According to experts, millennials, the generation described as collaborative, open-minded nonconformists, are now having children of their own and launching America’s next baby boom.
Results of a 2013 study conducted by the ad agency Barkley found millennial parents accounted for 80 percent of the 4 million annual births in this country.
Furthermore, as the largest living generation to date in the United States at 83.1 million strong, the number of new millennial families is expected to grow exponentially over the next 10 years.
The wave of millennial births will affect everything from health care and transportation to social services and the workplace. Having a large percentage of parents on the payroll will significantly impact American businesses.
Right now, companies are debating the most effective strategies for recruiting talented millennial job candidates. However, American businesses should continue to invest in strategies to retain top performers, as many are becoming or are about to become parents. For instance, a robust maternity leave program will likely be high on the priority lists of many new and existing employees.
Consider paid leave
The U.S. Department of Labor reports only 12 percent of private-sector workers currently have access to paid maternity leave to care for a newborn. In comparison, countries such as Austria, Belgium, Norway, Spain, and Turkey offer anywhere from 15 to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave.
“One of the best things a company can do when creating a maternity leave policy is proactive market research,” said Ramona Bilgram, manager of human resource (HR) services with Insperity, a provider of HR services and business performance solutions. “Knowing what similar companies offer can help businesses formulate a competitive plan to recruit and, more importantly, retain top talent.”
Because millennials make up the majority of America’s workforce today, companies could face a situation where several employees need to take maternity leave concurrently. If this is the case, businesses might also want to consider hiring temporary employees as needed.
Address work hours
According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 19 percent of millennials surveyed said flexible working hours are the most important and valued benefit a company can offer. Furthermore, as millennials move into managerial roles and assume new and increased responsibilities that must be juggled with family commitments, employers should consider offering — if they don’t already — a flexible work environment in order to appeal to and accommodate this generation.
“A CareerBuilder survey found that 40 percent of workers named half-day Fridays as the extra perk that would make their workplace more satisfying,” said Bilgram. “Flexible work schedules can help new parents take care of their priorities at home without compromising their responsibilities in the workplace. Now is a good time for companies to revisit the strength of their telecommuting technology and associated policies.”
The upcoming boom might affect companies in several other ways. For instance, if a business holds an annual employees-only holiday party, they might consider hosting family-friendly events instead. While happy hours are a great time for employees to bond, many parents have family obligations after work that could keep them from participating and make them feel left out.
Some companies have also determined that a paid time off (PTO) program, which combines sick days and vacation time, better fits the needs of today’s employees.
“PTO gives employees more flexibility and control over managing their time,” said Bilgram. “It also solves the problem of employees carrying over a large number of sick days from year to year.”
In summary, the next baby boom will impact companies in many ways. Businesses that plan ahead and evolve to fit the needs of a changing workforce will be better equipped to hire and retain top talent. A little planning now can pay big dividends down the road.