What millennials want in the workplace

May 14, 2018

Throughout the past several years, the term “job-hopping generation” has been thrown around by journalists and online bloggers to refer to millennials. For many, this phrase reflects the perceived tendency of young adults to seek out new job opportunities more frequently than previous generations, resulting in higher turnover rates for organizations. Meanwhile, HR departments across industries have been challenged to offer the unique perks and benefits that will retain (and attract) this tech-savvy, tenacious demographic. However, there’s been much debate about which benefits are the most attractive to millennial employees.

Recently Mercer conducted a survey of companies across North America to obtain reliable, data-backed insight into what millennials want in the workplace by industry, with special emphasis placed on perks and benefits. To help categorize this information, the benefit options were broken down into the following five perk families:

  • Comfort perks
  • Social perks
  • Personal perks
  • Amenity perks
  • Cultural perks

Based on the results from this survey, the perk families seen as most valuable to millennial employees among all US and Canadian participating organizations were cultural, personal, and social (in that order). However, this barely scratched the surface of the many findings contained within the larger data set. The survey data provides HR professionals with a high-level, yet highly detailed, overview of the perks that are most attractive to today’s millennials across all five perk families by industry. Here are a few of the highlights.

Cultural Perks for Millennial Employees

For both US and Canadian organizations, the top cultural perks that organizations are currently offering to attract millennials to the workplace across all industries are:

  • Challenging and rewarding work
  • Respectful sharing of ideas and opinions
  • Transparency and open dialogue regarding company initiatives

Despite the exact match between top-ranked cultural perks in the US and Canada, there are still some notable differences regarding which industries are offering which perks in the two different countries. For example, the survey found disparities between US and Canadian industries and their distribution of “leadership mentoring” perks:

  • In the US, the Banking/Financial Services and Transportation Equipment industries have the highest rates of leadership mentoring at 75% and 67% respectively, while Energy, Retail & Wholesale, and Life Sciences have the lowest at 42% each.
  • In Canada, the Consumer Goods and High Tech industries have the highest rates of leadership mentoring at 90% and 76% respectively, while Banking/Financial Services, Mining & Metals, and Other Non-Manufacturing industries are all below 46%.

So, while the top-valued cultural perks for millennials may sometimes be similar (or even identical) across organizations and countries, there are still many subtle changes you must pay attention to, especially in regard to your industry.

Personal Perks for Millennial Employees

The top personal perks that are currently being offered to attract and retain millennials across all industries varied between the US and Canada but are very similar in nature.

Top US Personal Perks

  • Tolerance of facial hair
  • Parental leave program
  • Relaxed dress code

Top Canada Personal Perks

  • Parental leave program
  • Tolerance of facial hair
  • Tolerance of fashion-hair colors, tattoos, and piercings

Within both the US and Canada, there are several industry-related disparities regarding the prevalence of personal perks, however. The biggest industry-related differences for personal perks center around telecommuting — the ability to liberally work from home via the internet, email, and phone. Telecommuting is most commonly offered as a US personal perk within the Insurance, Life Sciences, Logistics, and High Tech industries (all at over 66%). However, telecommuting is rarely offered as a US personal perk within the Energy, Other Manufacturing, or Transportation Equipment industries at less than a 29% prevalence rate. In Canada, the Insurance and Life Sciences industries have the highest prevalence of telecommuting at 90% and 63% respectively, while Mining & Metals, Retail & Wholesale, and Energy have the lowest prevalence rates at less than 25% each.

Social Perks for Millennial Employees

Throughout the US and Canada, the top two social perks offered by organizations are:

  • Organized community services
  • Philanthropic giving programs

While both of these perks are prominent across all industries in the US, there is a much larger disparity between their industry prevalence in Canada. For example:

  • In Canada, organized community service efforts are most prevalent within the Logistics and Banking/Financial Services industries at over 77% each. Meanwhile, they’re least prevalent in the Other Manufacturing and Mining & Metals industries, at only 25% each.
  • For Canadian philanthropic giving programs, the Banking/Financial Services, Insurance, and Consumer Goods industries have the highest percentages, all at over 70%. Conversely, the Life Sciences and Retail & Wholesale industries have the lowest rates at less than 25% each.

Regarding what social perks US and Canadian organizations believe will best retain their millennial employees, the top answer was identical — paid leave for volunteering. Despite this unanimity, the prevalence of this social perk still varies throughout industries depending on the country.

Want to Take Your Millennial Benefits Strategy a Step Further?

While the highlights contained in this article provide a solid starting point for anyone wanting to optimize their millennial recruitment and retention strategies, there is even more data to uncover in the US Millennial Pay-for-Perks Survey or the Canada Millennial Pay-for-Perks Survey. This robust annual survey contains the most comprehensive insights into millennial benefits, providing you with everything you need to attract and retain this increasingly coveted generation to your North American workforce.