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Adapting to a Multi-Generational Workforce

A recent survey from MetLife finds that 54% of employees seek personalized benefits recommendations. Here’s how employers can tailor their offerings to all.

By Maggie Mancini

As the workforce continues to evolve, HR leaders are tasked with providing a multidimensional benefits strategy that incorporates the unique needs of employees at all life stages. As baby boomers prepare for retirement, Gen X employees are getting ahead of their financial goals. Similarly, as millennials navigate family planning and home buying, Gen Z employees are increasingly prioritizing their mental, physical, and financial well-being.  

As each generation embraces impending milestones, a recent survey from MetLife reveals that more than half (54%) of employees wish they had personalized benefits recommendations provided to them, with half (50%) saying they would feel more cared for if their employer improved their benefits communication.  

In addition to keeping employees connected to the overall mission of their organization, care boosts positive talent outcomes: Employees who feel cared for are more likely to be engaged (87% versus 45%), productive (90% versus 58%), and loyal (89% versus 54%) than those who don’t.  

Jamie Madden, head of workforce management and benefits connectivity at MetLife, says that HR leaders should consider timely, approachable benefits recommendations tailored to each generations’ preferences to meet the needs of today’s multi-generational workforce. 

“As age diversity in the workplace becomes more pronounced in 2024, employers have the chance to create benefits strategies that resonate with each generation so that each feels seen, heard, and ultimately, cared for,” Madden says. 

Year-Round Benefits Communications 

While open enrollment serves as a key moment to provide employees with educational resources and advice on which benefits to elect for the year ahead, communications shouldn’t stop there, Madden says. Clarity at time of enrollment sets the stage for initial awareness and benefits selection, but employees may face challenges when trying to access and use their benefits when they really need them.  

“Providing an ‘always-on’ employee benefits experience can drive year-round use and help employees connect their benefits to their life when they need it most,” Madden says. “In turn, this helps employees to maximize the value of their elections throughout the year. Employers can also focus their communications on improving benefits education and comprehension, which remains a key barrier for employees when it comes to utilization.”  

Madden explains that 60% of those who regret their benefits choices say a lack of understanding and information was to blame. By pinpointing gaps in understanding of relevant benefits, employers can aid in employee decision-making, boosting usage and increasing employee retention.  

Improving Benefits Literacy 

Since levels of benefits understanding may vary by cohort, Madden says that employers can tailor their educational communications on driving learning where it is needed most. For example, Gen Z and millennial employees may require additional support as they are significantly more likely to feel that there are certain elements of their benefits packages that they don’t fully understand when compared to more experienced populations.  

“To do this most effectively, employers can consider employees’ preferred methods of learning to deliver more relevant and effective communications that better resonate with different generations,” Madden says. “While millennial employees prefer video and podcast content, Gen Z employees cite social media and short-form explanation as their top choice for communications.” 

“It all comes back to understanding the unique needs of each generation,” says Madden. “To meet rising employee’s expectations and achieve key talent outcomes across today’s multi-generational workforce, HR leaders should recognize that generations typically approach and prioritize benefits based on their individual needs and life stages.”  

For example, millennials may be more focused on support for their growing family and childcare needs, while Gen X employees are more likely to be navigating evolving financial priorities as they save for retirement. By pinpointing these different life stage needs, Madden says, employers can develop new benefits strategies that can address and support each group accordingly. 

“It’s important to recognize that education remains a key barrier for all generations, with 45% of U.S. employees saying they do not fully understand their benefits packages,” Madden says. “This comes as employees who lack a complete understanding of their benefits are less likely to take advantage of the benefits available to them. They are 29% less likely to use commuter benefits, 19% less likely to use financial tools, 18% less likely to use vision insurance, and 14% less likely to use dental insurance.”  

Bridging The Knowledge Gap 

Madden adds that HR leaders need to find ways to close the gap between understanding and utilizing benefits by incorporating strategies around effective communication. Employers can initiate or encourage open conversations around benefits and share resources that can incite year-round benefits engagement.  

“As HR leaders discuss the future of benefits strategies, it’s important to note the potential impact of AI on the next generation of benefits programs and how HR leaders can leverage modern tools to create more tailored benefits experiences for their employees,” Madden says, adding that AI-driven tools can further eliminate the gap between benefits understanding and utilization by providing tailored recommendations based on individual needs and circumstances.  

MetLife’s recent collaboration with Nayya, a digital platform provider of benefits decision support and engagement, is an example of using AI to help enhance the employee benefits experience, boosting education and utilization. Solutions like this, Madden says, help employees get the most value out of their benefits by choosing and using those most relevant to their unique needs – particularly as each generation approaches different life and career milestones.  

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