Engaging millennials with benefits: a guide for employers
For any organisation to be successful, it has to have a benefit strategy and supporting policies in place that cover the needs of a varied and diverse workforce. It’s been said lots of times before that a one-size-fits-all approach really doesn’t cut it anymore. But then again, neither does compartmentalising employees into distinct groups that assumes all 18–25 or 25–30-year-olds all have the same wants and needs.
What should employers do?
Companies have an abundance of data available, from recruitment and HR portals to payroll databases. But it’s not the quantity that counts, it’s what you do with it to understand your employees. Qualitative data can give you a lot of information, but you need to go beyond this to find out about what makes employees (including a younger workforce) tick.
Look at other things that could be influencing their work choice decisions: for example, Glassdoor, where companies are rated and comments given on employee experience. You might find out what your competitors have done right or wrong around benefits and keeping their younger employees.
Then there’s what you are doing already. Look at current benefits data – what benefits are being selected by younger workers? Are there any trends?
You can engage employees in this review process by talking to them, asking their opinions and using feedback to shape your benefits strategy. This should not be a one-off exercise and should be built into your ‘business as usual’ approach. In this 24/7 society, what is on trend one month might not be the next, so you have to keep on top of what the next generation might be attracted by (although not be driven by fads and too many changes – this benefit strategy also has to meet your corporate objectives).
Short pulse surveys can help with this – gauging emotional responses and feelings, and not just hard facts and figures. This is important as the decision to join a company and stay with it is not just made on cold hard facts.
You can also utilise internal platforms such as intranets to solicit feedback and to keep people involved in any updates to your benefits strategy, making employees feel included and an important piece of the decision making process. It might also emphasise that you are looking at them as individuals and you care about their opinion and wellbeing.
Understand who the key influencers are for millennials. There could be an opportunity to engage with young workers by creating ‘benefit ambassadors’ or ‘engagement champions’ who interact with employees not only to listen but also to be the voice of this group. Social events could be held to help drill down on certain areas. Younger workers are sure to attend in their droves if there is free food and drink!
Line managers can also be an effective way of gaining insight into employee interaction; engaging with employees every single day, they play a crucial role with areas such as learning and development to help with career progression.
All of these channels will result in an abundance of data and insights, all of which can help you have and maintain the right benefits strategy.
So the analysis has been done and you have engaged with the workforce, what next? You need to set clear and realistic objectives to outline exactly what your benefits strategy is going to deliver. Benchmark your offering to create a ‘line in the sand’ to work from and measure against in the future – otherwise how will you know if the strategy is successful?
Design your strategy
So when you have done the analysis, feedback and research, what happens? You should be able to design a benefits strategy that has enough flexibility to appeal to all of your workforce – but let’s look at two examples relating to two young people.
Example 1: Jack
Jack is 21, fresh out of university and is dipping his toe into what will hopefully be a long and flourishing career. So what are Jack’s priorities right now?
Does he need lots of life assurance cover, to be lectured about his pension being the most important thing and to start thinking about planning for his retirement now? No. Jack has a large amount of student debt, so this is where his focus was.
To support him, his employer matched his student loan repayments, as well as provided him with the tools to educate himself on wider financial issues (some of which used to scare him, but not now).
Example 2 : Katie
Katie is 25, she has been working for a few years since leaving college and is progressing nicely in her team. Katie still lives at home and dreams that one day she will own her own flat. Living with your parents isn’t cool, so she’s been saving up for a deposit for a while.
To help Katie, her company offered an interest-free season ticket loan of up to £10,000 – nothing unusual there. However, the company recognised that actually, why restrict the loan to just train tickets. Why isn’t it opened out to allow other borrowing, such as a deposit for a rental property, home improvement or knowledge pot to provide funding for further qualifications.
The company sought advice, changed its policy and Katie is now planning to move out into a one bedroom flat. She has an eye on the knowledge pot so when she has paid back the deposit, she’s staying to fund her Spanish lessons.
So, we know a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, but at the same time we appreciate that a lot of organisations do not have an open cheque book to give employees an endless array of amazing benefits. However, with some simple but effective changes and using common sense, a benefits strategy can really appeal to the masses and help with employee engagement without impacting the bottom line.
One final point to make is to stress the importance of the measuring the effectiveness of your strategy, whether this be annually or more frequently, it is absolutely vital to ensure your offering evolves in line with your diverse workforce.
Sam West, workplace benefits consultant at Barnett Waddingham contributed to the writing of this blog.
This article was provided by Barnett Waddingham.
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