Younger generations driving lifestyle benefits
Younger generations are often characterized as entitled and demanding — but that self-confidence in their work is pushing companies to adopt benefits outside the traditional healthcare and retirement packages.
By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the U.S. workforce, according to a study by Forbes. The first wave of Generation Z — millennials’ younger siblings — graduated college and entered the workforce last year. With these younger generations flooding the workplace, benefit advisers need to steer clients toward innovative benefits to attract and retain talent, according to panelists during a lifestyle benefits discussion at Workplace Benefits Renaissance, a broker convention hosted by Employee Benefit Adviser.
“Millennials came into the workforce with a level of entitlement — which is actually a good thing,” said Lindsay Ryan Bailey, founder and CEO of Fitpros, during the panel discussion. “They’re bringing their outside life into the workplace because they value being a well-rounded person.”
Catering benefits to younger generations doesn’t necessarily exclude the older ones, the panelists said, in a discussion led by Employee Benefit Adviser Associate Editor Caroline Hroncich. Older generations are accustomed to receiving traditional benefits, but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate new ones introduced by younger generations.
“Baby boomers put their heads down and get stuff done without asking for more — that’s just how they’ve always done things,” Bailey said. “But they see what millennials are getting and are demanding the same.”
In a job market where there are more vacant positions than available talent to fill them, the panelists said it’s important now, more than ever, to advise clients to pursue lifestyle benefits. While a comprehensive medical and retirement package is attractive, benefits that help employees live a more balanced life will attract and retain the best employees, the panelists said.
“Once you’ve taken care of their basic needs, have clients look at [lifestyle benefits],” said Dave Freedman, general manager of group plans at LegalZoom. “These benefits demonstrate to workers that the employer has their back.”
The most attractive lifestyle benefits are wellness centered, the panelists said. Wellness benefits include everything from gym memberships, maternity and paternity leave, flexible hours and experiences like acupuncture and facials. But no matter which program employers decide to offer, if it’s not easily accessible, employees won’t use it, the panel said.
“Traditional gym memberships can be a nightmare with all the paperwork,” said Paul O’Reilly-Hyland, CEO and founder of Zeamo, a digital company connecting users with gym memberships. “[Younger employees] want easy access and choices — they don’t want to be locked into contracts.
Freedman said brokers should suggest clients offer benefits catered to people based on life stages. He says there are four distinct stages: Starting out, planting roots, career growth and retirement. Providing benefits that help entry level employees pay down student debt, buy their first car or rent their first apartment will give companies access to the best new talent.
To retain older employees, Freedman suggests offering programs to help employees buy their first house, in addition to offering time off to bond with their child when they start having families. The career growth phase is when most divorces happen and kids start going to college, Freedman said. Offering legal and financial planning services can help reduce employee burdens in these situations. And, of course, offering a comprehensive retirement plan is a great incentive for employees to stay with a company, Freedman said.
Clients may balk at the additional costs of implementing lifestyle benefits, but they help safeguard against low employee morale and job turnover. Replacing existing employees can cost companies significant amounts of money, the panelists said.
“Offering these benefits is a soft dollar investment,” Freedman said. “Studies show it helps companies save money, but employers have to be in the mind-set that this is the right thing to do.”