Why HR Is Missing the Boat With Millennial Hires

Adopt mobile apps and programs to meet Gen Y's desire for transparency and freedom, especially when it comes to benefits and pay.

Retention of top employees is an issue for every organization, and that’s not new. But in today’s working world, some categories of employees are tougher to keep in the fold than others — Gen Y, in particular. What’s the cause for this, and how can it be remedied? Ram Palaniappan, founder of app-based pay service Activehours, says it’s a benefits issue — more specifically, tied to pay. Human resources is missing the mark.

I interviewed Palaniappan to find out what kind of compensation benefits he thinks millennials are looking for, how technology fits into this and what HR departments have to do to change. Below are edited excerpts from our interview.

What types of benefits are important to millennials?

Palaniappan: Millennials are a tech savvy generation, largely because they’ve grown up with mobile, seamless access to services and information at the touch of a button. They, more so than generations that came before, have become used to services such as Lyft and Uber, mobile shopping, music streaming and mobile banking, all of which give customers an unprecedented amount of control and visibility compared to years past.

Ram Palaniappan, Activehours
Ram Palaniappan, Activehours

Beyond transparency, millennials also value financial stability and freedom. It’s no secret that student debt has become a bigger issue with this generation than others, especially due to the recent economic crunch and tough job market. Any support employers can provide in helping millennials budget their finances would go a long way in keeping them happy at work as well as in their daily lives.

How does technology fit into this? Once you know what benefits millennials value most, how can you adopt technology to help them manage those benefits?

Palaniappan: Technology is an important gateway for how millennials interact with the world, and that carries over into their work. It’s important for them to have access to the benefits they need in the channels they’re used to communicating in, such as mobile.

Luckily, there are a number of HR services that provide this sort of availability. Timesheets, for example, are now available on mobile devices through providers such as TSheets and WhenIWork. Other services such as Zenefits, Credit Karma and Zen99 streamline personal information, tax details and insurance to be easily accessible for workers online or on their mobile devices.

Employers can do well by directing millennial workers towards financial apps like Mint.com or SherpaShareto help budget their finances and stay on top of retirement planning benefits such as a 401(k). Both apps have simple-to-use interfaces that also work on mobile devices, so employees can keep a close watch on spending.

Some studies we’ve done have actually shown that millennials want more than just visibility and help when it comes to finances. According to recent YPulse data, 52 percent of millennials don’t think the standard two-week pay cycle is fair and 61 percent believe that it hinders their ability to budget well. We’re attempting to service that group of millennials with our own app,Activehours.

What do older generations think about this? A lot of this is new to the workplace. How do you prepare them for these changes? How do you get them to buy into it?

Palaniappan: It’s important to note to older generations that these services are no more exclusive to millennials anymore than paid time off or lunch breaks are. Mobile technology has the potential to offer things that older generations never thought possible, and it can be very rewarding to unlock benefits and services for the first time.

Studies have shown that older generations, particularly seniors, find technology more liberating than a hindrance.

Getting anyone to adopt a service is the same regardless of generation as it always involves two things: education and training. It’s important to explain and show how technology based benefits will help workers and guide them through the process of using the service.