Benefits Management for a Multigenerational Workforce

Baby boomers, who make up more than one-third of the work force, are shifting the Human Resources industry once again. By 2015, one in every five American workers will be over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, although baby boomers are reaching the age of retirement, they intend to continue working until the age of 66, with some working as late as 73 years old, states a recent Gallup poll. In fact, one in 10 baby boomers has no plans to retire at all. Some are fearful of failing to meet financial requirements, while others cite that they enjoy or are addicted to work, reported Gallup.

The aging workforce is a growing trend worldwide. Employees over 50 make up 27 percent of the U.K. workforce, and that number will rise to one-third by 2020, according to the Department for Work and Pensions’ 2013 report Employing older workers: An employer’s guide to today’s multigenerational workforce.

But let’s not forget that the next generation of our workforce — the millennials — are also changing the rules when it comes to HR. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2015, millennials will become the workforce majority, and by 2030 this hyper-connected, tech savvy generation will make up 75 percent of the workforce.

As workforces become increasingly diverse, the practice of simultaneously engaging and retaining older and younger generations becomes increasingly difficult.

Here are some ways to address these challenges:

Flexible benefits strategies
One of the most important benefits-related truths is that one size does not fit all, and benefits managers must consider workforce demographics when putting together a reward package. For instance, older workers may value health care insurance and extended benefits more than younger employees. So it would make sense to offer a health plan with several coverage levels.

There are benefits that appeal to the entire workforce such as flexible working options. These types of arrangements are great for young parents as well as an older worker who is caring for an elderly parent or spouse. Workplace wellness programs are also gaining popularity among all types of employees. These programs offer access to wellness experts, on-site health screenings, even, in some cases, wellness-related spending accounts that give staff cash to spend on activities that enrich their health. (Think tennis lessons or acupuncture.)

Comprehensive benefits plans that package flexible working options, wellness programs, investment and personal counseling, and other universally valued benefits send the message that the business appreciates and invests in all its employees.

Personalize communication
HR often faces the challenge of ensuring that their employees understand the benefits available to them in order to truly value the benefits package offered. That’s when strong employee communication becomes key. But not every employee – or every generation – communicates in the same way.

It’s important for HR to consider a variety of communication channels and styles to reach staff — whether its email, face-to-face in department meetings, text messages or online video guides.

New benefits management technologies allow HR to personalize employee communications messages by demographics or other employee data. These technologies can identify employee status updates such as address changes, new job titles, or family changes. They can then automatically generate personalized messages to offer congratulations, alert employees to required actions, and aid in benefits selection.

A well thought out multichannel communications strategy will help all types of employees recognize the investment that the company makes in its reward spending.

Intuitive, user-friendly technology
Benefits enrollment, and HR processes in general, often involve fragmented paper form completion and complex software that is anything but intuitive. However, using the right type of technology to streamline the benefits process can reduce the employee enrollment time from hours to minutes. And that is something every employee can get behind!

While the younger generation is by and large tech savvy, older employees may be less familiar using online self-service platforms. Therefore, it’s important to look for HR technology software that focuses on the user experience through seamless and easy-to-use portals, interfaces and processes.

For example, using cloud-based benefits management solutions, which are easily integrated into existing enterprise software systems, allow users to move between self-service applications seamlessly – without the disorientation using multiple software solutions that look and feel different.

Ensuring HR technology is user-friendly for every employee empowers staff to take ownership of processes and increases engagement, and reengagement, in benefits.

Conclusion: A focus on adapting HR strategies for multiple generations of employees, including easy-to-use technology, and tailored benefits and employee communication, can help increase benefits take-up and improve retention rates. Most importantly, all employees will feel valued. Taking action now will help businesses prepare for the increasingly diverse workforce of tomorrow.