A millennial workforce is soon to be the norm — and that’s a good thing. While you may have heard statements that Generation Y is self-centered, lazy and lack an appetite for hard work, it turns out the opposite is true. In general, millennials are showing themselves to be driven, diligent and passionate when it comes to work they care about.

As a small business owner, it’s in your best interest to ensure millennials have workplace initiatives to invest in: give them incentive to not just come in to work, but to bring their A-game and all their best ideas. If you provide a tech-enabled workplace and encourage your employees to pursue what interests them, you’ll create an environment where millennials thrive — and you’ll boost your bottom line in the process.

Why Millennials Matter

You might be asking, “Why should I work so hard to accommodate millennials?” Well, for one thing, they already make up a larger portion of the US workforce than any other generation. Broadly speaking, Generation Y includes people born between the years 1980 and 2000; and by the year 2025, they will constitute as much as 75 percent of the working world.

This demographic shift will be good for small businesses. Millennials generally like SMBs a lot: 33 percent say they trust small businesses “a great deal,” while 37 percent trust them “quite a lot,” compared to just 9 percent and 12 percent for big business. Some economists attribute this trust gap to the major recession of 2008, which struck just as many millennials were starting to earn paychecks or put away long-term savings.

The affection this generation feels for small business goes further than that, though. On the whole, they have a strong preference for buying locally-sourced products and supporting local companies. That makes them a great match for small businesses — not just as customers, but as employees and ambassadors as well. So, the question is, how can you get them, and keep them, on your team?

Think Like a Startup

No less than 92 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 have a smartphone, compared with the national average of 77 percent. Millennials see technology as a necessity, so they’ll be more excited to work for a business that meets their technological expectations.

Depending on your business model, you’ll want to deploy industry-specific technology solutions. If you’re in retail, it’s probably time to lift the ban on mobile devices on the sales floor and invest in mobile apps and platforms that will help your staff keep track of inventory, answer customer inquiries and move shoppers seamlessly along the path to purchase. If your workplace is an office, ensure that your employees have access to the hardware and software they need to do their best work — and bring in new tech, like wearables and sleek laptops, to keep your younger employees engaged. Think about the cool gadgets and perks startups typically offer new hires. To stay competitive in the job market, your business can leverage similar benefits.

Many millennials are also entrepreneurial by nature. They’re starting companies earlier than their parents and grandparents did, and they already own and operate 16 percent of small U.S. businesses — and that number is growing every year. If millennials are going to work for your business instead of starting their own, they want to know that they can channel their creativity, contribute their thoughts and opinions and be free to take initiative and make a meaningful contribution. In short, they need more than just a salary; they need a “why.”

So how can you give “Generation Why” the autonomy, creativity and purpose they crave? A great strategy is to nurture intrapreneurship: empower your employees to create new programs, products, services, policies and innovations within your company. Intrapreneurial projects can meaningfully impact the culture of your workplace, and can encourage wellness, mindfulness, self-expression and community engagement. The intrapreneurial ventures of your millennial team members may very well involve new applications of technology, helping your small business keep pace with the times.

Employ Flexibility and Cloud

With their entrepreneurial spirit and technological savvy, there’s another millennial stereotype you might have encountered: the idea that they’re single-minded careerists who are as laser-focused on their job titles as they are on their phones. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. This generation is quite unique in their commitment to work-life balance: most millennials aim to keep their job from overriding their personal life, even when they’re promised generous compensation.

That’s why a great way to retain your millennial talent is to allow remote working and flexible hours. Flexibility and balance go hand-in-hand, and recent research shows that 60 percent of employees with flexible schedules are very satisfied with their jobs, versus just 22 percent for low-flexibility employees. No wonder a third of U.S. businesses expect 50 percent of their full-time employees to be working remotely by as early as 2020. As it stands, stress-related absenteeism, turnover and reduced productivity are costing U.S. industries almost $300 billion per year.

The best way for small businesses to facilitate flexible work schedules is to invest in cloud storage and mobile apps. The next generation of workers already considers this kind of solution a given.

And I agree with them. Whether public or private, cloud servers have proven that they’re secure and reliable — and there are also readily-available multi-cloud solutions that bring together the best of all worlds, allowing businesses to streamline their data, applications and storage solutions on an accessible platform, all while keeping tight control over proprietary software and information.

By investing in modern technology, small businesses can give their Generation Y employees the freedom and flexibility they’ve come to expect — because if SMBs don’t tackle technology optimization head-on, they’ll have a hard time holding on to talent. In one study, 42 percent of millennials said they would be willing to leave a job if the technology didn’t meet their standards.

Not only are millennials assets to small businesses — they’re also deeply invested in giving back to the community. Working with them is a great opportunity to set your small business apart, win customers and champion a good cause.

Small businesses are well-positioned to welcome more millennial talent and cultivate a workplace that meets their needs. Allowing creative autonomy, investing in forward-thinking technology and fostering a stronger sense of community will inspire your millennial workforce — and will also help take your company to the next level.

Can we partner with you to bring the latest technologies to your millennial team? Reach out to a Dell Small Business Technology Advisor to learn how we can empower your workplace for change.