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The new generation of employees would take less pay for these job perks

Maggie Overfelt, special to CNBC.com
Todor Tsvetkov | Getty Images

Millennials work for the cash and good health insurance — just like everybody else. More than half of millennials (53 percent) say compensation is more important to a job offer than corporate mission (34 percent). And 91 percent of millennials say they are most attracted to a new job by salary and benefits. But there are some job perks that will make millennials consider working for less, by as much as 12 percent.

Forget about free snacks.

The country's largest workforce by demographics, millennials are willing to give up a percentage of their salary for long-term job security, flexible office hours and a management structure that emphasizes mentorship and a better career trajectory, according to new research from survey software firm Qualtrics and venture capital firm Accel Partners (a Qualtrics investor).

According to the survey, 77 percent of millennials would be willing to take a salary cut of at least 3 percent in exchange for long-term job security. Roughly 76 percent of millennials would take a pay cut of at least 3 percent to work for a company that offers flexible office hours, and 67 percent would be willing to take a pay cut of at least 3 percent to work at a company that offers good mentorship opportunities.

I would take a salary cut of 6 percent to 12 percent to work for a firm that ...

Offers long-term job security (38 percent of millennials)

Offers flexible hours (37 percent)

Offers good mentorship opportunities (30 percent)

Is growing very rapidly (30 percent)

Only employs extremely talented and smart people (26 percent)

Free food, cutting-edge mobile technology and a company's rank as a "market leader" can help sell a firm as a desirable place to work — and a fun place for millennial workers to document on Facebook — but career-oriented millennials don't see these perks as bargaining chips an employer can use in negotiating a job offer. Roughly 80 percent of millennials surveyed by Qualtrics said that health-care coverage is the most important benefit, while in-office perks, like games and sports opportunities, are the least important.

"We asked millennials about free food and providing a phone — all those things — but when we asked them, 'What do they care most about in a culture,' they care about the big things," said Mike Maughan, head of brand growth and global insights at Qualtrics.

On the flip side, 65 percent of millennials said it would take a salary increase of 20 percent or greater for them to consider switching jobs.

Jon Salas, 28, recently took a big pay cut to leave the "cardboard dry culture" at a multinational human resources consulting firm where he felt isolated from bosses and colleagues. He accepted a job at a small public relations agency, where he could be heard by, and learn from, managers and different teams on a daily basis.

Jon Salas, standing, left a higher-paying job at a multinational HR company with a ‘cardboard dry culture’ to join Hollywood PR, where weekly brainstorming sessions bring the small team together.
Source: Hollywood PR

"There wasn't much opportunity for growth [at the previous employer]. The only way to go up was if someone left a position, and even then, you weren't guaranteed the position," said Salas, who now works as an assistant account executive at Hollywood PR in Boston, where the entire firm comes together every other week for strategy brainstorming sessions. Salas decided to take a $10,000 pay cut to go "where growth opportunities are available and attainable, and where the line of work fits into my overall long-term plans," he said.

According to Qualtrics, 80 percent of millennials say a culture that emphasizes personal growth is highly important. That means finding a place where learning is a long-term philosophy and comes from peers as well.

Career growth and a collaborative work culture is also what compelled Jessica Grybek, 29, to opt for a job from a smaller, lesser-known firm that also offered less money — twice.

"Even though my new job came with less money and a 5 a.m. start time, it was the best decision I have ever made," said Grybek, talking about her second job at a nationally syndicated TV show a few years back. "The vibe was much more laid back, and there was a strong emphasis on teamwork. We were all there together to accomplish the same goal, and everyone pitched in and did what it took to make it happen."

A couple years later, when Grybek found herself choosing between a lesser-paying job with a web start-up and a marketing position with a large real estate agency, she went for the former because it "had a better company culture and more potential for advancement," she said. "I've found that it doesn't necessarily matter what you do for a living if you're working with a great team."

Today, Grybek is a marketing and public relations coordinator with the Habitat for Humanity of Collier County in Naples, Florida, a job where "there's more of an emphasis on productivity versus sticking to a set schedule each day," she said.

