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Gen Y: Employers Get Low Marks for Benefits Communications
 

By SHRM Online staff  9/12/2011
 

Generation Y is taking over the world and the workplace—and employers who want to attract, engage and retain this huge workforce need to understand its preferences and communication styles, especially when it comes to workplace benefits.

That’s the finding of a white paper by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co., Pump Up Productivity from the Next Generation: Build Voluntary Benefits into Workplace Strategies to Attract, Engage and Retain Generation Y, which outlines the benefits needs and preferences of Generation Y workers, generally born from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.

“The ability to recruit and retain younger workers is quickly becoming essential for employers to ensure long-term business success, especially as Baby Boomers begin to retire in increasing numbers,” said Stephen Bygott, director of marketing programs and research at Colonial Life. “But Gen Y has different needs, expectations and preferences than previous generations, so companies need to take a different approach when it comes to designing and communicating their benefits packages. Those who don’t consider changes could risk losing their competitive edge and may be left behind.”

Key information in the white paper that employers and HR managers should know includes:

Generation Y tends to be less financially stable than other generations. Only 58 percent pay their bills on time, 43 percent have high credit card debt and 70 percent aren’t building a cash cushion for emergencies. They also tend to change jobs frequently: The average 26-year-old has already had seven jobs.

Generation Y puts great value on a strong benefits package, yet is woefully underinsured. Sixty percent of Generation Y workers list benefits as the second most important aspect of job satisfaction. However, a recent survey on behalf of Colonial Life showed Generation Y is the least likely working group to take advantage of workplace insurance, from major medical plans to voluntary coverage such as life, disability and accident insurance.

The workplace is the number one source for benefits information, but Generation Y seems to prefer more personal communication. Despite their “constantly wired” reputation, Generation Y employees don’t use online resources such as forums or blogs any more than other workers do. And they’re significantly more likely than other workers to turn to a family member or friend for information.

Benefits Communication Opportunities

“Benefits communication emerged in the research as a clear opportunity for employers to more strongly engage Gen Y workers,” Bygott said. “These workers give employers low marks for the effectiveness of their benefits communication, and Gen Y women in particular are much more likely to say the communication they receive about their benefits is not at all informative, including cost, what’s covered and what they need.”

The white paper outlines tactics and tools employers can use to communicate benefits more effectively with Generation Y workers, including:

Implementing one-to-one counseling.

Using appropriate technology for the message.

Employing multiple communication methods.

Making content more interactive.

“As benefits decision-making continues to shift more toward employees, Gen Y workers will become more eager for the products and information they need to manage their personal financial security,” said Bygott. “Employers have a tremendous opportunity to create a greater return on investment by evaluating their benefits offerings and communication methods to appeal to Gen Y. The result will be a more loyal, engaged and productive workforce.”

Related Articles:

What Gen Y Women Want: Autonomy and Self-Direction, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2011

Gen Y Workers, Under Financial Stress, Value Their Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, December 2009

Related Video:

Benefits for Generation Y
Nadira Hira, a writer with Fortune magazine, offers observations about how Generation Y employees view job opportunity, loyalty and company benefits.
View video

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits Discipline

SHRM Online Retirement Plans Resource Page

SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

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