How to Craft Employee Benefits Plans for a Multi-Generational Workforce

Employee benefits plans every generation

We all hear it time and time again: With four generations composing today’s workforce (and Gen Z fast nipping at their heels), companies have a lot to consider when it comes to hiring and retention. A major key to retention, as we all realize, is a solid employee benefits plan. So, it’s important that you provide a program that appeals to your entire employee base. But when you’ve got to manage the expectations of so many different generations with differing needs, a one-size-fits-all benefits program simply isn’t going to cut it.

What is the multi-generational workforce?

When we talk about the generations making up most employee bases, we’re referring to these date ranges. No source can precisely agree on birth years, but generally speaking, these are the people who compose your workforce:

  • The Silent Generation/Traditionalists (1939-1947): Strongly focused on their careers and largely adhere to social norms; typically single-company loyalty
  • Baby Boomers (1948-1963): Generally hardworking and motivated by position, perks, and prestige; they often define themselves by their professional accomplishments
  • Generation X (1964-1978): Less committed to a single employer and willing to change jobs to get ahead; they’re more tech savvy than previous generations and place strong value on work/life balance
  • Millennials (1979-1991): Have high expectations of their employers, willing to trade high pay for flexible schedules, plugged in to technology
  • COMING SOON: Gen Z (1992): Raised with an iPhone or Android device in their hands, more entrepreneurial and wary of corporate America, highly value development opportunities

Benefits Planning for the Generations

Back in the late 70s, when cafeteria plans were created, rather than being forced into a traditional cookie-cutter program, employees finally had the opportunity to select the exact types of health care benefits they needed with their payroll deductions taken out pre-tax. Today, the countless traditional and non-traditional options available have morphed these simple cafeteria plans into what now resembles an expansive buffet. So, let’s take a quick look at what types of benefits might appeal to each generational cohort.

multi-generational-benefits-plans

The Silent Generation’s Wants

Since this cohort is of retirement age and usually has stayed with a single employer for the span of their career, pension plans and 401(k)s are of importance to this generation. A traditional benefits package is valuable to them. They also typically value formal employee recognition programs rather than casual shout-outs or email thanks.

Baby Boomers’ Benefits

According to research from Florida International University (FIU), in the workplace, loyalty, work ethic, a steady career path, and compensation resonate with many Baby Boomers when it comes to their professional lives. So, it would stand to reason this group would likely be more heavily focused on the traditional benefits program of health, dental, vision, and life insurance.

Additionally, a growing frequency of chronic conditions makes this generation high consumers of health care. According to a MetLife survey, 52% of Boomers would be very interested in having more health plans to choose from. They also seek to protect their retirement savings against the risk of unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Generation X’s Perks

The same FIU study indicates that Generation X, on the other hand, started shifting preferences towards an improved work-life balance with a heightened focus on individual advancement, stability, and job satisfaction. Generally speaking for this group, while a traditional benefits set is still important, offerings such as telecommuting and flexible time off (or no conventional banked PTO program enabling the freedom to take off when they want), would be valuable. Additionally, company-paid training and development are valuable to many in this cohort.

According MetLife, Gen X is raising kids, so they may be responsible for their children’s medical expenses as well as their own. Since this group is likely to have children in age groups that are prone to accidents (especially sports and playground injuries), much like the Boomers, 52% would be very interested in having more health plans to choose from, just for very different reasons.

Meeting Millennials’ Needs

Again, the FIU study points at Millennials placing an emphasis on producing meaningful work, finding a creative outlet, and having a preference for immediate feedback.

Many members of this group lean toward what might be considered “out there” benefits programs. The good news is that the things they typically value aren’t terribly costly. Look into offering benefits such as time to spend on a creative project outside the scope of their official position, financial wellness resources, the ability to work remotely, and lifestyle solutions (dog walkers/ childcare/therapists). They also tend to value mentorship programs, and monthly, if not weekly, manager touch-bases.

Gen Z

A large percentage of Generation Z’ers is likely still on their parents’ insurance plans when they enter the workforce, so benefits might not be something they’re immediately interested in (but they will be). Much like their older co-workers of Gen X, many in this cohort appreciate, or even expect, flexibility and autonomy in the workplace. Sixty-four percent pinpoint career growth opportunities as their top priority when they seek a full-time job, so career development ranks highly on many of their benefits wish lists.

Enable Your Team

Beyond having the opportunity to choose the health care and retirement plans that fit their lifestyles, enabling all of your employees to customize and select benefits that are important to them and their families can go a long way toward improving engagement and retention. Implementing the benefits plans doesn't have to be hard, and Paycor has a benefits software solution to make it an easy process!

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