Your organization’s youngest workers learned an important lesson about the workplace from their parents: You can’t count on keeping the same job for your whole career.
That realization dawned decades ago, when companies started laying off employees and replacing them with contractors and consultants who didn’t require benefits—or a long-term commitment. Now that commitment gap has widened to the point that today’s young employees don’t want to make a long-term commitment to their employers. They have no faith that companies will return the favor of loyalty.
So young employees come, and they go.
If you want your talented Gen Y employees to stick around, you’re going to have to change the way you look at . Here are three things they want that might surprise you:
1. “Portable” benefits
An employee who expects to change jobs frequently wants benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings accounts to transfer from organization to organization. 401(k)s are great examples of this: Employees don’t have to start from scratch every time they change jobs because they can take their accounts with them.
That’s not true, however, if they have to wait for five or six years to become vested in the company retirement plan. In that case, a Gen Y employee might not have anything to take—which means the benefit isn’t a recruiting or retention perk for someone in that age group.
Health insurance is an example of the worst case. Entrepreneurial young employees are reluctant to take on work as consultants because they can’t afford to buy health care on their own.
Advice: Allow employees to participate in your organization’s retirement savings plan as soon as you hire them. Push your health insurance provider to devise an affordable plan that short-term employees can carry with them from job to job. That’s nearly unheard of now.
2. Big-picture experience
So your benefits apply to long-term employees and you can’t convince bright, young candidates to come on board? Lure them with the promise of on-the-job training.
Unlike most baby boomers, many young employees expect to run their own businesses someday. Teach them how. Instead of assigning employees to customer service jobs that make up just one piece of the puzzle, expose them to various parts of the business. Shift them into rotating positions, assigning them mentors and sending them to training.
Example: At my company, The Omnia Group, our customer service people collectively work on all our accounts. Lately, we have assigned each account to a specific employee to manage as an individual business. That employee monitors the client’s financial statement and performance and figures out how to improve it. We base rewards—in the form of bonuses—on improved performance.
Advice: Use the promise of skill-building as a recruiting tool when you interview Gen Y applicants. It’s underrated.
3. Work/life perks
Young workers want to leave early, work from home, take long weekends and attend classes. They figure they should be allowed to, as long as they finish their work first.
Go with it. Allow telework and flextime, but make them earn it. And make them keep earning it if they want to keep the perk.
Example: Agree to allow a sales rep to telework once her revenue hits a certain level. She can continue to telework as long as it stays at that level. If it drops, she’s back in the office until she picks it up again.
Julie Studer is senior vice president of The Omnia Group, a Tampa-based behavioral assessment firm. Contact her at (800) 525-7117.
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