Benefits

Today’s Generation is Changing Employee Benefit Packages of the Future

I try not to use the “Millennial” label. It feels wrong to generalize about groups that include millions of people and I can’t help but detect some age discrimination, even if subtle or unintentional, in pronouncements about behavioral differences in various age groups. Evolution took hundreds of thousands of years; I don’t think we’ve drastically changed in the past two decades.

Technology

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However, there are some realities of the early 21st century that have a substantial effect in how people entering the workforce think about things like financial stability, health and wellness, and professional development—things haven’t changed much in the last century, but now have become much more pronounced in the minds of young professionals. The shift in priorities of today’s workforce requires employers to change their approach to benefit offerings, and while some benefits are “evergreen”—such as good health care coverage—there are other creative ways to attract and connect with people facing today’s economic challenges.

To start, college tuition costs have gotten out of control. This impacts the way young professionals consider prospective employers. While a professional just out of college might seek out the maximum salary they can earn to compensate for that investment, smart employers are realizing that matching contributions to their school loans could be the selling point to someone comparing offers from multiple companies.

Not only is that employer offering them a real benefit that helps solve a current problem, they are taking the time to understand that person and relating to them in a way that the other companies most likely are not. The direct benefit might not even have the same dollar value as another company’s higher salary or retirement plan—but it’s never just about the numbers; it’s about winning someone over to your company because in some way it feels more like home.

Another thing that has shifted a lot over the last couple of generations are the loyalties between employees and employers, which have become weaker. Employers are shedding workers more frequently and as a result workers are becoming more comfortable with moving to a competitor for growth opportunities.

The companies that are fostering positive, long-term relationships with their people are doing it by creating career development programs that promise upward mobility for their employees, and provide the management expertise and HR programs to deliver on that promise. Is this because the young members of today’s workforce are hungrier to advance and more opportunistic than previous generations? I don’t think so. But it’s logical for them to embrace these programs as they make choices about their careers.

Another major change is that having a one-income family is becoming a thing of the past except among the very fortunate. As a result, parents of young children are seeking more flexibility from their employers, so they can effectively balance their multiple weekly commitments. Studies show that 35% of Millennials would take a pay cut in order to work remotely.

Employers who offer flexible scheduling, remote work opportunities and generous parental leave policies will not only attract more “Millennials,” but also create a more diverse workforce as a result, since these policies tend to weigh more heavily  in women’s’ career decisions than in men’s’.

Here’s my advice to HR leaders that want to make their companies competitive and attractive to the best talent and want to be cutting-edge and appealing to young professionals:  Carefully consider the day-to-day concerns your employees have and offer benefits that speak directly to those concerns. Your entire team will appreciate it, and you’ll continue to attract the best talent today’s workforce has to offer.

Charlie Gray led the people operations for technology and media companies for more than 15 years before founding Gray Scalable in 2012, where he has consulted for dozens of industry-leading companies including BuzzFeed, SoundCloud, Greenhouse and Vimeo. Earlier in his career, he was instrumental in managing the growth of Google’s North American advertising sales business and developing the company’s People Operations framework. Charlie also served as executive vice president of human resources and operations at Patch/AOL, as well as senior vice president of human resources at green-tech pioneer RecycleBank.