Benefits and Compensation

Customizing Compensation for the Aging (?!) Millennials

While quite a few employers continue to think of Millennials as the “young whippersnappers” of the office, the oldest among them are now 35. This may come as a bit of a shock—not to mention the issue of how old this may make some of us feel. However, this means Millennials are now quickly moving into key leadership positions.

For this reason, understanding what motivates them—and how to pay them in comparison to other generations—becomes even more important. With a fixed compensation budget, you need to know how best to direct your dollars where they will give you the most bang for your compensation buck, so to speak.

Payscale recently released a report, Compensation Challenges for a Multi-Generational Workforce, which provides some helpful insights in this area.

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Customized Tiers Are Crucial, Expert Says

Mykkah Herner, Payscale’s Head of Expert Services and one of the report’s authors, contends that strong compensation plans are tiered, with pay philosophy providing a solid foundation for the other tiers.

On the foundation is base pay, followed by variable pay, and topped off with individualized rewards and recognition. No matter the size of the overall compensation budget, companies are wise to consider the way they allocate the budget among these tiers, Herner suggests.

In contrast to Baby Boomers and Generation Xers—who often desire work/life balance and value stability—Millennials are willing to put a greater percentage of their pay at risk in exchange for strong upside potential. They also value the environment at work, which the report suggests should lead companies to give attention to the branding of their workplace as a means of attracting and retaining these younger workers.

The generations also react differently to differing means of communicating about pay. In fact, they are nearly polar opposites when it comes to the amount of information they want others to have about their pay.

The older generations tend to keep pay information very private, while the younger group—whose members were raised in an age when every piece of information is easily accessible online—are OK with sharing it. Striking a balance is important in order to avoid alienating either end of the spectrum, according to Payscale.

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5 Actions You Can Take to Meet Generational Needs

To develop an effective pay plan that can meet the needs of each generation, Payscale suggests the following five actions:

  1. Identify and quantify which generations are prominent in your workforce. Think about how that may change in the future, and try to anticipate the generational makeup of your workforce 5 years from now. “Some predictions show nearly half of the workforce will [comprise] Millennials in 5 years,” Herner says. “By understanding what your workforce looks like today and is likely to look like in 5 years, employers can establish a forward-thinking, strategic head start on defining a compensation strategy that will carry their business into the future.“We’re no longer in a situation where employers can sit passively with the belief their employees will remain at the organization for decades to come. The Millennial generation is a new kind of worker that demands a new kind of employer—one that is both responsible and proactive.”
  2. Assess your current compensation mix and how well it aligns (or doesn’t) with your workforce. Remember that it may not necessarily be tied just to generational differences; the mix of pay that works best for the various segments of your population may have just as much to do with function than strictly generations.“What types of compensation does your organization currently use to pay employees?” Herner suggests asking. “Perhaps more importantly, how competent are you in putting together the right compensation mix for your workforce?” Millennials are good at grasping the big picture. For them it’s not about fixed costs like base pay. Rather, they seek opportunities for “potential pay,” a win-win for employers and employees alike.

In tomorrow’s Advisor we will present the remaining three actions Herner recommends for intergenerational compensation success, plus an introduction to the HR Daily Advisor’s research report, Recruiting Best Practices: Finding and Attracting Talent in 2015’s Challenging Business Climate.

2 thoughts on “Customizing Compensation for the Aging (?!) Millennials”

  1. I keep seeing conflicting stories on what motivates Millennials–some articles say they care a lot about money and especially opportunities to move up in the organizations, while others say they care more about work/life balance than status. It’s hard to strategically tailor comp packages without knowing which is true.

  2. Glad to see a title that recognizes that we are all aging — not just boomers. Having said that, I think generalizations about “cohorts” in the workforce are dangerous — and not reliable. People need different things at different times in their lives. An unmarried 28 year old may be willing to put a higher percentage of pay risk while a married 28 year old with two children and a mortgage may not. Life circumstances may be more of an indicator than the “age cohort.”

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