Demystifying Millennials: What the Next Generation Really Wants From Their Employer

By Jackie Breslin, Director of Human Resources Center of Expertise, TriNet

Jackie Breslin, Director of Human Resources Center of Expertise, TriNet

According to the Pew Research Center, millennials now make up the largest share of the U.S. workforce. Study after study on the art and science of attracting this powerhouse of employees has come up with the same result- millennials want what most of us want from an employer – competitive pay, development opportunities and flexibility. And they won’t settle for less.

"To really create a workplace conducive to attracting and retaining the next generation of employees, businesses should focus on making changes to their administrative practices and office environment"

At one point, employers could hold on to their most coveted employees by offering them more money than the competition. However, with millennials, money is important but not at the expense of their personal happiness. To really create a workplace conducive to attracting and retaining the next generation of employees, businesses should focus on making changes to their administrative practices and office environment.

Rethink the break room

Many employers think that a millennial-friendly work environment is one that is “fun.” This often translates to having a ping pong table in the break room, pizza-and-beer Fridays or free sodas in the fridge. This stuff all makes for a very good time but millennials are not kids and they don’t need toys and junk food to keep them interested.

That being said, millennials know what they like and an employer who caters to their preferences will have a better chance of winning their loyalty. One thing that’s big with millennials is a healthy lifestyle.

Consider replacing the ping pong table in the breakroom with a vending machine that serves healthy food, including gluten free, organic and paleo options. Add a juicer next to the coffee machine and give almond milk as a substitute for traditional sugary creamer. Make break-time diversions millennial-friendly by offering activities they love – such as adult coloring books and a television with Netflix and Hulu access.

Implement mobile technology

It’s no secret that millennials love their mobile devices. According to a TriNet infographic, mobile-enabled HR – process adaption was 23 percent in Q2 2015 and is expected to grow by 65 percent in 2016. If you want to effectively reach millennials for recruitment, hiring, communication and other HR-related functions, mobile technology is paramount to your success.

Rethink performance management

In 2015, TriNet did a survey on performance management. The results showed that millennials hate annual performance reviews. They are a recurring annoyance at best and ineffective time-waster at worst. At the same time, millennials crave professional development and constructive feedback from their manager.

Knowing this, you can turn this into an advantage for your organization. The solution is to ditch the annual review and focus on ongoing performance management. Performance management can be as simple as having frequent one-on-one meetings with each employee to give real-time feedback, discuss workflow and nip any performance issues in the bud before they become major problems. This performance management approach to developing your employees allows you to keep employees on track toward business goals, while giving millennials the opportunities for growth that they so crave.

Cut the administrative clutter

Millennials grew up in a technology world and they are not used to pushing paper. They want to be free to work efficiently and effectively. According to TriNet data, burdensome administrative tasks, such as expense-reporting, drive many millennials so far as to look for another job. I recommend businesses adopt cloud-based apps, with a mobile component, that allow employees to fully automate their administrative tasks, from anywhere.

Take the burden out of benefits

I see a lot of small business owners give employees an allowance and then send them to the open market to purchase healthcare. This works only until an employee’s dissatisfaction with their coverage becomes a distraction – or, worse, a health issue - that impacts the workplace.

Open market healthcare will never compare to the quality and flexibility of a group health plan. Like all employees, millennials want to feel that their employer cares about them. One of the most important and direct ways to do this is via a strong benefits package. Additionally, employees need help navigating the open market. If you aren’t large enough to have a robust HR department, a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can help you offer the same high-level coverage larger companies enjoy, often at more affordable cost.

Select the right employee perks

Once you have provided the proper healthcare and retirement benefits, employee perks are great tools for attracting millennial employees. However, they have to be the right fringe benefits:

• Flexible office hours- Millennials want to be trusted to do the job they were hired for and not chained to a desk from 9 to 5 every day. In this way, they are changing the face of office culture by making flexible work hours and the ability to work remotely the norm.

• Work/life balance- Streamlining processes through cloud-based technology, as already mentioned, can help millennials get their job done more efficiently, so they can have more time for non-work activities. For millennials, having a life outside of work is a requirement.

• Professional development- Opportunities to grow in their career are important to this generation. A budget for conferences, continued education and even internal mentors willing to help employees develop in their careers matter and are a huge bonus for millennials.

• Wellness-Millennials care about their health and want their employer to care as well. Health club memberships, visiting yoga teachers, chair massages and even an on-site gym are all great benefits for this generation.

Welcoming millennials into the fold

A key component to creating a happy work environment for all generations of employees is to help more seasoned colleagues acclimate to the new age of workplace culture. Integrate millennial-friendly technology usage with good, old-fashioned, face-to-face conversations by supplementing webinars and Facetime with in-person meetings.

Communicating with employees in ways that work for them is also a good idea. While it may be perfectly effective to hold a conversation with a millennial via text message, other employees may prefer an old-fashioned phone call. Be flexible and make it common office practice to allow everyone to work in ways that suit their comfort levels.

That being said, take advantage of the knowledge your technology-savvy millennial employees bring to the table by asking them to teach colleagues how to use different apps, software and equipment. Everyone could stand to learn something from the next generation

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