needs to go to two or three conferences per year to be with other ubersmart millennials discussing the future of database management or the Internet of Things, just to get inspiration and perspective. Others love the "living" environment we create at Ultra offices, which give host to employee jam sessions, barbecues and midday yoga. Three millennials in our southern California HQ surprised each other when they showed up independently at a yoga instructor certification program. The next week, they were teaching yoga to other employees.

5. Food, glorious food, means a lot to millennials.

Millennials covet well-prepared food and dine out more often than not. We create that same experience at work. We started by providing lunch Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it became such a hit that we will offer it every day when we move into our larger facilities this summer. Most restaurants can deliver a meal for 30 to 100 people. We make Thursdays our community day, ensuring that all telecommuters are in the office and congregating over tacos or tagliatelle. The productivity gained and the vibe created far outweigh the cost of the food.

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6. A relentless focus on the bottom line will not inspire millennial workers to be relentless.

Productivity today is about the community, experiences and a place for millennials to thrive. They are fearless and more interested in tackling your company's biggest problems than simply meeting quarterly objectives. Provide the belonging and self-actualization needs they crave, and millennials will knock your socks off with astounding performance. Put your trust in the next generation by giving them the environment they seek and your profits will soar.

You can read more about Ultra's values and how that translates into a workplace as a millennial haven. It worked for us. YMMV (your mileage may vary).

By David Glickman, CEO of Ultra Mobile, a nationwide mobile carrier that grew to more than $100 million in revenue in its second full year and is run predominately by millennials. Glickman is a member of the CNBC-YPO Chief Executive Network.

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