Leave of absence can be a scary thing, no matter how old you are. But it can be especially scary to Millennials taking off an extended period of time for the first time. (The age range for Millennials, btw, is 17 to 37. Yes. Let that soak in. Thirty. Seven.)
For those of you who are a little more, ahem, ‘seasoned,’ like me, think back when you were around that age. What might younger-you have worried about back then? Well, just for starters: finding a job you’re passionate about, paying off student loans, getting married, having children, buying that first house, fixing the pipes that suddenly burst in your first house, and maybe even taking care of parents.
What this means for HR pros is that if you’re trying to provide Leave of Absence to these younger folks, you need to keep in mind the burdens and anxieties they carry as a group outside of work….and keep in mind their preferences when it comes to getting help.
Over the course of my career, I’ve guided a bunch of Millennials through the Leave of Absence process. Here are my six tips on how to make the experience as seamless and helpful as possible:
#1. Remember what millennials want
Regardless of age, Millennials typically want the following: access to lots of information, transparency, mentorship, and ‘self-service’ (ways to process and administer information on their own). Keep this in mind as you interact with these employees.
#2. Know maternity leave info like the back of your hand
Typically, the most millennial LOA requests are for the birth or adoption of a child. If there is one LOA area all HR/Benefits representatives should be clear about, it’s how your company handles this leave, and even more specifically, how the employee will get paid. Pregnancy leave is always covered by FMLA leave, but can also be covered by short-term disability and paid time off. Depending on what your company covers, this can be about as easy for employees to remember as the periodic table of elements chart. So make sure you have a simple way to explain how all these variables work together. (Or find tech like ALEX on Leave of Absence that can provide that information to them on your behalf.)
Equally important for pregnant Millennials and their partners is understanding exactly when, if, how the new baby will be covered under medical benefits. There is nothing more stressful than not knowing if the new love of your life will be covered medically. So again, it’s worth taking some extra time to come up with a short, simple explanation (with clarifying visuals, if possible) of how this works that you can lean on every time.
#3. Don’t be techno-shy
Millennials are used to getting the information they need electronically. So if you’re not already set up for this, make it a priority to do that. This can mean everything from simply forwarding a zip file with policies, procedures, and helpful hints, to creating an intranet page, to implementing a full-blown LOA/Benefits portal. Millennials won’t understand why they have to walk over to floor 6 of building C to access enrollment paperwork. And they won’t be very happy about it. Nor should they be. There are easier ways to manage this stuff now.
#4. Combine technology with a human touch
Yes, Millennials want to access information easily, online. However, for delicate matters like this, they also want real-life ‘mentors’ who show they really care, just like anybody would. As much as you might love to put all LOA info on the company intranet and just say ‘figure it out’ because you’re strapped for time, DON’T. Spending 30 minutes face to face, or at least talking on the phone, will not only help with employee engagement but will likely save everyone time in the long run.
#5. Lean on other resources
It’s your job to explain to your employees how the LoA process will work at your company. But if your employees have bigger, broader questions, don’t be afraid to refer them to outside websites. Here are two good ones:
#6. Take extra care helping Millennials negotiate non-mandatory leaves
Most leave of absences that Millennials take revolve around having a child. But some requests for leave fall into more of a grey area – requests to take a break due to burnout, for example, or requests to take time off to be with a sick loved one that’s not covered by FMLA.
When Millennials come to you with these types of requests, they’re usually going to feel nervous about broaching the subject with their supervisor, or whether their request will even be accepted. So make a point to show them the appropriate and professional ways they might reach out to their supervisor for support. And share your advice on how to document the request, negotiate a fair leave, and what next steps might be if their request is denied.
So there you have it! Hope you find this helpful.
Up next month, how to help your Millennials employees navigate a rotary phone. (I kid….)