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HR Needs to Support the Needs of Millennials

The largest sect of the American workforce are millennials. More than 53 million people born between 1981 and 1997 were employed in the first quarter of 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. That makes up more than 34 percent of the nation’s jobs.

From a human resources perspective, the rise in millennials in the workplace means a change in approach. Like the generations that preceded them, millennials have certain expectations and needs they require from employers. It is up to HR to develop strategies to support this generation in regard to benefits and payroll.

Adapt PTO policies
One area in which millennials differ greatly from their elders in Generation X is they are not stuck in their ways. In a 2014 Elance-oDesk survey of employees and hiring managers, 72 percent said millennials were more open to change in the workplace than Gen X’ers. HR employees should take advantage of this adaptability by modifying some of their workplace policies.

By being creative with the type of benefits a company provides, HR can attract and retain workers who are looking for something different besides the traditional health care, retirement and vacation benefits many businesses offer. Plenty of companies have already done this by giving their workers greater ranges of options for the type of medical benefits they can pick from, but it shouldn’t stop there.

An HR department can start by changing the amount of paid time off workers receive. The fear with doing this may be that workers could take advantage of your company’s generosity and leave the office for long stretches of time, but data shows that is unlikely. In 2014, American workers used only 77 percent of their allotted PTO, a study by the U.S. Travel Commission found. That was the lowest use of vacation days in nearly four decades, and meant on average, employees worked one week per year for free.

By adapting and expanding its benefits policy, a company shows it trusts millennials to allocate their time well and utilize PTO when they can afford to do so. The work in the office will still be done, but your company demonstrates it rewards workers with more time away.

Increased PTO helps a company attract millennial employees. Adjusting PTO policies to give workers more time off is a good way to adapt to the thinking of millennials.

Give work a greater meaning
A major focus of HR is retaining talent, which can be tricky with modern workers. In 2013, 30 percent of companies lost 15 percent or more of their millennial employees, according to Millennial Branding. With so much instability in the workforce, holding on to valued employees can be a difficult task.

Competitive salaries and benefits encourage workers to stay. In 2013, the median salary for millennial-aged women working a full-time, year-round job was $30,000 annually, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported. The median salary for men of the same age and job type was $35,000 that year.

Along with providing fair pay for all employees, HR departments can make their companies more attractive to millennials by giving them guidance and knowledge of why their jobs are important. Showing a worker value and meaning helps him or her feel more attached to a company. When someone knows what the benefit of his or her work is, he or she is less likely to look for a new position, said Jerry Tolk, a general manager at the PR firm FeishmanHilard, according to Inc. magazine.

“The people who seem to be happiest and most successful in our culture understand that they are part of something bigger than themselves,” Tolk said. “(Millennials) believe in our mission, and see the work they do as advancing those priorities. They also see opportunity to change gears, and evolve as a professional.”

HR departments that can give millennials a greater meaning in the workplace will increase their chances of retaining talent for a longer period of time. Lay out your company’s big picture goals and explain why a millennial’s work is valuable to the success of the entire office.

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