Benefit Offerings for Retaining a Multi-Generational Workforce

March 31, 2021

As organizations increasingly employ workers across multiple generations, it becomes more important to tailor company benefit offerings to each generation.  Furthermore, recruiting and retaining talent in today’s labor market proves to be challenging. Evaluating and improving the benefit offerings at an organization can help recruit top talent and increase the engagement from current employees, making it more likely they’ll stay with the organization. Defining the different generations within the workforce is a great place to start.  This will help understand the variety of life experiences and needs of each generation to provide the best fitting workplace benefits.

The oldest generation in the workforce is the Baby Boomer generation.  This generation was born from 1946 – 1964 and employees in this generation are currently between 57-75 years old.  Given their age and career stage, the top benefit priorities for this generation revolve around healthcare and finances.  Boomers are typically satisfied with the traditional benefits including medical, dental, vision, and life insurance. A retirement account with employer matching is also at the top of the list as Boomers look forward to retirement.  Many Boomers are also at the stage of life where they are needed to care for their elderly parents so offering a flexible schedule or telecommuting is appreciated, in addition to more time off.

Generation X is often overlooked in the workforce as it is sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Employees in Generation X were born from 1965 – 1980 and are currently between 41-56 years of age. This generation has been labeled as the most financially insecure and has a lot of responsibilities. Employees in this generation are focused on childcare, mortgages, healthcare costs, and saving for retirement.  This group of individuals is looking into the future when it comes to benefits but the cost of living proves to be an obstacle preventing them from saving more for retirement. Generation X is unique in that many are caring for older parents while also raising children at home.  The family demands are very dynamic and require a lot of flexibility. Flexibility is the most highly coveted workplace benefit of the 21st century among every working generation and it’s often the easiest benefit to implement.  Along with needing more flexibility, additional time off to care for children and aging parents is meaningful to Generation X. Since this generation has children at home, they appreciate the option of having a Dependent Care FSA.  Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Reimbursement Accounts are also valued and can help this generation protect their retirement savings.

The largest generation presently in the workforce is the Millennials. Millennials were born from 1981 – 1996 and are currently between the ages of 25-40. This generation is viewed as being nurtured and pampered by parents who didn’t want to make the mistakes of the previous generation.  For this reason, millennials are confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented. They are likely to be relatively carefree and live for the now, and so are more motivated by instant returns on their efforts at work.  Providing immediate benefits such as tickets to sporting events or gift cards are all welcomed by this generation.  In addition, they put a lot of focus on wellness, so companies can appeal to millennials by offering gym memberships, onsite yoga classes, or virtual meditation sessions. Since millennials value professional development, they enjoy the learning and growth opportunities that go along with that.  It provides them the opportunity to invest in their job and fulfill their purpose. Some new-age benefits that have gained popularity with this younger generation are pet insurance and paw-ternity leave, for when an employee brings home a new pet. Pets play an important role in employees’ lives and giving employees time off specifically to care for their fur babies is highly cherished. All these benefits are tremendous for grabbing the attention of Millennials in the workforce; however, the number one benefit this generation desires is flexibility. Having the ability to set their work hours (within reason) or leave for appointments allows employees to have a better work-life balance and avoid burnout.

The newest generation to the workforce is Generation Z. Employees in Generation Z were born from 1997 – 2012 and are currently between 9-24 years old.  This generation is just beginning to enter the workforce, and most are graduating college saddled with debilitating student loan debt. One of the most attractive benefits for this generation is student loan repayment assistance and a high base wage to help them tackle their student debt. Some other benefits that interest generation Z include professional development opportunities such as “lunch and learns” or mentorship programs. Generation Z is also very interested in a company’s commitment to social impact, so organizing paid volunteering days or opportunities for employees to give back to the local community can be a valuable perk for these employees. 

After reviewing each generation and the benefits that are meaningful to them, it’s apparent that people have different financial pressures and goals in each stage of life. These differences make it crucial for organizations looking to attract and retain top talent to tailor wealth and health benefits to meet these distinct needs.  Keep in mind that while providing these benefits is great, it’s also imperative that employees receive the necessary education related to each benefit.  Employees must be adequately informed of the benefit offerings to take full advantage of them, and to be happy within their workplace.