Habitat for Humanity is well known for a mission that benefits communities, and that played a role in Grybek's applying for the job, but "mission was not necessarily the No. 1 or No. 2 item on my list in a job hunt," Grybek said. She said the value of the mission became much more clear once on the job.

Jessica Grybek, a marketing and PR executive at Habitat for Humanity, interviewing a homeowner who had just paid off her mortgage.
Source: Derek Perry, Habitat for Humanity

"I guess I kind of stumbled into something great without being completely aware of it. Habitat's mission is something that you get a totally new appreciation for when you are part of the organization — actually seeing people actively working to change their lives, and the lives of their children, for the better. You get to see people go from living in what can be a really deplorable situation and struggling to make ends meet, to having this sense of pride and stability that they never had before. There's nothing like it."

Larry Yu, marketing partner at Accel Partners, said millennials are unique in that they highly value a transparent, collaborative culture. "Companies like Facebook, with their open workspace and regular CEO Q&As, are clearly standard-bearers when it comes to creating a company culture that keeps millennials happy," he said.

I have worked at two start-ups: One had free lunches and free snacks, and for me the novelty died very quickly. ... [Those perks] didn't matter; my ideas weren't being heard.
Sahab Aslam, 31
who recently joined Prudential's Life Technology Experimental Lab after finishing graduate school in computer science and engineering

Disdain for a rigid daily and weekly work schedule underscores what should be another selling point of companies looking to attract young talent: flexible work hours. According to Qualtrics, 19 percent of millennials would take a pay cut of more than 12 percent to work for a firm that offers flexible hours.

"Here you can work condensed work weeks; we have many [employees] that do part time; we have an internship program that focuses on moms reentering the workforce," said Chrissy Toskos, vice president of campus recruiting at Prudential Financial, the 140-year-old insurance company that uses nontraditional work schedules as one way to compete for millennial talent. "I personally work from home one to two days a week — I have three kids — so I can manage it all; it keeps me more engaged," Toskos said.

I would NOT consider a salary cut to work for a firm that ...

Only employs extremely talented and smart people (43 percent of millennials)

Is the market leader (41 percent)

Has a fun office and casual culture (34 percent)

Offers good mentorship opportunities (33 percent )

Makes a positive difference in the world (30 percent)

While flexible hours are becoming a bit more common with traditional 9-to-5 office environments, millennials are also flocking to other industries where flexibility has long been a mainstay of how companies fill shifts.

"McDonald's has worked with me — being a young parent, I needed all those flexible schedules to get to where I am now," said Brittani Lael, 26, who since taking a job at a McDonald's restaurant in Ada, Oklahoma, 10 years ago as a teenage mother has worked her way up general manager. The beauty of the job, she says, is that she gets to set her own schedule. "I have two children and if have to go and do something, it's very open here [so I can go and do] what I need to do," she said.

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Given that millennials came of age alongside Facebook and other prominent social media networks, and are prone to share many details of their lives online, there is definitely a plus to highlighting anything, no matter how small, that may set a workplace apart.

"Millennials are used to sharing everything on social media, and they want to share their job there as well," Maughan said. "And while the key aspects of a culture can't be overlooked, they're easily overlooked if you're talking about the Facebook 15 — it's very easy to talk about the things that are sexy and noticeable."

It's just that having lots to brag about on Facebook — about what their workplace looks like or offers — won't likely tip the scales in an employer's favor if the fundamental wants of millennials aren't met.

"I have worked at two start-ups: One had free lunches and free snacks, and for me the novelty died very quickly," said Sahab Aslam, 31, who currently works in Prudential's Life Technology Experimental Lab. "I also gained 15 pounds in three months. [Those perks] didn't matter; my ideas weren't being heard."

"I don't have surface perks at Prudential, but I rarely eat lunch alone, which is amazing," she said. "Here there's such huge diversity [in the workforce]; what's behind these perks is the people, and the people here are amazing — very nice and very kind."

By Maggie Overfelt, special to CNBC.com