Flexible friends

Avatar photo Jörn Dunker - 11th Feb, 2020


Well, it turns out that flexibility means more to millennials than just yoga.  This is the generation that’s going to be dominating our workforce in 2020, and according to a survey by Business Leader magazine, around 74% of millennials pay as much attention to flexible hours and telecommuting in job ads as they do to salary.

That makes sense.  This is a generation who has done homework on the beach, booked GPs appointments online at 10pm and considers a real-life trip to the supermarket a novelty.  Sitting in banked rows of desks is not only profoundly unappealing, it goes against any way they have learned or operated before.

For a long time working from home was seen as only of real importance to those with children and complicated nursery pick-ups, but flexible work policies are now competitive benefits and are viewed by millennials as having the same value, if not more so, as monetary reward.  It’s the same in the US, where annual survey by finance company MetLife showed that 3 in 10 employees report that they would actually be willing to trade a higher salary for better benefits, which included flexible working.

Debt repayment programmes, season ticket loans and genuine emphasis on work life balance have real resonance to a generation that is starting its working life in debt and has often witnessed Boomer Burn-Out at first hand.   They’re highly unlikely to be home-owners so freedom to travel is a huge priority.  An extra £1000 on a salary isn’t going to take them anywhere near a deposit on a home, so it’s easy to see why for young people facing an uncertain financial future, freedom is the preferred priority.

Millennials also put emphasis on working for organisations with a moral core and good ethics. For example Greggs the bakers, the majority of whose staff earns £8.38 per hour, offers a profit share scheme, (10 per cent of profits are shared among staff) and paid out £7m to staff, which worked out at £300 per employee.  This earned the company some fantastic PR, quite rightly, as £300 gets you a LOT of vegan sausage rolls.  No-one’s going to actually turn down money, millennial or not, but the principle behind the gesture, the simple share out, made it very appealing.

The spotlight’s now on us as employers to offer candidates what they want…which isn’t necessarily what they’ve wanted in the past.  Just like sneering tabloid stories about millennials “wasting their money on lattes and avocado on toast” had furious twentysomethings responding that they’d have to do a lot more than give up breakfast to get anywhere near enough for a deposit on a house, it’s important we understand that the world is entirely different for these young recruits and that rejecting salary in favour of benefits works for their world, even if it would not have worked for ours.  We’re not in Kansas any more.

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