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Design Benefits for a Diverse Workforce

Different age groups' distinct life experiences shape how they value workplace benefits

When it comes to employee benefit options, one size does not fit all. The 2012 Aflac WorkForces Report, based on a January-February 2012 survey of working U.S. adults, uncovered distinct differences among employees of different age groups. As employers and HR benefits advisors design benefits programs to serve multiple generations, these findings may help them to better understand generational needs.

Generation Y Needs to Prepare for Financial Challenges

Of all of the age cohorts, Generation Y workers (ages 18 through 24), also known as Millennials, were the least engaged, least informed and least educated about most aspects of benefits. However, 72 percent said they would be more likely to take advantage of benefit options tailored to their personal situation.

Key take-a-ways:

Offer relevant products such as term life insurance, hospital indemnity plans and hospital intensive care plans to protect their family and financial assets. Voluntary benefits offered at group rates and paid by employees through salary deferral can be a cost efficient way to provide an expanded menu of options.

Consider wellness initiatives that are low cost, but can improve the overall health of these workers while boosting the company’s bottom line. Fewer than one in four Millennials work for companies that offer wellness programs, although a majority said they would participate if such programs were available.

Generation X Needs to Protect Income and Stay Healthy

Generation X workers (ages 25 through 44) can reasonably be considered the “walking wounded” of the recession. This group has the highest unemployment rate, and many with jobs have seen their careers altered or stagnated by prolonged, discouraging economic conditions.

Understandably, Generation X employees were the most stressed and least optimistic workers. While they are enrolled in major medical coverage and other voluntary plans, the ability to protect their current and future income is pressing.

Key take-a-ways:

Offer financial planning on how to guard against asset loss, pay off student loans, purchase a home, protect income in case of disability or illness and start saving for retirement.

Market benefits to this group through social media. Many of these workers want to learn about benefits plans through instant access and quick navigation.

Give them a high-touch option. After they’ve done their online research, Generation Xers like in-person meetings with benefits professionals to finalize their choices.

Help them improve their health and well-being with wellness programs.

Baby Boomers Find Health Care Critical

Baby Boomers (ages 45 through 64) arguably have been the most adversely affected by the recession and tepid economic recovery. Many in this group are on the brink of retirement, preparing to pass the career opportunity baton to their Generation X counterparts. However, access to health care options could be the deciding factor for Boomers considering retirement. Tellingly, half of Baby Boomers said their expected retirement age is older than they previously anticipated, and the overwhelming majority (95 percent) said it is because they are either financially unprepared to retire or because they need to maintain health insurance.

Key take-a-ways:

Companies without a retiree medical program may see these employees staying longer in their jobs.

Tailored benefits packages can be valuable. In addition to retirement savings assistance, benefits such as flex-time and phased retirement can help these workers ease into the next phase of their lives.

Understanding Needs and Mindsets

Each age group has distinct life experiences that have shaped its attitudes and expectations regarding workplace benefits. Taking an in-depth look at each generation to understand those factors and their differing needs lays the groundwork for an effective benefits program.

Audrey Boone Tillman is Aflac’s executive vice president of corporate services. She is responsible for all aspects of human resource management for Aflac’s more than 4,400 employees.

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits page

SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page

SHRM Online Retirement Plans Resource Page

SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page

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