Retail Traffic: How much pressure does Taubman feel to attract younger employees?

Pawlak: We realized about two years ago that we had a glut of Baby Boomers moving through our organization; right now, the average age for our employees is 44 and a half. Based on that statistic, we knew we were about to have a checkout of experienced people happening rapidly, over a short period of time, unless we recharged our batteries by training younger workers.

RT: How important is it for the shopping industry to attract younger people?

Pawlak: All industries are facing the same national demographics. We should be mining the group of candidates in their 20s now rather than having to court them 20 years from now in an even tighter labor market.

RT: How many of your MBA students express an interest in real estate?

Pawlak: I think right now everybody wants to be a hedge fund manager. Most of them want to go the financial route; there is this feeling that the real estate business is still a little bit of an unknown. But one of the things I find is that many of them kind of grew up living at the mall, so they think it's a pretty cool place to work. That's an enticement right off the bat.

RT: Does Taubman work with colleges and universities that have real estate programs?

Pawlak: We cast a fairly wide net when we recruit — some of it is directed at the real estate schools, but some of it is also directed at architecture, marketing, financial analysis majors. There is less [of a dependence] on the university to find jobs…. We've got somebody this summer interning in the development department who came from Michigan State, somebody else came from Harvard and another person from the University of Michigan. We are a Midwest-based company and we tend to attract a lot of our talent from the local [school] market. We are not going to be flying to UCLA for career night.

RT: Taubman was recently selected by Crain's Detroit as one of its “60 Cool Places to Work.” Can you tell us about some of the changes the company has made to attract younger workers?

Pawlak: Knowing how Generation Y looks at the world, we focused on the work/life issues that came out during the tech boom. We have a fitness center and a wellness program, we have a smoking cessation program, we provide massages to our people to ease stress, we have free lunches so they don't have to leave the building to eat. We have a lot of social events: barbeques, golf outings, car shows; and when employees come in they get four weeks of paid time off in their first year. This is really what appeals to this age group.

RT: How is Generation Y different from previous generations in their approach to business?

Pawlak: They expect a lot. They want to move fast, they feel they have all the answers, they know how to use technology much better than their bosses and they are very proud and opinionated. It's interesting to have them in meetings because they speak up a lot, rather than just sitting down and listening. They drive other people crazy, but I like them — they have a lot to contribute.

RT: How successful has your program been so far?

Pawlak: We are still working on lowering our average age, but I can tell you that 27 percent of our new hires are under 25 right now.

THOMAS PAWLAK

Vice president of human resources, Taubman Centers, Inc. and adjunct assistant professor of management, Brennan School of Business, Dominican University