Want to start 2024 off on the right foot? You may want to beef up benefits-related communications and personalization of total rewards.
That’s because the majority of employees say they are looking for more help and guidance from their employer on benefits offerings, according to data from global insurance provider MetLife. It’s a sentiment that’s especially felt by Generation Z workers, who are on track to become the largest generation in the workforce.
MetLife’s 2023 Employee Benefit Trends Study found that 54 percent of all employees said they wish they had personalized benefit recommendations, while half would feel more cared for if their employer improved its benefits communications.
“While employers continue to make significant strides in improving their benefits strategies year after year, there is still much work to be done to help close the gap between benefits education and utilization among employees,” said Jamie Madden, senior vice president of workforce engagement and benefits connectivity at MetLife.
For Gen Z employees in particular, half of them say most of the benefits communications they receive do not feel relevant to them, and 63 percent wish their employers offered more personalized benefit recommendations. In addition, 68 percent of Gen Z employees said they want their employer to communicate with them after they have enrolled in benefits, not just during annual open enrollment.
That’s likely in part because Gen Z employees are the least experienced when it comes to choosing and using their benefits, Madden said.
“As the youngest generation in the workforce, they often require additional support and resources than other, more experienced populations,” she added.
More than half (53 percent) of Gen Z respondents say there are elements of their benefits package they don’t fully understand, and 54 percent wish they felt more informed about the benefits their employer offers, according to MetLife. “By pinpointing gaps in Gen Z employees’ understanding of relevant benefits, employers can aid in their decision-making at enrollment so they can avoid feelings of regret, use their benefits to the fullest throughout the year and ultimately, get the most value out of their elections.”
While all employees are clamoring for more benefits information and customization from their employer, the fact that Gen Z workers want help is significant given the fact that they are poised to become the largest generation in the workforce. That means they will likely set the tone for workplace benefits and employer communication, Madden said.
“Gen Z, in particular, is setting the stage for what a positive employee experience looks like,” she said, “and by keeping their standards top of mind, employers can better serve the needs of their entire workforce.”
Other Evidence of Benefits Communications Falling Short
MetLife’s findings are no outlier, joining several other reports that indicate that employers can do a better job communicating about benefits and personalizing benefits. A recent survey from benefits provider Aflac found that almost half of employees don’t believe that their company truly cares about them—in part due to subpar benefits communication and not enough help on issues like burnout and stress, said Aflac CHRO Jeri Hawthorne. And research last year from benefits administration firm Optavise found that HR leaders are communicating with and educating employees on benefits less than they have in years past.
Industry insiders have long contended that benefits communication and guidance should happen outside of open enrollment, which is traditionally when organizations do the bulk, if not all, of their benefits communication.
“If you don’t regularly communicate about your benefits, you’re missing an opportunity to make sure that your people know that you care about them,” said Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at Optavise. “You’re missing an opportunity to make sure that they know that you have a competitive rewards package.”
Overall, the collection of surveys and reports is evidence that employers need to step up to better engage employees, Madden said. “This task may feel daunting to employers, especially considering today’s culturally diverse, multi-generational workforce, but improving benefits engagement programs with a mind for personalized, always-on communications is a great way to start tackling this issue head on.”
What Should Employers Do
At a basic level, Madden said, personalization “starts by acknowledging that, in today’s multi-generational workplace, different generations of employees will likely consider opting into benefits that reflect their varying needs and life stages.”
HR and benefits leaders should therefore provide educational resources and communications that are tailored to the varying needs of different employees. For example, Millennials navigating parenthood for the first time may be seeking opportunities to learn about child care or fertility benefits, while Gen X employees who are caring for aging parents may want to know about available caregiving or elder care benefits. Gen Z employees would like to hear about less traditional offerings such as legal services, identity and fraud protection, and pet insurance.
And just as different generations desire different benefits offerings, they also have varied communication preferences, meaning a single-channel approach may leave certain cohorts feeling overlooked. “This is why a more intentional communication approach is key in driving benefits understanding, and, ultimately, utilization,” Madden said.
Overall, a more robust, and more thoughtful, approach will not only benefit workers, but benefit the organization in terms of happier and more loyal employees.
“The best thing HR decision-makers can do is listen to their employees and provide education, communication and recommendations tailored to the unique needs and preferences of all generations represented in their workforce,” Madden said. “In return, employers can achieve greater employee engagement, satisfaction and retention.”