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Benefits, Management Styles Evolve from Boomers to Millennials

4 min read

Employee retention is at a premium not seen in 20 years, human resource management experts said. The exodus of aging Baby Boomers has created a labor vacuum those in generations X and Y aren’t nearly numerous enough to fill and has created plentiful opportunities for Millennials.

Millennials, most definitions place their birth year as 1982 or later, became the largest part of the American workforce in 2015. And they are often looking for more than traditional sources of compensation and motivation for doing a job.

Developing a workforce culture that appeals to all is no easy task.

“The struggle is real,” said Tammie Edrington, president of the Northwest Arkansas Human Resources Association and vice president of human resources for Fayetteville-based Signature Bank of Arkansas. “I don’t know that we’ve actually come up with any great understanding of how to do that.”

Dollars and cents alone is no longer the strongest motivating force for employees. A generational mindset that tended to look down on frequently changing companies is also rapidly changing.

Today’s workplace isn’t nearly that cut and dried.

As the Millennial generation has come into the picture, the entire retention paradigm has been turned on its ear and with it, the way in which companies attract and retain talent.

Millennials tend to be more goal-oriented and socially aware than their co-workers of other generations, said Dr. Alan Ellstrand, Associate Dean of Academic Programs and Research and professor at the University of Arkansas’ Walton School of Business. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, Ellstrand said, “tended to be more materialistic.”

Financial incentive alone does not satisfy today’s youngest professionals.

“It’s easier to reward Baby Boomers with traditional perks like bonuses and stock option plans and things like that that just go to the bottom line. Millennials really like the experiential things, whether it’s at the office or paid time off or time off to work at a charity that they really feel strongly about.”

Ellstrand said companies should look to provide an array of benefits that matches as much as possible the diversity of employee needs. Companies in the Best Places to Work provide a look at some of the creative — and fun — offerings.

Health-focused offerings like space for yoga/exercise and healthy snack options, relaxed dress codes, company commitment to community service and pet-friendly workplaces are among the perks surveyed companies listed most.

“[W]e’re certainly seeing a proliferation of a whole new set of benefit categories that didn’t exist 25 years ago,” he added.

Nearly half of the 2,100 employees at St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro are Millennials. Employee management manager Tiffany Horton, herself a member of the Millennial generation, said the hospital always seeks to evolve benefits with the times.

The current workforce’s penchant for personal development and growth, for example, has resulted in educational offerings and updated roles for some employees at work. St. Bernards Way is a program that identifies future leaders and teaches them about the company’s foundation and leadership responsibilities.

“Should they promote to a leadership role they’ll already have a head start on what is expected,” Horton said. “We’ve also started offering a new dual specialty role (for nurses). … So instead of being placed in just one area, they float between two different areas and are trained in those areas on nursing or patient care. We started that this past year and our Millennial employees are really liking that.”

Of course benefits packages can’t be crafted with just one group in mind, but as some HR professionals have found, what’s appealing to one group is often appealing to another once implemented.

Flexible scheduling, for example, has broad appeal.

Finding common ground between all the generations as they work side-by-side is a must to craft a successful workplace culture. As Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers in the workplace in 2013 and Gen Xers in 2015, it has created more situations where the youngsters are in charge.

Salary and financial benefits are just part of the rewards Millennials are seeking in today’s workplace. Companies offering a variety of incentives are often the most attractive for younger workers who are looking for:

Pet-friendly offices
Health-focused initiatives
Flexible scheduling/telecommuting
Parental leave
Clear pathways to promotion

“That can create some real tension if people are not willing to get out of that kind of age-ist headspace,” said Dr. Hilary Schloemer, assistant professor of management at Arkansas State University College of Business. “You do tend to see generational trends in leadership style.”

Schloemer, who’s 27, said blending the generations comes down to the basics of respect and understanding that cuts both ways. Getting the pieces to mesh isn’t easy, however, and Millennials often fare no better when the shoe is on the other foot, despite a general reputation for inclusiveness.

Nevertheless, Schloemer said the combination of elders’ experience and Millennial creativity is highly desirable. And once workplaces take the time to create such an environment, they’re often surprised at how much the different groups have in common.

“I do think there’s some reality to generational differences, but a lot of that’s just going to be technology and economic realities,” “she said. “If you pull Baby Boomers back 30 years, they were basically doing the same stuff, but with different vocabulary.”

“If they’re willing to look at each other as people, it doesn’t have to fundamentally be a problem.”

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