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Can You Attract Top Talent With Free Food and a Long Wait Time For Benefits?

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 28/03/2016 Margarita Hakobyan

For years now, the general agreement has been that if you want to retain top talent, you need to offer office perks. The workplace environment has become the main benefits focus for many top companies as they strive to offer flexible workspaces, free food, and on-site benefits like gyms and daycares. And while these are still a great way to retain Gen X and older employees, new research is showing that if a company wants to attract the hard word and dedication of Millennial employees, it may need to take different approach.
How are Millennial workers different than Gen X or earlier?
When companies need employees who've grown up with the Internet, inherently understand computers and social media, and are ready to work harder than ever for opportunities that feel fulfilling, they're often looking at the Millennial segment of the population.
But Millennials aren't looking for the same career benefits that their parents and grandparents were. Their parents and grandparents were looking for a secure job that would offer a pension, seniority related pay, and 20 days of vacation time a year after 10 years. They expected to retire at 65 and have their pension and their social security pay their bills.
Millennials, however, have graduated college into a completely different economy than those who came before them and willing to relocate for better employment opportunities.
Why target Millennial employees?
In the United States, Millennial employees have now surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest portion of the workforce; making up a full quarter of the working population now, they're expected to be half of the workforce by 2020. At the same time, however, Millennials are much more likely than previous generations to be willing to switch employers. When surveyed, slightly less than half said they were either actively looking for another position, or open to offers. This means that retaining talent is just as important for employers as attracting them in the first place.
Understand what Millennials are looking for.
Catered meals can be a great idea in the workplace, especially if you're asking employees to stay late to complete a project or work overtime, but remember to take the modern diet into consideration. Millennial employees expect that when food is offered, there will be a reasonable chance that they'll be able to eat it, even if they're following a vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free diet. If you want to offer food options in the workplace, that's fantastic, but make sure that you have something available for everyone, and that your options are inclusive. Keep in mind that free food will not keep your top employees from leaving for competition or launching their own startup.
With their willingness to switch careers, you can't assume that Millennials will wait months or years to realize the full benefit package that you tell them about when you hire them. In fact, many Millennial workers are willing to take slightly less pay now in order to realizing higher benefits now as well.
When PwC surveyed Millennials about what had led them into their current jobs, their top interest was progression at work, while more than a third were most interested in opportunities for training and development. 20% were particularly interested in international opportunities and flexible working situations, while 15% were significantly concerned about corporate values, business reputation, and a matching set of priorities. Wages and rising cost of living were important of course - remember that Millennials have graduated college with more debt than any previous generation - but the ability to move up the corporate ladder was more important to them than the wages themselves.
What does this mean for current employers?
The businesses that have the best reputations for gaining and retaining Millennial talent are those who are willing to do things differently. They tend to be young companies that aren't constrained by how things have always been done. They're willing to shake things up, start over, and try something new.
If your business is already established, consider talking to the employees you have about what you can do to make the existing workplace more comfortable. Employers tend to assume that changes to benefits will be expensive and extensive; your employees may need something very simple that you can easily implement.
If you're just now getting off the ground, spend some time talking to recent college graduates in your industry. Find out what they're being offered, what they like, and what they need. When you put together your own company's benefit package, try to make it reflect the needs of the generation that will be working in the industry for many years to come.

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