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Benefits Greatest Hits for Your Multi-Generational Mix Tape

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on April 04, 2017 10:30 AM

Benefits selection is a lot like creating a mix tape. Thoughtfully compiled by its creator, with a distinct listener in mind. Representative of the times and of course, containing a little bit of everything. You’ve made your mix tape, decorated the cover and popped it in the deck – now, will your employees listen? More important, will everybody find something they can dance to?

A host of new research is emerging that identifies which benefits each generation values, needs and will utilize most in the year ahead.

We’ve outlined the major trends of 2017 – many of which are featured presentation and panel topics at the upcoming Health and Benefits Leadership Conference this April. We hope this summary provides insight as you evaluate your benefits by generation, and think about the best ways to get each group listening.

Create a Winning Playlist: What Each Generation Values Most

At the Benefits Conference later this month, Willis Towers Watson will present their latest research in understanding generational attitudes and preferences among Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers, and how these perspectives impact benefits needs. They’ll delve into the areas of health and financial concerns by generation, and offer the best strategies for employers to adapt and implement. We’ll be listening - and will follow up in future blog posts.  

So, what does current research say about generational value when it comes to health, finance, culture and reward preferences. We looked to a variety of sources, including Willis Towers Watson, Glassdoor, and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) for the best sound bites of the latest findings:

Millennials: Looking for flexibility in work arrangements and rewards, Millennials are big on having choices and seeking strong professional development. They also highly value wellness programs. When it comes to financial and health-related benefits, larger pay increases and more generous retirement programs top their list, with more generous health benefits falling at the bottom of the pile.

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Gen X: Independent, highly skilled and valuing work-life balance, Gen Xers are not only looking for job security, but advancement opportunity. They’re focused on salary level and building their retirement nest egg. Many are entering the “Sandwich Generation” – caring not only for their children, but also aging family members. When it comes to financial and health-related benefits, they’re prioritizing larger pay increases and more generous retirement options, but health benefits have inched up to the middle of their list.

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Sandwich Generation

Boomers: Highly focused on retirement security and making up for losses in the Great Recession, many Boomers tend to put work before personal life. They want a good salary, but getting the best health and retirement benefits are equally important factors in selecting an employer. Practical and pragmatic, they like the numbers and want to know ROI. Generous retirement and health benefits share the top seat on their list of priorities.

As Willis Towers Watson (WTW) notes in their Perspectives: The Future of Benefits research paper, the overarching theme is that ALL generations want security – and that is consistent not only in the U.S., but globally, as well. Provided the underlying beat in each selection is universal in appeal, it really becomes a question of the what, how and when of your playlist line-up  - and does it sing to each generation?

Make it Pitch Perfect: What You Say, How You Say it and Who Delivers the Message

Marketers always begin with researching their audience and learning how to talk to them. That approach applies in HR now more than ever.  According to WTW’s The Future of Benefits, “employees want — and expect — a consumer-grade experience,” when it comes to  benefits offered, as well as marketed to them. Your employees might be hearing what’s available, but is it resonating with their unique pain points as this WTW article about communication reminds us, and providing direct solutions? Are you regularly surveying and talking to of each generation? Are you using language they can relate to?

Regardless of generation, employees just aren’t getting the benefits education they need – and a big part of that deficit is method and type of information delivery. To get them tuned in, you need to tweak your communication tools, but also adjust your voice. A casual and quirky tone that works for Millennials will fall flat with Boomers who prefer a more straightforward, simple language. And maybe weaving in a few relatable stories that appeal to the struggles of work-life balance will appeal to your Gen Xers.

Not sure how to translate by generation? Enlist and train a network of employees in each group who can advocate for and communicate those benefits most authentically to their generational peers. They’ll be your best sales team by far.

Think about the way your company delivers HR information to Millennials (as this great SHRM article outlines) vs. Gen X vs. Boomers – and how these generations receive and process that information. Offering print, digital and in-person options will help. Tailor each of these resources to present the most important benefits to each generation first – the same way a marketer would customize their sales collateral by prospect type or industry.

Many organizations and HR professionals are openly sharing their success stories (and struggles) as they don their marketer hats and think about employees as consumers. We’re looking forward to the University of Texas case study at the Benefits Conference in a few weeks where they’ll share which industry tools they used, and how they mined employee data to adapt their marketing communications approach. They now deliver a personalized, consumer-driven experience for staff and faculty. We love how they’ve presented and organized their benefits site for users – complete with newsletters, a video library and a branded “Benefits Value Advisor” for personal questions and advice.   

Your budget, bandwidth and vendor selection will always be critical components to your HR program, where success for many companies hinges on strong core benefits with a flexible menu that speaks to each generation. While your approach may differ slightly by generation, provided it's saying the right things and aligned with your brand, core mission and corporate goals, your HR anthem will be listened to by all. And yes, they might even dance.

Alright, now turn it up!

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.