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Ping Pong Tables Are Out; Flexibility Is In: What Younger Workers Are Looking for Today

About eight years ago, we had several people leave our office for a new start-up company with “millennial perks.” The company touted an open office concept with plenty of couches, beer fridge, ping pong table and Friday night happy hours.

It was a utopia for 20 somethings with big career ambitions. As reality started settling in, it became apparent that the millennial “perks” became the chains to keep people working longer hours under the guise of “company culture.” Work-life balance became an issue.

COVID put the final nail in the coffin as people realized they could work more effectively at home. The oldest millennials are now nearing 40, with families and lingering student loan debt, and their focus has shifted away from those fun “millennial perks” to how to live better lives. Benefits that focus on the whole person and not just productivity (working eight hours per day) will be where the innovative companies will succeed.

So, what do millennials expect in an employer? Millennials think about jobs as opportunities to learn and grow. In a Gallup report titled “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” 87% of millennials surveyed said that “professional or career growth and development” was important to them. Specifically, 59% of younger participants said that opportunities for career growth was a key factor they looked for when applying for jobs, compared with 44% for Gen Xers and 41% for baby boomers.

Gen Z, or those under the age of 25, value a company culture that is inclusive, welcoming and flexible with an emphasis on corporate citizenship. Meaningful work is key: Gen Z ranks job duties and responsibilities higher than any other generation when it comes to accepting or rejecting a job offer. The campus recruitment platform Yello notes that Gen Z employees expect to job hop more than their millennial and Gen X counterparts: 55% plan to work for their current employer for less than three years.

Instead of work-life balance, they use the term “work-life integration” to describe the unification of work and life, rather than keeping them separate. This means having permission for personal appointments during the workday, working outside a traditional office setting and job flexibility will be key for Gen Z workers. Besides traditional benefits such as comprehensive medical insurance, generous vacation time and retirement savings, Gen Z seeks perks such as financial education, student loan assistance, tuition assistance and training and development programs (think mentorships and paid training programs). The ping pong table will not be the deciding factor for these younger workers on where to accept a position.

My millennial co-worker did say he enjoyed the ping pong table at his last employer, but in the end, it was the opportunity for career growth and learning in a flexible environment that ultimately enticed him to join our team.