A few years ago, PwC realized it had a problem. The consulting firm was hearing complaints from Millennial employees, who by 2013 comprised two-thirds of its workforce. Long hours and late nights were getting in the way of their personal time at home with their families.
Many started to leave, taking jobs at companies that offered more flexible work arrangements and better benefits. To stymie its Millennial attrition problem, PwC played to its strength: it conducted a survey. The company soon learned that its older workers agreed with the Millennials. The only difference was that Millennials were the only employees actually willing to speak up about it and fight for change.
This Millennial fight for purpose and workplace change isn’t slowing down. And it just entered a new phase: parenthood.
Millennials are starting their own families – every year, more than a million Millennials become moms for the first time. But the days when dad went to work and mom stayed home to take care of the kids are history. America’s largest working generation rejects the idea of choosing either work or family. They want both.
Today, nearly half of American families have both parents working, compared to just 31% in 1970. And Millennials aren’t just taking care of children; more than 10 million are taking care of their own moms and dads.
Businesses have made strides in improving their benefits to support Millennial families. Many offer more family-friendly benefits, like paternity leave and parental leave plans that cover birth and adoption. Procter & Gamble, for example, recently expanded its employee benefits to offer better support to working parents, including a fertility benefit; a $5,000 per-child credit for adoption, embryo adoption, or surrogate parenting; and longer paid parental leave for new parents.
But Millennials are fighting for more than just paid leave. Their families aren’t cookie-cutter, so their benefits shouldn’t be, either. They want help with backup child care and finding senior care services. As Millennials’ care needs grow with their families, companies need to invest in the infrastructure to retain, attract, and support them. Complacency has a cost, and it’s massive: Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy a whopping $30.5 billion per year.
Here are three ways to open your eyes – and communications – to the caregiving needs of modern Millennial families.
- Check in regularly (and don’t fear the survey)
A recent study from Harvard Business School found that 52% of employers don’t track and measure their employees’ caregiving obligations. That’s shocking, considering that the same study also found that most employees (73%) are responsible for some type of caregiving.
While companies don’t have robust survey teams like PwC, surveys are great tools to help close the care gap at any company. A survey doesn’t have to be a big, daunting task that takes 20 minutes or more to complete. Keep it simple.
Use small, quick surveys – leveraging the tools your HR team already has – to check in with employees about their caregiving needs and learn how you can help them. And check in regularly. The more approachable the survey, the more likely employees are to respond openly and honestly. Ask about their family care obligations, their challenges, how they’re managing them, what’s working, and what’s not. Welcome their ideas and feedback on how you can be their source of support.
- Broadcast your benefits to every current and potential employee. AND their families.
An astounding 89% of Millennials prioritize benefits over pay raises. Many are starting or thinking about starting families, so they place a premium on more innovative care-based benefits, like subsidized daycare and backup child care. What’s more, they want to hear about these benefits, whether it’s on the company Slack channel, in all-staff meetings, or through stories from colleagues. But HR has to think more broadly about communication: do employees’ spouses, partners, and family members know about and how to use the benefits? What about potential new hires?
Benefits affect the whole family – especially care benefits – but often it’s hard for a family member, like a spouse, to find and navigate, let alone use, them. So, streamline and open up benefits information and communication channels. Make it easy for anyone to find, access, and learn about benefits, whether that’s on a public-facing website, a mobile app, or via digital content that employees can easily share with their family.
- Senior leaders need to model good care benefit behaviors
Jennifer Hyman, the CEO of Rent the Runway, is leading a billion dollar disruptive unicorn in the ultra competitive fashion and e-commerce space. But in the middle of her stressful and important role, she’s taking 4 months of maternity leave. That’s because she understands the value of it to her child and to her employees. “It’s really important as the CEO to show all my employees that they can be rockstars at work and also take time away from work to be with their families during amazing moments like parental leave and during difficult moments like bereavement leave,” she says.
She’s right. And the message couldn’t be clearer: Good benefit behavior starts with leadership. CEOs and senior leaders should not only use their company’s family-friendly benefits, but they should also encourage all employees to do the same. The best way to evangelize it? Share personal stories, like Hyman, of how they are taking the full amount of parental leave, working on a flexible schedule, actually taking their allotted vacation time, or whatever else they’re doing to prioritize family and personal time over work.
What sets the Millennial generation apart from all others is their sense of purpose, their willingness to fight for change. That’s exactly why so many young working parents are turning to their employers for support. If they can’t get it from you, they’ll gladly – and easily – go elsewhere.
Want to learn more about the Millennial fight for better benefits? Check out the Care@Work report, Fight or Flight: How to win the Millennial talent wars by being an ally in work-life integration