It would be hard to find a company more closely associated with its small-town, longtime home than the direct-marketing firm YA, which, for much of its 46-year existence, was known as Young America. When the then-new firm moved in 1973 to the semi-rural Minnesota municipality of Young America (now Norwood Young America, population 3,549) some 40 miles west of Minneapolis, it not only took the name of the town but the U.S. Postal Service also assigned it a whopping 20 zip codes.
That’s why it was surely a shock to some when, in 2015, YA announced its name change and that it was relocating to the heart of downtown Minneapolis. But to the firm’s CEO, Chris Behrens, it was the only way that—in an age where most marketing is now digital—he could attract the software engineers and other top talent the firm needed to change its focus and thrive.
“As the business progressed and the world turned toward technology, and social and mobile applications, the talent pool that drove the decision was much more digitally oriented,” Behrens says. “And to attract top talent—software engineers—you had to be downtown. That was the main driver.”
A who’s who of American corporations—General Electric, McDonald’s, Aetna and ADM, as well as a host of mid-sized firms—have relocated their headquarters in recent years to better compete for top millennial, tech-savvy talent. Often, these relocations involve moving from the suburbs to downtown cities, where many millennials prefer to reside and work.
However, as HR leaders who have played a role in orchestrating such a move can attest, establishing new headquarters isn’t as easy as putting on a few coats of paint and opening the doors to the new office. Relocation and HR professionals say employers must evaluate what millennial workers really want out of their new workplace, and consider how to balance that with the needs of longtime employees.