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The millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1996, is the present and the future of your business. There are 56 million millennials in the US workforce in 2020, and they comprise 35% of the workforce. Since Q1 of 2015, they have represented the largest generational share of the workforce, ahead of Generation X. By 2025, that percentage projects to expand to 75%.
In the coming years, millennials will comprise a growing percentage of your leadership team, and your efforts to attract and retain their services will go a long way toward determining your success and longevity.
As an employer, it is vital to understand generational value differences as they relate to employment and careers. There has been quite a values shift between Generation X (and boomers) to millennials. Among the key differences is that millennials value work-life balance, including having successful marriages, being good parents, and helping others over work-related priorities. They also change jobs up to 20 times in their careers, significantly more than any other generation; 21% have switched jobs in the last 12 months! And they conduct their job hunts and many other activities online, to a greater degree than previous generations.
With these key differences in mind, here are the five most important benefits your business must offer or risk losing employees and candidates to rival companies.
This benefit is appreciated by 73% of millennials, but only 59% of Gen Xers and 44% of baby boomers. They want medical care and plan options that include coverage for services, including vision (especially LASIK), dental, and mental health. They also value smartphone apps and websites that give them control of their total wellness, helping them with fitness and nutrition as part of a preventative care program. Gym membership and stress management resources are also highly prized health and wellness benefits.
Educated, skilled, and talented millennials often choose employers that offer these specific benefits designed to provide a clear, transparent path to success in an organization. Offering the ability to discuss and plan a clear career path in an organization and backing it up with mentoring and training resources is a boon to your organization and solves one of the greatest challenges most small-to-midsize businesses face: succession planning. This generation differs from previous generations in its discomfort with being in the dark about how they are performing and what they need to do to improve, and that’s also a benefit to their employers.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 96% of U.S. professionals say they need flexibility, but only 47% have it. Offering more vacation and PTO days, summer hours, not expecting employees to handle work while off the clock, and allowing remote work when possible are all desirable components of a work-life balance for this generation. Unlimited PTO plans often lure the most sought-after millennial executive talent.
What you’ll give up in hours, you’ll gain in the quality of talent you’ll be able to attract and the length of time you’ll retain their services. You’ll also have happier employees, and that should contribute to their productivity and efficiency.
A component of flexibility that deserves special attention, millennials value certain types of flexibility at work, including the ability to "day shift" their working hours when necessary, step away from work to fulfill other obligations as needed, and even work part-time, especially for working mothers. Ergonomic support and flexible desks that enable them to stand up or sit down are also highly attractive to this generation.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that up to 61% of an average company’s workforce has fair to poor financial wellness. This generation wants tools and resources to help navigate an increasingly complex set of financial challenges, including one-on-one retirement planning, powerful apps, home ownership planning tools, educational workshops, and student loan repayment assistance (or tools to help them budget debt payments). Previous generations expected to find these resources on their own, but financial wellness benefits have recently become expectations employees have of their employers.
Getting ahead of the most important generation's new demands is one of the highest priorities for many astute SMBs. Chances are, many of the companies in your market are on the ball, hoping to attract your employees with the benefits millennials have demonstrated they want. When responding to this challenge, the Talledega Nights maxim holds: If you’re not first, you’re last.
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About the Author