Today’s workforce is the first to cover a range of five generations that include: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z, who together are greatly changing the Group Benefits landscape. They each bring with them their own health risks and medical costs, making it difficult for there to be a one-size-fits-all healthcare plan. With generation gaps spanning more than 75 years, there comes a wide range of perspectives and expectations toward healthcare and what group benefits packages should entail. These varying lenses are largely shaped by individual experience, life stage and cultural phenomena, thus urging the need to create tailored benefits programs that have multigenerational appeal.
According to an HR Blindspot Report, 91% of employees believe companies should offer personalized benefits packages. How can benefits brokers and companies anticipate the array of expectations to create customized group benefits plans that accommodate individual circumstances and age to have the greatest impact on each employee?
Creating tailored group benefits plans goes beyond offering core healthcare options and must also consider an effective way to communicate these options to each generation group. Diversity in generations and expectations is cause for brokers and companies to look beyond core benefits like medical, dental and vision plans to provide a menu of options of non-medical voluntary benefits that recognizes the differences of the multigenerational workforce and gives employees choice in selecting options that best suit their individual needs. What group benefits does each generation value most?
The Silent Generation
The Silent Generation, the oldest employees born from 1925-1945, only comprise 2% of today’s workforce but are among the highest users of healthcare. Also called the Traditionalists, this generation of workers values traditional benefits, such as medical, dental, vision and life insurance and prefers to receive these options from word-of-mouth recommendations.
Baby Boomers or those born between 1946 and 1964 and makeup 25% of the workforce are the next highest users of healthcare, with more than 60% managing one or more chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. Like Traditionalists, they too place a higher value on medical, dental, vision and life insurance benefits, but they also focus on financial benefits like 401(k)s with employer match as they close in on retirement. According to a study by Lockton, 73% of Baby Boomers have a primary care provider (PCP) and tend to value this relationship more than other generations. Aside from preventive screenings and primary care, Boomers focus on retirement planning and counseling services to help their aging population prepare to leave the workforce. This generation places a premium on convenience and values time and money, thus favoring face-to-face communication when selecting benefits packages.
Customization of benefits comes more into play with Generation X workers (those born between 1965 and 1980), who comprise nearly 33% of the workforce. Generation X values benefits that support work-life balance, such as flexible working hours, childcare and financial protection, as they tend to carry the most dependents and oftentimes are caretakers to their Baby Boomer parents. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 53% of Gen X employees are worried about their financial well-being, as many are burdened with settling extensive student loans and paying for their children’s education. Benefits offerings like telemedicine, wellness programs and financial well-being programs are popular with Generation X because they make prioritizing health easier. This generation of employees knows what they want and has the resources and skills to find what they need. Therefore, they want to consume information, access and purchase benefits based on recommendations from PCPs, peers and social forums.
Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) are one of the fastest-growing segments of the workforce and are also the largest at 35%. According to Harvard Pilgrim, by 2025 Millennials will take over a much larger market share and comprise 74% of the workforce. MetLife reports that 86% of Millennials value having benefits personalized to meet their age and individual circumstances. Like Gen Xers, a primary concern for Millennials is managing debt, as they have accrued an unprecedented amount of student loan debt. Millennials have adopted an “anything can happen” mentality and are willing to pay for peace of mind in order to be financially stable. As a result, 41% of Millennials purchase legal insurance to provide support for important life decisions, such as buying a home and estate planning. Other desirable benefits for Millennials include student-loan repayment benefits and flexible work hours. While Millennials are known to frequently switch jobs, up to 34% do so because their positions lack work flexibility. Additionally, maternity care is a priority for Millennials, as it accounts for 20% of their healthcare expenses, according to Lockton. As digital natives, Millennials are equipped to access and purchase benefits through digital decision-making platforms and self-service systems.
Customization of benefits is key for the youngest generation in the workforce, Generation Z, who were born between 1997 and 2012. In fact, Unum reports that 65% of Gen Zers are likely to seek out a new job based on its benefits. Generation Z employees are especially concerned about job security and they place value benefits that support career growth and development. Additionally, Gen Zers are more likely to weigh supplemental benefits as part of total compensation, seeking out offerings like flexible paid time off (PTO), tuition reimbursement, pet insurance and accident insurance. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this generation did not appreciate the full range of employee benefits but now are placing more importance on benefits that support their overall wellbeing like mental-health benefits and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Generation Z employees are prepared to take a fully digital approach to benefits decisions, be it via text messages, virtual benefit fairs or benefit videos.
The Bottom Line of Benefits
Companies that offer benefits programs that speak to their employees’ changing and evolving priorities will set them apart from their competition. Creating a comprehensive, customizable benefits experience that recognizes the diversity across the multigenerational workforce will likely result in increased job satisfaction, brand loyalty and employee retention, as well as make recruiting top talent easier. Whether a Traditionalist or a Gen Zer, all employees working today want to feel informed and confident about their healthcare decisions. No matter the generation, quality healthcare that is accessible and affordable is a priority for all. Irrespective of life stage and generational differences, brokers and employers need to create a strategic benefits program that is advisor-led, where participants are guided by a knowledgeable individual, offer self-directed and educational content in a variety of formats and provide resources that allow them to plan appropriately to make benefits decisions that accommodate their overall health, wellness and financial stability.