What Tampa’s Experience Can Teach Us About Attracting Millennial Talent

By Harvey Deutschendorf

Many organizations and communities are recognizing that their future success depends upon their ability to attract and keep millennial talent. Recently I had the opportunity to go to Tampa and speak with millennials and millennial entrepreneurs who had started successful businesses there.  The first thing I noticed about Tampa was the friendliness. I was constantly greeted by complete strangers.  When speaking to millennials I often came across the term “emotional connection.”  This showed up in the way that people who knew each other often greeted each other with hugs. This is what I discovered that millennials are looking for in their workplaces and communities.

An Opportunity to Connect and Make a Real Difference

Unlike large established places with multiple levels of hierarchy, Tampa’s millennial business owners talk about the ease of accessing each other. There is a sense that millennials can be part of the action and really make a difference. Even major business owners like Tampa Lightning owner Jeff Vinik are only one or two connections away. Unlike other large places where they felt they simply had to go along with whatever was going on, Tampa gave them an opportunity to get in on the action.

Culture of Collaboration

There is an underlying belief that by working together, everyone can achieve more.  Through intense networking and doing business with each other, Tampa businesses both support and rely upon one another.  This type of atmosphere is quickly felt by new business owners moving in.  Building and maintaining trust are essential.  If someone was not a team player and only out for themselves, they would be quickly found out, suggested millennial entrepreneur Roberto Torres.

Sense of Belonging and Opportunity to Shape the Future

Along with the sense of excitement and anticipation of an exciting future, there is also a sense of being part of something bigger. Roberto Torres refers to it as “belonging to a tribe.” Unlike older established cities that feel they would have no impact, millennials see Tampa as a place where they can leave their mark, impact their city and create a place that they want to set down roots and raise families. It is a place where they can innovate, create and feel that they belong. One millennial from a large city talked about how difficult it was to make new friends in a big place.  She had already made a number of new friends here.

Relaxed, casual, vibrant atmosphere that welcomes diversity and uniqueness

While running a business can be very stressful, the common feeling was that doing so in Tampa did not have the same stress as other regions.  The casual relaxed atmosphere even extends to professions known for their conservative traditions such as law. Attorney Brad Barrios, shareholder in a law firm, tells us that even though the vocation of law is very serious, dress restrictions are not as stringent as more traditionally established locales.  In all worksites, I witnessed everyone is encouraged to bring their unique selves through their work. No cookie cutter offices here, everyone puts their individual stamp on their spaces as it is their home away from home.  Every workplace that I visited had contests, games and a sense that people will work better if they are having fun. This feeling of being unfettered by the traditional restraints of business settings was a common theme of millennial driven businesses.

 A Desire to be Socially Responsible and Give Back to the Community

 Erin Meagher, millennial CEO, is a prime example of an entrepreneur that feels it is important to give back. Her following free trade practices has allowed workers in places like Fiji to go from coming to work on bicycles to scooters. In her small packing plant, she employs a few individuals with disabilities, including a 55 year old woman on her first job.  Erin finds this raises the morale of the staff.  Bobby Harris, CEO of a logistics firm, is an active supporter of the Tampa Humane Society.  As well as contributing from their company many of the community leaders were generously giving of their own personal time to causes that they believed in. They saw it as their way of giving back and building connections within their city.

 Recognizing People and Investing in Their Potential

 In all of the diverse businesses owned and managed by millennials, there was a strong sense of involving staff in the decision making and helping them grow to reach their potential. Regular celebrations and acknowledgments of accomplishments are the norm.  Whether it is banging a gong to signify that someone has reached a milestone or going out for a beer after work at one of the craft breweries, accomplishments are always recognized and celebrated. While there was a recognition that one needed to work hard to get ahead there was an acceptance of the need for balance and the idea that time spend outside of work has just as importance as on the job.


HarveyDeutschendorf-2-0215Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com. His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy.