The 5 most coveted workplace benefits to attract millennials

Two coworkers collaborating in plant filled office

5 mins, 29 secs read time

When they’re not busy ruining the diamond industry or killing off Applebee's, millennials spend their days just like the rest of us: at work. Today’s young workers are often painted as unique and exotic creatures, with different characteristics and preferences from other age groups in the office. But actually share much more with your typical employee than you might think.

This is a generation that bucks stereotypes at every turn. Often ungenerously labeled as lazy or entitled, millennials actually put in long hours at the office—over 40 hours a week is the norm. And contrary to popular belief, millennials don’t necessarily need to be wooed with “fun” perks like ping pong tables and in-office beer kegs. When it comes to their preferred benefits, millennials are practical-minded.

Of course there are a variety of segments of millennials. But overall, they tend to value long-standing traditional benefits: stability, career advancement opportunities, health care, and a livable wage.

Debt Repayment

As one of the most debt-saddled generations since experts began tracking such things, millennials shoulder a huge financial. Contrary to the luxe life they might portray on Instagram stories, most millennials face heavy debts. How much debt? Recent reports claim 67% of millenials carry over $10,000 in debt, while over a third are encumbered with three times that much debt.

This gives employers the chance to offer a highly desirable benefit: student loan repayment programs.

Offering employees enrollment in a debt repayment plan acknowledges the sometimes debt-laden reality of modern-day employment. It’s something you can offer to differentiate yourself from your competitors and attract top-tier talent. It tells employees that you are willing to make a long-term investment in their personal happiness and financial stability.

Championing this benefit, Fidelity Investments recently announced that it will be partnering with employers, helping them create loan repayment programs for young workers struggling to pay off debts. Companies like Gradifi, and SoFi also offer similar programs—and they seem to be quite a useful benefit for millennial recruitment. In one American Student Assistance survey, participants said they’d be 76% more likely to go with a company that offered such a program. Talk about improving your recruitment options!

Opportunities for Advancement

The so-called “entitled generation” does expect certain things from their employees—namely, they want a company that will allow them to grow their career and advance their skills. In a Gallup report titled “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” 87% of millennials surveyed said that job development was important to them. Specifically, 59% of younger participants said that opportunities for career growth was a key factor they looked for when apply for jobs, compared to 44% for Gen Xers and 41% for baby boomers.

In some ways, it’s natural that younger workers would be looking at jobs as a career stepping stone. Standing as they are at the very beginning of their work lives, millennials are understandably looking for positions that will prepare them for the future. Millennials prize career development so highly,they rank it above salary increases as a reason for seeking a new job—something for cash-strapped startups and small businesses to bear in mind as they look to attract new talent.

Affordable Health Care

Just like most employees, health benefits matter to millennials. As a group, one in five millennials can’t afford routine health expenses, like the cost of premiums of doctors visits. That means any job offering to pay at least part of health insurance costs will make themselves very attractive to this group.

The magic number for health premiums seems to be under $200 a month, as many respondents admit that they cannot afford payments over that amount. Some employers even go the extra mile and offer staff an on-site health clinic, nutrition services, company-wide flu shots or gym access as well. The on-site clinic trend seems particularly popular among large insurance providers, who understandably want to demonstrate their investment in their employees’ longevity. However, about 15% of large of employers say they’ve been seriously considering investing in an employee clinic, so it certainly seems poised to take off.

Work Life Balance

Health means something different today than it did 20 years ago, however. Businesses now are beginning to recognize that employee wellness—and subsequent productivity—is tied to their stress levels and how many hours they put in. Many millennials consider a healthy work-life balance as one of their top qualifications for a job.

How can you promote positive work-life balance? All the usual ways: work from home days, flexible leave policies, and telecommuting options all give employees the sense that they don’t have to choose between having a life and a job. As you enact these policies, be sure to do it in spirit as well as in word. Many workplaces have flexible attendance policies—but in practice, employees are afraid to use them due to a company’s rigid culture. If you offer telecommuting or flexible work hours, you can’t turn around and punish employees for making use of these benefits. Measure employee productivity, rather than attendance, and you’ll definitely cement your business as a millennial-friendly environment.

Workplace Collaboration

Cutthroat competition is out, in a big way. Today’s young workers aren’t trying to elbow their way up the ladder. Instead, they’re interested in collaborative workplaces – think group chats, shared Google docs, or even interactive org charts – where employees are encouraged to work as a team. In this workplace study, a resounding 88% of millennials surveyed said they’d rather work in an environment that was collaborative versus a competitive one.

Mentoring programs for young employees allows them to learn new skills and participate in more advanced work—all while working closely with more experienced team members. Such programs help employees build stronger ties, which promotes teamwork implicitly. Mentorships also help teams grow, acknowledging the strengths in a wide range of backgrounds. However, it’s important to get these programs right—proper employee matching and mentor training, along with frequent informal check-ins, keep programs like these from going up in flames.

Which leads us to perhaps the most vital point: like all potential employees, millennials want to be recognized as a diverse group with a wide set of interests, skills and backgrounds.

Perhaps the most important benefit you can demonstrate to millenial recruits is your willingness to get to know them as individuals, each with their own unique needs and skillsets. Show them that you care about your employees, and you’ll have people banging down your doors to be hired—regardless of their age group.