3M Co. has displaced Google to claim the top spot in a national survey of millennials as the most preferred potential workplace.

3M CEO Inge Thulin said he was so delighted when he learned the news that he walked over to Marlene McGrath, 3M's senior vice president of human resources, and gave her a hug.

"This is a big, big statement," Thulin said. "This is incredible. It's fantastic. When you look at Google and Apple and the others, we left them in the dust."

The National Society of High School Scholars surveyed 13,000 students and young professionals between the ages of 15 to 32.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester also made the list, ranking 13th. Besides 3M, others in the top five slots for where millennials want to work were Google, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Walt Disney Co., and local hospitals (that were ranked as a group). Apple ranked No. 8.

Thulin said younger employees and applicants have noted 3M's sustainability projects and its three-to-12-month leadership development program. In addition, 3M has a commitment to geographic, linguistic and ethnic diversity, Thulin said. 3M's top management represents many races and countries from around the world.

Millennials also are attracted to 3M's sales performance, which has bested many of its global industrial peers, he said. 3M, like most multinational companies, has seen its revenue affected by negative currency exchanges and is predicting another static year for sales, both because of the strong dollar and a soft electronics market.

Profits are up, though, partly because of new factory efficiencies, fresh acquisitions and 1,500 global layoffs last year. Some 250 layoffs are planned for this year in 3M's electronics division at the same time strategic hiring continues in other 3M businesses.

Several smart programs have helped in recruiting workers under 35, Thulin said.

Millennials, he said, are perhaps most drawn to 3M's philosophy that its scientists and product makers spend 15 percent of their time on projects of their choosing.

"Our 15 percent culture is fantastic for these individuals," Thulin said. "That is what this group is looking [for]. They want to go to a place where they can look and see diversity in the management, sustainability and environmental goals [upheld], and freedom. Lastly, they want to know they can make a difference. And they can and do."

As a group, millennials now represent the largest percentage of U.S. workers and are highly desired as corporations battle low unemployment and the retirements of thousands of experienced baby boomers. That's why the society partnered with Hanover Research on the survey.

The goal? To understand the preferences and attitudes of "high-achieving millennials," said Susan Thurman, the society's scholarship director. "Our survey offers important insights for employers to develop strategies to engage and retain top talent," she said.

"Currently, the top career interests of this group are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); business and arts, entertainment and media," said society President James W. Lewis. "Millennials hope to find in the workplace fair treatment, corporate social responsibility and strong company benefits, which include flexible work schedules."

3M — which boasts $30 billion in sales, more than 55,000 products and 89,400 employees in 70 countries — is increasingly emphasizing its prowess in science and innovation. Last year, it launched the new tagline "Science. Applied to Life" at the popular South by Southwest music, film and interactive-technology festival in Austin, Texas. Last year, it became the Vikings' new official science partner.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725