The world of employee benefits is changing. In addition to controlling ever-rising costs and keeping up with shifting regulations, employers must now consider how to provide a competitive benefits package that works across a multigenerational workplace.
It’s important to avoid old generational stereotypes when making decisions about company benefits. For example, contrary to popular belief, almost two-thirds of millennials care about work perks and benefits -- even more than their older peers. In fact, better compensation and benefits is the number one reason millennials cite for accepting a job.
However, according to a global survey by Deloitte, 38 percent of millennials have a “one-foot-out-the-door” attitude toward their current workplace, and would leave their current employer within two years to do something different.
Clearly, knowing your workforce demographic -- including what they appreciate and need -- is vital to recruiting and retaining talent across a workplace that can now employ up to five generations.
But, what’s the best way for employers to do this?
1. Be aware of changing labor trends.
There’s no one solution for managing a multigenerational workforce, but understanding how society is changing is key for tapping into solutions to support behavioral shifts occurring across the workplace.
For example, technology and global communications have created an emphasis on hyper-connectivity -- an “always on culture.” According to Harvard Business Professor Leslie Perlow, this mindset denies workers a sense of individual efficacy, by putting them in a permanent state of reactive alert. This can drain morale and initiative and impact employee mental health as well.
Businesses should not only encourage downtime to prevent burnout and exhaustion, but make sure working patterns are updated to support the changing work culture.
In one of the largest global workplace surveys of its kind -- Vodafone’s Flexible: friend or foe? -- 83 percent of respondents said adopting flexible working had resulted in improvements in productivity and 61 percent said it had helped increase company profits.
Improvements in productivity through offering flexible working hours allows employees the freedom to set their own work routines and better juggle personal commitments such as childcare or caring for elder parents. Employees also are likely to feel less pressured to respond to work messages at any time of day, most notably in companies dealing with different time zones.
2. Provide benefits that allow different generations to prioritize what they value.
Voluntary benefits are one way to create a benefits package that appeals to all generations in your workforce. Voluntary benefits -- insurance coverage such as disability, accident, cancer, critical illness and hospitalization -- allow employees to select and pay for the benefits that best fit their individual needs. Employers can make this coverage available as part of the annual or new-hire benefits enrollment in addition to major medical insurance or other employer-sponsored benefits.
Employers can also focus on health and wellbeing strategies, such as access to onsite health screenings, wellness experts and gym memberships. These benefits are ideal for a multigenerational workforce as they can be used to support someone at every stage of life.
You may be able to work with wellness vendors to offer their services to your employees at a discounted or subsidized rate. Proper diet and exercise are important components of employee wellbeing, so creating access to local fitness resources and nutrition counseling can be a great perk.
3. Introduce EAPs and mental health support.
Stress and mental health issues are not ageist; they can affect anyone at any time in their lives. The American Institute of Stress argues it’s often not the job but the person-environment fit that matters. For these reasons, offering benefits that can help support employees’ mental health can be beneficial all around.
One way to support employees’ mental and emotional health is through an employee assistance program. Most EAPs offer services addressing a variety of areas such as marital, family, financial, addiction and psychological problems.
Your company intranet or noticeboard is also a great place to provide support via materials such as self-help books, benefits information sheets and directories of local mental health support services.
4. Improve communication about employee benefits.
The success of your benefits program may depend on how well employees understand -- and therefore take advantage of -- all its components. But, different generations have clear communication preferences, so it’s important to tailor efforts to your workforce.
Younger employees are more amenable to instant digital communication, while older demographics may prefer a benefits booklet and other written communication. Make sure any technology employees use to access benefits information can be reached by mobile devices and investigate using phone apps.
It’s important to use technology to supplement, not replace face-to-face, ongoing communication. According to a 2013 LIMRA survey, "Seeking the Ideal Experience: How Gen Y and X Want to Buy Life Insurance," Generation X and Generation Y consumers said they want information and service online, but also want the option to talk to someone by telephone. Consider group meetings to review benefits options and individual benefits counseling sessions to help employees understand their individual needs and coverage needs, either in person or by phone. Even a 20-minute session for each employee can create much stronger engagement with the benefits program, and therefore higher return on your investment. Nearly a decade of post-enrollment surveys by Colonial Life show 95 percent of employees who participated in individual benefits counseling say it was valuable.
When it comes to employee benefits, the answer isn’t a custom workplace for each demographic, but an integrated system of environment, tools and policies that brings out the best in every generation. Whether it’s every year or every other year, employers should require their employees to make a yes or no decision. Having employees stop and think about their benefits would help more people understand their benefits -- and more people would be protected. Supporting your employees’ wellbeing and giving them access to a wide range of employee benefits empowers them to create a customized package for their lifestyles -- in turn helping retain the employees you worked so hard to attract in the first place.