Any company of size is likely to employ a workforce that spans generations. And for benefit professionals looking to provide a solid set of health and voluntary insurance offerings, this presents a sizable obstacle as each group has different wants and needs.
However, there are steps employers and their advisers can take that may ease the burden of providing good coverage for a multi-generational workforce.
Amy Christofis, a strategic account executive at ConnectedHealth, a benefit systems provider, offered a number of suggestions for dealing with the challenge during a presentation at last week’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance conference in Atlantic City, N.J. Her recommendations included providing a lot of plan and product options, connecting employee’s health to their financial wellness and making use of benefit technologies.
But she first laid out the generational differences of today’s workforce.
Staff in their early to mid-20s, she said, don’t understand benefits and, “70% can’t define the word ‘deductible.’” They’re burdened by student loans and are struggling with their finances.
Employees in their late 20s to mid-30s are looking for savings options, want to maximize their earnings potential and want to buy insurance that meets their needs. They are more interested in 401(k)s and life insurance than the younger generation. These millennial employees also are struggling with finances, she said, citing ConnectedHealth research that found 53% of millennials poorly prepared when it comes to health and financial security.
Those in the late 30s to mid-40s are searching for retirement vehicles, Christofis said, and are looking for ways to protect their income. They’re also interested in short- and long-term disability.
Workers in their late 40s to late 50s, she said, also are interested in disability, but also other products that will protect their families and income.
Those in the early to mid-60s, she added, “have a laser-focus on retirement.” They want to max out their 401(k)s, are interested in health savings accounts and want to minimize their healthcare exposure.
So how can employers and advisers go about providing today’s diverse workforce with a solid benefit plan?
Christofis presented the following recommendations at the conference and then expanded on the options in an email exchange:
1. Make a wide option of products and plans available to employees.
“The days of a ‘one size fits all’ approach no longer apply,” she said. It’s important to have a variety of product types — medical, dental, critical illness, accident, disability — as well as product variations within those product types, she said. “So instead of offering one $500 deductible medical policy,” she said, “employers should offer a spectrum of plans that employees can choose from.”
Workers have a wide variety of needs, according to Christofis, often broken down by their age but also other factors such as their risk tolerance and health.
2. Help employees connect health to financial wellness.
Health and financial wellness is a concept, she said, that begins with the realization that an individual’s health impacts their overall financial stability. For example, she said, if someone doesn’t have insurance and is involved in a serious accident, it likely will result in significant out-of-pocket medical costs and adversely affect their ability to maintain an emergency cash fund.
“So, health and financial security are intertwined and employers and brokers have an opportunity to help employees understand this and make better decisions by tying these two concepts together,” she said.
Quote“So, health and financial security are intertwined and employers and brokers have an opportunity to help employees understand this and make better decisions by tying these two concepts together."
But to understand the connection, employees first need to be educated on their financial security, she said. How do they rank with their peers? Where are the areas for improvement? Once those questions are answered, she said, recommendations can be made to assist them in achieving a greater level of security. This may include, she said, renters insurance, disability insurance, greater participation in a 401(k) and increasing the amount of emergency cash they have on hand, among other things.
3. Realize decision-support tools and digital enrollment platforms are necessary.
DSSs help employees make better decisions.
But it’s also important to remember that many employees, both young and old, do just about everything online these days.
Additionally, she said, “With the ACA reporting requirements (1094/1095), employers need an online solution for tracking and reporting purposes. These requirements are nearly impossible to complete from a paper enrollment process.”
In addition, she said, “capturing enrollments digitally allows for greater ease of administration and time savings for HR. File feeds are set up to report directly to the carriers without having to fax in paper forms; HR has fewer administrative responsibilities and can focus on more strategic initiatives.”
An online enrollment system allows for direct link outs to provider directories and cost management and transparency tools, among other options, she said.
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