Last year millennials surpassed the baby boomers to become the country’s largest generation by population, only a year after they replaced Generation X as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. It would seem only logical then that companies will now need to tailor their benefits and programs more towards millennials (Gen Y) than the previous generations.
Each generation has had different standards and expectations then the generation before them and millennials are no different. Yet, warranted or not, millennials have garnered the reputation of being lazy but considering that wages have declined and work hours have been lengthened since their parents were their age, perhaps all they are looking for is a fair deal. Whereas in the past, benefit packages included the simple cookie cutter basics of health insurance, two weeks of vacation, and a 401(k), millennials are prone to be more attracted to companies with a more progressive approach to their benefits and incentives. That being said, here are some of the perks that millennials look for in an employer.
According to Student Loan Hero, Americans owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loan debt - $620 billion more than the total US credit card debt. With average monthly loan payments of $351, it makes sense that a large portion of millennials would like to work for a company that helps them combat their staggering student loan debts.
Regardless of your views on the work ethic of millennials, one thing that can be said about them is their desire and ability to learn. Millennials grew up in a day and age where technology has advanced at such a rapid and exponential pace that they have been forced to adapt on the fly. Whether it be a cell phone, a car, a software, or an electronic device, there’s always a newer and better version that comes out every year, if not more frequently. No other generation is as accustom to learning new technology and processes then Gen Y. Not to say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but millennials are inherently programmed to be quick learners. As such they want their employers to give them the means to acquire new skillsets and the freedom to explore new ideas.
Not only that, but they’ve been conditioned to project their career path more so then their predecessors. If they don’t see a viable path to advancement in their company regardless of how hard they work or their skillset, don’t expect them to stick around. One might call that impatience, others might call it perceptive forecasting. Companies who value what millennials can bring to the table and who promote from within are more likely to retain their workforce.
A New Kind of Healthcare
Millennials are no different than the generations before them in that they want employer sponsored health care. The difference is that Gen Y expects a company’s benefits package to be a key selling point. Perhaps no pitch is as effective as offering 100% employer paid healthcare. As we discussed early, with more than half of the millennials making less than their parents did at their age and with their hefty student loan debts, you could see why not having to pay any employee healthcare deductions would be highly coveted. Second to that, millennials want options when it comes to their employer sponsored healthcare. Generally speaking young employees have less health issues then their elder counterparts. That’s not news, that’s just life. Therefore, millennials are less than enthusiastic about paying high employee contributions for benefits they won’t use nearly as much as some of their colleagues. Companies that offer multiple levels of health care options, or who offer Age Rated plans are more likely to get the stamp of approval from millennials.
Millennials have ushered in a new line of thinking in corporate America, that is if the work is getting done why should it matter where, when, and how it’s getting done? Millennials place a great deal of value on having the ability to choose when they work – coming in earlier and leaving earlier or vice versa, taking a longer lunch or no lunch at all, working less hours one day and making up for it the next day. Even more appealing than flexible office hours is the ability to telecommute. In the same Flexjob survey, only 7% of those surveyed said the office is where they would be the most productive. Fewer distractions, reduced stress of commuting, and a more comfortable environment were all cited as reasons why working from home would preferable to the office. The final aspect to the work life balance that millennials crave is more paid time off. In fact, some studies have shown that taking frequent time off from work to recharge significantly increases productivity. A way of thinking that has even developed a swelling trend of employers to offer unlimited paid time off.
To apply a music analogy, millennial’s great grandparents shunned their grandparents for listening to Elvis, their grandparents shunned their parents for listening to Led Zeppelin, and their parents shunned them for listening to Eminem. Point being is that maybe millennials aren’t as entitled and lazy as they’ve been typecast – maybe they are just different than the generations before them. As will be Generation Z after them. The workplace is ever changing, and if your company wants to attract and retain talent, it might want to do so as well.