What Younger Workers WantWritten By Marilyn Moats Kennedy
Article Date: 12-01-2004
Copyright (C) 2004 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
What does this new generation of workers consider the most desirable perks?
The vice president of HR in the Fortune 50 company we met with last week is probably still shaking his head after attending a focus group of younger (Gen X, a.k.a. Busters) employees. The subject was benefit packages. He was unsettled by what he heard and he’s not alone. As labor shortages deepen and mobility increases, benefits and compensation departments have been major targets of discontent.
Employees who’ve been with the company barely long enough to have read the employee handbook chapter on benefits are vehemently expressing their desire for change. This is what they’re asking for.
Time Is The New Money
Employees who wouldn’t change jobs for more money will change jobs for more time off. An accountant will say time and money are the same thing, but workers don’t see the equivalency. When a recruiter asks, “What would it take to get you to join us?,” the answer routinely is, “At least four weeks paid vacation,” or, from the most desirable candidate, “How about six weeks vacation?” Recruiters, invariably older than the recruits, say they hear this frequently.
What do the younger workers do with extra time off? They hang – formerly called hanging out.
“There is no greater luxury than the freedom to do nothing,” said one Gen Xer, a.k.a. Buster, a.k.a. Xer. “We’re not like our bosses who can’t entertain themselves for a minute. They’re either working or self-improving.”
They also want unpaid leave. “Why must someone have a family to get family leave? I’d like the option of an unpaid leave just because I want it!” is heard across industries.
Many older workers are saying the same thing, but for different reasons. If they don’t get a leave during boom times, what are the chances they’ll be allowed one in a recession?
The request to job share also reflects the Busters’ desire for more time off. Ask recruiters what caused a star to pick one job over another and you’ll hear about the 90s version of job sharing. Younger employees who have “other priorities” want to work only 30 hours a week. If the job is full-time, they’d like to share. Techie workers will get this perk before anyone else, but eventually, if turnover continues to rise, so will others.
Telecommuting and flexible schedules, especially oddball schedules (5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.) are prized above money. Mid-career managers are equally taken with working from home one or two days a week. Top management is often astounded by the power of flexible scheduling in reducing turnover – but disheartened as well. Obviously, the lure of the job’s content can’t compete with scheduling in attracting and holding superior employees.
Independent Health Insurance
Xers are emphatic in their belief that the insurance market should provide them with a high-deductible, portable health insurance policy that they could pay for as they do automobile insurance. They’d like a $2,500 deduction – no primary care – with freedom to choose specialists over that amount.
“If I had a policy like that,” a 26-year-old computer engineer said, “I could work for anyone I liked – or no one for a while. I’m a slave to company-paid insurance. I’d much rather pay to be in an unrelated group.”
I haven’t interviewed a single manager or HR person who isn’t aware of the 360-degree mobility that unrelated-group insurance would give desirable employees.
When I asked Xers what kind of retirement plans they favored they said, “Bonuses we can invest ourselves!” or “Matching funds into IRAs.” HR people report that new recruits rarely ask about retirement plans unless they are portable. New hires all but say they don’t intend to be there long enough to retire.
“Remember the mid-80s when candidates were always cautioned by career counselors not to mention retirement plans lest they seem too mercenary?” said a middle manager. “Bring back those days! Candidates don’t ask about retirement plans these days because they have no intention whatever of being here two years –much less until they retire.”
Technical training was the benefit for the 90s – and will be into the unforeseeable future. Xers tell me they value technical training above most other perks. This surprises their managers who imagined – as was true in their own cases – that succeeding on the job might be the ultimate high.
Xers view their lives as an ongoing odyssey of amassing books of education trading stamps – specific skills that have been mastered. Every stamp means another transferrable skill or the enhancement of an existing one. These can be cashed in for more job security and a greater cutting edge.
Older workers may want job-related training, too, but they expect to get it at the company’s convenience. Xers would like it now and are willing to give to get it. What will Xers do for more training?
One woman said, “I’d gladly sign a contract with my company to stay a full year if they’d give me SAP developmental training immediately instead of six months from now!”
Excerpted from December 2004 Construction Equipment Distribution.
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