Careers at start-ups have captivated the attention of many of the world’s most talented and ambitious millennials.  Every week, hoards of twenty-somethings ditch their “respectable” office jobs in favor of life at a startup.  They describe their budding ventures much the same way first-time parents discuss their newborns – with excitement, hope, and a little terror.  Although these tech-savvy hopefuls beam with pride when they talk about their startups, they are well aware of the magnitude of what they are attempting.  And like new parents, they also know they will likely screw up at some point.  However, these realities don't seem to dissuade them.

The enthusiasm young people feel for their new start-up ventures lies in stark contrast to how many feel about more traditional career opportunities.  Their brief brushes with Corporate America have left them feeling apathetic and disconnected from the corporate world.  I overheard one startup founder analogize his former corporate job to his father's Armani suit – although the ensemble may look great and symbolize status to many, after trying it on for size - it just was not a good fit for him.  In addition, the lure of a corporate paycheck does not appear to be enough to draw Gen Ys away from startup careers.  After years of work in the New York finance seen, another startup founder said, "I'd rather make $75K a year at my company [an innovative fitness start-up], than $200K in finance."

So, the question is - with little pay and countless hours of hard work in the short-run, and a 90% chance of failure in the long-run, why are the Fortune 500 losing talent to America’s startups?  In other words, why are more and more gifted millennials opting out of traditional corporate jobs and feeling called to serve at startups?

The answer is - MOTIVATION.  Many of today’s young people are just not motivated to work in Corporate America, because startups offer great 3 Ms.  

The 3 Ms of Motivation
1.     Meaningful Work
2.    Mastery of Content/Skills
3.    Membership/Meaningful Belonging

Startups offer gifted young people the opportunity to contribute to something they believe is significant, develop an expertise, and experience a genuine feeling of belonging to an elite group of talented and supportive people.  This results in higher levels of engagement and satisfaction, which promotes an allegiance Corporate America seems unable to foster with many of today’s most innovative Gen Yers.  If Corporate America wants to attract and retain top tech talent, they need to reconsider how they:

1.     communicate the broader mission of business, and what impact employees have in achieving that mission,
2.     offer employee challenging stretch goals with autonomy, relevant support, rewards for minor successes, and impunity,
3.     encourage deeper connections across the organizations that emphasize the humanity of the employees and de-emphasize the company’s org chart.   

As things stand right now - the War for Tech Talent is too close to call. 

Dear Corporate America,
The next move is yours.  Game on!
Best regards, Michelle Ricardo