Benefits Could be the Key to Attracting Younger Employees

Julie Shenkman
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Millennials are taking over the American workforce, as of 2017. That means companies must provide benefits that attract younger employees if they want top talent coming out of college. Consulting firm Ernst & Young alongside MetLife shows how companies land the next generation of graduates with benefits aside from compensation.

Two-thirds of employees at Ernst & Young are millennials. Younger employees in leadership roles pushed the well-known firm to provide benefits relevant to millennials, such as parental leave for men and adoptions. In 2017, Ernst & Young plans to hire 9,000 entry-level employees, with most of them coming from a younger workforce.

MetLife's annual benefits study notes that as workforce demographics change to include younger employees, companies must offer the right benefits in order to attract top candidates, particularly in a highly competitive job market with low unemployment. The insurance company's research shows that 75 percent of employees want customized benefits when it comes to deciding whether to take a new job. Nearly 72 percent of employees say customized benefits make them loyal to the company for which they already work.

Customized benefits go along with millennials' behavior in a retail sense. These people are used to choosing what items they want, whenever they want, in a 24/7 internet shopping world. In a similar vein, younger employees want to choose from voluntary benefits packages at work.

What Benefits Human Resources Should Offer

Human resources must look beyond traditional 401(k) and flexible schedules to attract talent. MetLife's survey said that student loan debt relief programs are the number one benefit that college graduates want out of a firm. Programs that help these employees alleviate their debt burden goes a long way since so many more students go into debt to earn a four-year degree. Ernst & Young started its loan refinancing program for employees in 2014. An estimated 4 percent of companies across the United States have this kind of benefit, even though the survey said debt relief is a major factor for new workers.

Other benefits wanted by younger employees, according to MetLife, include insurance choices for automobile, renters and pets. All three of these aspects of contemporary life cost money, and millennials want to lower their upfront expenses as they start out on their professional lives.

Training and education are also valuable benefits. Even though a college degree is important, company-specific training is extremely valuable to gaining a foothold on promotions and leadership positions. Companies that cover the costs of taking classes have a higher chance of capturing the attention of millennials because the extra training leads to a higher position and hourly wages along with having a majority of college expenses covered.

The key to any benefits package for younger employees is flexibility. Companies must take a trickle-down approach with leadership taking the initiative to come up with flexible benefits aside from scheduling and telecommuting. Flexibility, in this case, means getting to pick and choose what benefits workers want from an a la carte list.

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