When it comes to 2016 attraction and retention trends, millennials matter. But many younger workers don’t yet have the skills or inclination to take on managerial roles vacated by boomers who are exiting the workforce in increasing numbers.
“I think the thing companies are grappling with is what exactly the difference is between millennials and anybody else in terms of what it takes to get them in the door in the first place and then keep them in the building,” says Laura Sejen, managing director and leader of Towers Watson’s global rewards practice.
Also see: “Are performance reviews dead?”
A recent survey conducted by the professional staffing company Addison Group reveals that millennials in particular are inclined to be open to new opportunities with 44% reporting they keep their résumés current at all times.
However, Craig Patterson, a branch manager with Addison’s finance and accounting practice in Austin, Texas, says the survey also revealed an unsettling trend in workplace leadership. “Only 33% of workers believe that being a manager has the potential to advance their career. Yet about one-third of millennials surveyed recognize the value of a good manager and 30% recognize that having a good manager is important for professional growth.”
In addition, Addison Group’s survey spotlights what really matters to employees when it comes to benefits and perks. The survey revealed that regardless of generation, healthcare benefits led the pack as the most important benefit at 70%, followed, unsurprisingly, by high salary (59%). Vacation packages also ranked highly (46%) followed by equity packages (19%). Surprisingly, childcare support ranked lowest at only 11% overall.
That said, when it comes to which perks would sway respondents’ decision to work at a company over another that would pay a higher salary, for millennials, it’s all about the free meals, beverages and snacks (40%) and tuition reimbursement (36%).
Interestingly, millennials also ranked having a dog-friendly office (14%) higher than having a nap room, concierge services and a play room complete with ping pong, billiards and video games. Unsurprisingly, millennials value the social aspect of work, with nearly twice as many (15%) marking work-sponsored happy hours as important compared to baby boomers (8%).
Sejen says that some employers may believe they need to specifically cater to millennials to attract and retain the employees they need in 2016, but data from Towers Watson’s 2014 Global Workforce Study shows the top drivers of attraction and retention in all age cohorts are remarkably similar. “For example, base salary and job security are No. 1 and 2 for attraction across the board. No. 3 for all employees under age 50 is career advancement opportunities with challenging work taking the third spot for older workers,” she says.
But both Sejen and Patterson agree that where generational differences actually manifest themselves is in the desire for an accommodating workplace culture and greater workplace flexibility.
“For example, in our global workforce study, employees under 30 listed the length of their commute as the No. 3 retention driver, while the overall favorite in this spot was trust/confidence in senior leadership,” Sejen notes.
With 2016 only a few weeks away, what’s keeping hiring and recruiting managers awake at night?
“Our clients are struggling with ways to consistently provide the benefits packages, work/life balance and opportunities for candidates to come in and feel valued,” Patterson says. Sejen believes that it’s all about how companies can distinguish the organization and its value proposition from any other employer they’re competing with in the market for the same caliber or type of employee.
Sejen’s top three predictions for attraction and retention trends in 2016 are:
1. Organizations need to be mindful that finding, keeping and motivating the employees they are after has continuously gotten harder and will continue to do so because unemployment rates are dropping and there is new job creation. “So the No. 1 thing to know is that talent markets are hotter,” she says.
2. Resources are finite so employers can’t be all things to all people. There is a very strong argument for thinking about workforce segmentation and identifying critical-skills job families or high-potential families and treating them differently, says Sejen. Give those employees more opportunities to work on interesting projects and make sure they get better base pay and bonuses.
3. Employers need to view employees as consumers. If companies could start looking at their total rewards packages through the eyes of their workforce and think about how those employees experience total rewards every day, they would probably find there is some room for enhancements and refinements. “I don’t mean just throwing money at something,” says Sejen. “I mean things they can do to improve effectiveness and get better outcomes from their workforce.”
Sheryl Smolkin is a lawyer and freelance writer based in Toronto.
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