March 3, 2015 By Lindsey Pollak, Millennial Workplace Expert

Lately, many of my clients and audiences have been asking: What employee perks actually work to retain millennials?

Or, phrased another way: Do millennials really care about unlimited snacks and daily chair massages?

This question has been discussed in the news lately as well. And I believe it’s an important topic:

  • What actually motivates young professionals in today’s constantly changing workplace?
  • Is it different than what motivated people in the past?
  • What are the consequences of not providing motivation?

These are complex questions, so I thought I’d address the issue from a few angles.

Not Every Millennial Plays Pingpong

I don’t think employers should think of adding a particular perk because “millennials want it.” There is no way that a generation of over 80 million individuals can all want the same thing. The better approach is asking your employees what benefits they want, and offering an array of options.

For example, some employees would love the perk of playing pingpong (or Xbox or foosball or tetherball) for an hour; others would rather take a yoga class for that hour; still others would rather have the perk of flexibility so they can leave an hour early to take a sick child to the doctor.

The Best Perk I’ve Ever Had Was a Great Boss

Like most people, I’ve had terrific bosses and terrible bosses. One of the former gave me tons of opportunities to stretch myself professionally. One of the latter asked me how much I weighed and then responded, “Oh, good. I weigh less than you.”

In my opinion, the greatest incentive to work hard every day (whether you’re a millennial or a member of any other generation) is a leader who inspires you, values you and helps you grow. Developing great managers leads to happier and more productive employees. So remember to provide great perks to your managers as well. This keeps them happy and gives millennials something to aspire to as they rise up through the ranks.

Employee Perks are Just That: Perks

Remember perks should be little extras that exist to sweeten an already good situation, not consolation prizes to make up for an overall mediocre work environment. Fair compensation, meaningful work, regular feedback, ethical leadership and opportunities for career advancement will always trump free dry cleaning, dinner or dog walking.

Perks Don’t Have to be Expensive to be Valuable

Finally, don’t forget how much millennials value recognition. Positive feedback, praise, “trophies” (such as a certificate or a small trinket) and public acknowledgement are greatly appreciated and low- or no-cost.

The funny thing is, I’ve found the companies that have the best overall environment and strongest managers are often the ones with the fun perks, too. I think it comes down to whether an organization truly values its employees and cares about keeping them fulfilled personally and professionally.

Does your organization offer perks that motivate millennials? Please share in the comments –

Posted by Elizabeth McQuade

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