Eat, Play, Learn: Perks Young Workers Crave

May 30, 2019

According to a January New York Times article, millennials are turning crushing it at the office into performance art.  Writer Erin Griffith says that the hustle culture is showing up in Instagram feeds and tech blogs. “Don’t stop when you’re tired,” reads a motto at tech startup We Work; “Stop when you are done.” Elon Musk once famously said: “No one ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

BuzzFeed cultural critic Anne Helen Petersen says millennials are just trying to meet their own high expectations. “An entire generation was raised to expect that good grades and extracurricular overachievement would reward them with fulfilling jobs that feed their passions. Instead, they wound up with precarious, meaningless work and a mountain of student loan debt.”

Burnout and backlash are inevitable, so companies who get a head start on providing a less stressful environment with attractive perks for young workers will be the first to benefit when the productivity warriors start looking for a healthier place to land. Here are some of the most valued benefits and perks for millennials and Gen Y.

In fact, Harvard Business Review reports that 60 percent of employees indicate benefits and perks are a major factor when accepting a job offer, and 80 percent of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise.

You can start by allowing workers to choose their own perks. Some companies are creating points-based performance systems that allow workers to cash in productivity points for things like free groceries or transit, vacation packages, gym memberships, healthy meals delivered to the office, or concert tickets.  You might also include a plan for earning extra days off or access to online courses or professional development events.

The key to pleasing everybody is choice; this is a generation who grew up with the Internet and 200 cable channels; they expect all their experiences to be customized. If providing personal technology is part of your onboarding, consider giving workers a budget so they can choose their own devices instead of assuming one size fits all.  If you have an open office design, add noise-canceling headphones to the menu of available technology – you’ll be rewarded by greater focus and productivity.

Flexibility is the most important feature of any workplace that is aiming to attract and retain young workers. In a recent survey, flexible working hours and time off ranked higher than cash bonuses.  But don’t underestimate cash as an incentive, especially for recent graduates with lots of student loan debt (and that’s almost all of them).

Some large employers are partnering with financial firms to offer discounted refinancing agreements, making monthly payments less onerous. Some are offering savings plans to help pay off student debt as an alternative to 401(k) plans. But according to a 2018 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, only four percent of employers are offering this perk, a number virtually unchanged since the idea was conceived in 2015.

That’s in part due to the fact that student debt matching payments have no tax benefit for the employer, unlike retirement investments. If Congress and the IRS can come together on a plan to make student debt funds more attractive to employers, they’ll be more inclined to invest.

The millennial generation has earned a reputation as a cohort of canny consumers. That means your benefits package will be as crucial as your starting salary offer. Companies that get creative with their perks will have an advantage in the race for talent.


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