Blasé millennials require a different mix of employee benefits

Remember when job hopping was a bad thing? For many younger employees, the difficulty they had finding work during the Great Recession has created a career hangover that lingers even now. Millennial employees grew used to taking “just for now” jobs with little hope of long-term stability.

Their experience should inform your benefits strategy.

Workers born in the early 1980s held an average of 6.2 jobs between the ages of 18 and 26, and 57% of those jobs lasted less than a year, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employers value stability in their workforce and try to tailor benefit plans to retain employees. But today’s millennial workers are less interested in (and less knowledgeable about) their workplace benefits than older colleagues, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey.

EBRI found that millennials—the oldest of them are now 36 years old—are less likely than baby boomers (born 1948-1964) and members of Generation X (1965-1981) to report health insurance as the most important benefit they receive at work.

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Compared to older cohorts, they place more value on time off and the ability to call their own career shots.

Millennials are drawn to employers that offer flexibility. They’ve grown up being able to make more personalized choices, so they’re less interested in static, fixed benefit plans. They strongly favor being able to pick through a menu of benefits options.

According to research by MetLife, here are the benefits millennials value:

1. Training and development. Millennials don’t expect just a chair and a paycheck. More than half (58%) say they expect employers to provide them with real learning opportunities related to their positions. And 42% want feedback from supervisors and mentors every week.

2. Flexible hours that support a positive work/life balance. More than three-quarters believe flexible work hours make them more productive, and 43% say they’d switch jobs if offered greater flexibility elsewhere.

3. Competitive compensation. Money talks with any age group, but millennials don’t believe in pay-for-pulse. The survey shows a majority of millennials prefer performance-based compensation rather than a rigid salary structure based on longevity.

4. Comprehensive health care. Almost all (96%) would choose a job based on the health care package offered, all other factors being equal.

5. Retirement funding. Contrary to common stereotypes, millennials do take a long view. They worked through the recession, so they see the benefit of saving. More than half want to invest in retirement savings. They actively seek organizations that offer an employer match.

Get ready for Generation Z

Those fresh college grads entering the workforce this summer aren’t millennials. They’re the first wave of what demographers have dubbed Generation Z.

Roughly defined as people born after 1995 and before 2014, Gen Z is the next age cohort HR pros will have to get to know. They make up 25% of the U.S. population, more than baby boomers, more than millennials.

To know about Gen Z: They have been called the Homeland Generation because the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks defined their childhoods, even those born long afterward. They have never known a world without the internet—or smartphones. Many worry they will always be burdened by student debt.