Benefits are beneficial only if you’re offering perks that are meaningful to your employees and they actually advantage of those perks. As an employer, you cannot simply publish a list of the usual menu options in the hope that the longer your list, the more impressed prospective and existing employees will be. You have to inspire and support employee engagement in choosing and using benefits.
Depending on where you get your information, millennials now number between 53 and 75 million workers. Obviously, getting them engaged is critical, yet many employers despair because they see this age group as the most disconnected from their job.
While that may be true, Brianna Steinhilber of NBC News suggests “they may feel like they’re ‘waiting’ for their employers to catch up with them, thus affecting how much they are able to emotionally commit at work.” And she says we should be careful in pointing the finger at only millennials, because a full two-thirds of employees are disengaged at work.
Millennials aren’t merely waiting, they are showing the way
In fact, they are leading change throughout the workplace. Happily for employers, it turns out many of the benefits millennials want most – and the most effective ways to engage them in your benefits program — are pretty much the same as what your Gen Xers and baby boomers want.
So if you’re millennial-savvy when it comes to your benefits program, you can boost job satisfaction and benefits participation across the board. And give yourself a distinct advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining the top talent you need to compete and grow.
What can HR and benefits managers learn from millennials?
Know your customer
Today’s most-respected employers treat their employees with the same care as they treat customers because, in a significant sense, they are just that. Every successful sales or marketing manager knows that increasing sales hinges on understanding your customers’ needs and fondest desires. What’s most important to them? Why? Speak to that, and customers will love you.
It’s no different with your benefits program. Leading-edge HR professionals know that. They’re working overtime, if you will, to identify new benefits and refine traditional offerings, to meet two very different goals: curbing costs and increasing engagement. Not an easy assignment. Especially when you’re dealing with a range of audiences. Experts say one key to better benefits engagement is segmentation.
Not only age, but family considerations and overall lifestyle affect what your employees want in the way of benefits. We all know that, but one of the most common mistakes companies make is lumping millennials together as a single audience. This “generation” is usually defined as including everyone born between 1982 and 2004. That’s a 22-year span.
Older millennials are more settled in their careers than those still in their early 20s. Many have moved beyond the “carefree singles” lifestyle to owning a home and having children to support. So how they view health care and other types of insurance, in particular, may be very different. On the other hand, you may be surprised to learn that 70% of millennials own life insurance – either group or individual, or both. That figure is on the rise.
Those who are farther along in their career, with higher earnings, are more likely to be interested in “wealth management” financial benefits, whereas their younger counterparts would rather have an option that helps them deal with student loans or start a savings plan.
Millennials may be the only generation that can’t recall the pre-online world. But technology from smartphones and tablets to social media permeates everyone’s life these days, at home as well as at work. You can’t expect to “get through” to millennials unless you communicate with them in their language – that is, digitally. Do that, and the vast majority of your older employees will also appreciate your efforts to go paperless.
Benefits management software makes life easier, more efficient and cost-effective for administrators. It also speeds and streamlines your benefits program from an employee’s point of view. They can sign up and manage their benefits, whenever and wherever than want to access the app – as long as your benefits processes are mobile-friendly.
Specialized software tools also enable employees to learn about benefits options in detail, and some programs even guide them toward choices that best match their individual needs and preferences — as long as you adopt a single-point-of-access platform that integrates all the options for easy study and comparison.
Technology not only provides comfortable access that encourages millennials to engage, it supports their strong desire for personalization when they can use that technology to tailor benefits to themselves. Millennials also want you to use texts, social media posts, or push notifications to alert them to changes or new information, not pass around or post a memo. So do many (or most) of your older employees.
Spread the health wealth
As an HR or benefits pro, you are intimately familiar with the cost of health care. You know all too well that lifestyle-related health problems account for more than two-thirds of health care spending. There is a silver lining here, thanks to the fact that millennials love to share their experiences. As your company works to create wellness programs and encourage actual engagement with those programs, be sure to incorporate “group effort” opportunities.
It’s tough to lose weight or stop smoking. And it’s traditionally tough to get employees to participate in company-sponsored programs. Support and encouragement from others who share the same challenges and are working toward the same goal can make the difference between success and failure. Establishing groups where folks can share their experiences in person and/or digitally can motivate more people to participate. And cheering each other on helps keep people involved.
In fact, research shows a six-fold increase in follow-through when employees can share their wellness goals and progress with peers.
Group effort can be more fun, too. Holding friendly-competition contests to see who can maintain their self-imposed exercise routine the longest, for example, generate camaraderie as well as health results.
Working remotely has become popular with workers of all ages, but once again millennials lead the way. They want work to fit into the rest of their life, and they know there is nothing to keep them tethered to an office. Why not work from wherever they want? Gallup reports that engagement increases for all generations when employees are allowed to spend at least part of their time working from elsewhere and/or working flexible hours. What produces optimal engagement? Working remotely 60-80% of the time.
It literally pays to do everything you can to engage millennials in choosing and using benefits. More than half this generation say the benefits package is an important influencer when it comes to accepting a new job. And even more say their current benefits package seriously affects their desire to stay. The more you to help your millennials engage, the more everyone in your company will benefit.