To Attract Millennials, A Company Changes Its Product And Workplace To modernize his firm, CEO Craig Malloy not only updated the technology he sells, but found ways to bring in younger employees. But those changes make some baby boomers feel left behind.
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To Attract Millennials, A Company Changes Its Product And Workplace

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To Attract Millennials, A Company Changes Its Product And Workplace

To Attract Millennials, A Company Changes Its Product And Workplace

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We're going to visit a company in Austin, Texas, now. It's been trying to attract highly trained millennials to make more competitive products, and that has led to a division between young and old in the office.

NPR's Caitlin Dickerson has this story for our series New Boom, exploring the impact of millennials. And as she tells us, change isn't all fun and games.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Got it, got it.

CAITLIN DICKERSON, BYLINE: It's lunchtime at a company called Lifesize in Austin, Texas. A dozen employees are playing beach volleyball on a sand court next to the parking garage behind their offices.

CORRINE HEERY: I just love it. I love the midday, kind of, endorphin rush.

DICKERSON: Corrine Heery is a 28-year-old financial analyst. She's been at the company, which sells video conferencing technology, for a year.

HEERY: It kind of ads to when I'm talking to my friends about the company I work for, I'm like yeah, you know - it's not just the business side but it's this side, too - the people getting along and playing fun sports.

DICKERSON: Lunchtime volleyball is part of the new image Lifesize is trying to cultivate to attract millennials like Heery. CEO Craig Malloy is a baby boomer. He says that two years ago, his company's culture and its products were outdated. The heavy big-screen televisions and swiveling cameras it manufactured were being replaced by computer and phone applications. Malloy says he needed millennials to help create smaller and simpler technology.

CRAIG MALLOY: People in my generation will never be as up to speed on what's happening in social media or web applications.

DICKERSON: So Malloy instituted a company facelift modeled after Silicon Valley Startup companies. He introduced employee perks that appeal to young people like group exercise and free food - and Malloy says it's working.

MALLOY: We're seeing more interest from a younger generation of software and hardware developer maybe that would consider a company like Nest or Google. And we're now able to compete for that talent.

DICKERSON: Lifesize no longer manufactures clunky hardware. Now, they focus on software that requires minimal technology to use, like a remote control with one button. And Malloy says he's modernizing the inside of his company, too. By next year, nearly all of his staff will be sitting in open workstations with just a few feet of sheer glass separating colleagues. But baby boomers who will lose their offices protested so much, Malloy says he had to do something drastic to convince them to get on board. He, the CEO, gave up his own office.

MALLOY: If I moved out of my office into the open area, no one would have a leg to stand on about complaining that they can't get their job done.

LARRY DANKO: I love my office.

DICKERSON: Larry Danko is a 66-year-old manager at Lifesize. He's been with the company for 10 years, and he's had an office since day one.

DANKO: What I did not have was a window. I earned a window. That was important to me.

DICKERSON: Danko has accepted he'll be losing his office. But he's not looking forward to it because to him, an office means something about a person's level of achievement and value.

TONY VIDA: I think change is inevitable.

DICKERSON: Tony Vida is a millennial and a manager in IT at Lifesize.

VIDA: I'm sure that everyone that used to have an in and out folder on their desk, you know, waiting for paper notes didn't want to do the whole e-mail thing.

DICKERSON: Vida is 31. He doesn't think the changes at his office are about one generation or another. He sees them as part of the natural evolution of how work gets done over time. But some experts say evolution that happens too quickly can cause problems, like Sharalyn Orr. She's a management consultant who advises companies on working with intergenerational workforces.

SHARALYN ORR: What happens is a lot of over correcting where they try too hard to focus on that young demo, right? Then they not only alienate the older -sometimes it backfires.

DICKERSON: CEO Craig Malloy doesn't think that's happening at his company, but he acknowledges the changes have been too much for some older members of his staff.

MALLOY: We have lost baby boomer employees. You know, on the other hand, most businesses are not a democracy. I would like to say they're a benevolent dictatorship.

DICKERSON: And Malloy, benevolent dictator, says his company needs to change with the industry even if that means leaving some people behind. Caitlin Dickerson, NPR News.

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