Brooklyn Park is weighing new job incentives, including paid parenting leave, to attract and retain a new generation of younger workers who are expected to make up half the nation’s workforce by the year 2020.

If the idea is adopted, Brooklyn Park would likely be the first city in Minnesota to offer its workers paid parenting leave in addition to traditional vacation or sick time. City officials say the two-week benefit — with an estimated total cost of $30,000 per year — could reduce hiring and training costs by retaining workers longer.

“It’s relatively inexpensive and sends a nice message to employees,” said Mike Sable, assistant city manager.

Brooklyn Park is confronting the same challenge facing employers across the nation: growing turnover as baby boomers retire, with members of the millennial generation increasingly taking their place.

Millennials — born from 1979 to 2000 — are more technology-oriented than boomers and can work on laptops or smartphones almost anywhere, any time, said Tom Gillaspy, who retired in 2012 as Minnesota state demographer. He said millennials will likely do a lot more job hopping than boomers. Surveys estimate they’ll average more than 10 jobs over their career.

Gillaspy noted that cities and the federal government generally have the oldest workforces and will face the boomer-millennial transition before state government and private businesses.

Finding ways to attract millennials is “an important issue. I know a lot of cities are thinking about it,” said Kevin Frazell, of the League of Minnesota Cities. He said the league has been aware of the coming boomer-millennial job transition for some time and recently began “ratcheting up training” on the issue.

Rare benefit

Officials with the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota City/County Management Association, and Metro Cities, a lobbying group, said they know of no city in the state that offers paid parenting leave, In larger cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as Brooklyn Park, city workers can use sick time as parenting leave.

Nationally, 12 percent of all American workers received paid family leave through their jobs in 2013, according to federal statistics. And a survey of U.S. companies by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 16 percent of employers offer paid maternity leave, 15 percent offer paid paternity leave and 16 percent provide paid adoption leave.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires larger employers to let workers take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks under various circumstances, but the Department of Labor has found that almost half of employees can’t afford to take the full 12 weeks.

Workforce shift

In Brooklyn Park, the city is already seeing the demographic workforce shift.

Sable said the city had to replace 75 workers last year, nearly 15 of whom retired. He said the city expects another 75 retirees — 20 percent of its 375 employees — by 2020.

“This demographic shift will be so dramatic, with all the retirements and new hiring,” Sable said.

Noting that most city hires are college-educated, he said demographers project that women will account for 60 percent of U.S. college graduates by 2021, another reason to offer parenting leave.

Sable laid out related demographic data at a City Council meeting this month:

• Roughly 10,000 baby boomers will retire nationally every day for the next 19 years, according to the Pew Research Center.

• By 2020, the national economy will be short 5 million workers with necessary training and education, according to a study by Georgetown University.

• Millennials will make up about half the U.S. workforce by 2020, and 75 percent of the global workforce by 2030, according to Forbes magazine.

At the council meeting, most of the seven members expressed interest in parental leave and some said they also wanted to explore tuition reimbursement, for college or training classes, as a hiring incentive. Several council members also suggested expanding the parenting leave idea to cover employees who care for their aging parents.

“We need to figure out how to be flexible,” said Council Member Rich Gates. He asked, for example, why some workers, such as vehicle mechanics who need to care for kids or family during the day, couldn’t opt to work on city vehicles at night instead of during regular day shifts.

Millennial outlook

Millennials are willing to work hard but want more flexibility in where — home, office or on the road — and what time of day they get the job done, said Judy Anderson, of Emerging Advantage, a Plymouth talent consultant that has worked with the League of Cities.

She said parenting leaves are a good example of creative policies aimed at attracting and keeping millennials. Employers “are going to be facing a competitive talent market and anything they can do to retain their strongest employees will help them in the long run,” Anderson said.

Sable said the Brooklyn Park council appears to favor offering parenting leaves to mothers and fathers, to adoptive parents, and to same-sex or unmarried couples. He said he is preparing cost/benefit comparisons for the next council discussion of the matter in August.

Mayor Jeff Lunde said he thinks the council would support offering parenting leave to attract millennials. He said the leave would produce more productive workers and reduce taxpayer costs for hiring and training new employees.

Council Member Mike Trepanier said he needs more details but likes the parenting leave idea.

“I think it is the right thing to do,” he said. “If it helps [the staff] get good work-life balance, we should do that.”