What a difference a millennium makes. Just when you thought you had your staff figured out, a new group of smartphone toting, Instagram posting, Vine videoing employees have arrived in force. They’re millennials, and they’re here to upset all of your conceived notions about connecting with employees.

Blame the Internet. Blame always-on cable television. Blame 1982, the year many sociologists point to as the beginning of the millennial period. This 20-year span of births has developed into a generation of teens and young adults full of confidence, tending toward tolerance, idealistic, but conflicted with a sense of entitlement. Their restaurants are farm-to-table, their coffee is fair-trade, they write their resumes in Google Docs, and they’ll send 100 texts before ever dialing a number on their iPhone.

Companies across America are asking this same question about their workforce, scrambling to discover the secret formula for engaging this slippery generation. Benefit advisers have a unique opportunity to swoop in and guide their clients toward better engagement, utilizing what they know best — employee perks and benefits.

Voluntary benefits and employee perks intrinsically bring value to an employer. According to MetLife’s 12th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 50% of employees cite benefits as an important reason they remain with their current employer, up from 43% the year before. And this appears to hold true for millennials of whom 86% state they especially value having benefits personalized to meet their individual circumstances and age.

Yet, of any age group, millennials are the least likely to adopt voluntary benefits. And 54% claim they need more help understanding how their benefits work, and how those benefits can help meet their needs.

These facts place benefit advisers in a unique position to help companies reach this younger generation of workers. But first, before you start your approach to the millennials, make sure that the perks and benefits you represent are relevant and reflect the core values of this savvy generation.

Awareness and communication

Millennials soak up information faster than a trending Twitter hashtag and they’re primed to self-educate on topics that are important to them. However, the world of voluntary benefits is often mired in marketing gimmicks, confusing legal jargon and evasive pricing tactics. An adviser who takes on the role of teacher, rather than sales agent, can help employees sift through the clutter and make wise decisions that benefit their future.

In addition to finding transparent benefit options, it’s equally challenging to capture the attention of this tech-savvy, fast-paced, mobile generation. But advisers can cut through the noise and reach this busy generation by following three basic communication tactics:

1)      focus on the benefit

2)      eliminate barriers to entry

3)      emphasize education over selling

The mantra of the millennials has become, “What’s in it for me?” While admittedly mired in entitlement, it shows that these young adults are obsessively protective of their ability to achieve their dreams. Advisers who cut to the chase and demonstrate how specific voluntary benefits can help millennials reach, or protect their goals, are taking the first step in gaining the listening ear of these young professionals.

Benefit communication needs to meet young employees where they already are, online, and in a mobile-accessible format. Mobile is not simply a nice feature to have; it’s a prerequisite for the millennial generation. If your benefit offerings aren’t mobile accessible, then you’re already at a strategic disadvantage. Once mobile is in place, traditional communication methods can thrive — email, the corporate Intranet video, and online enrollment pages.

Once you've refined your offerings to suit the expectations of millennials, it's the benefit advisers who approach millennials with the heart of a teacher who stand the greatest chance of being heard. Younger employees are more calloused to marketing campaigns than any other generation, but they thrive on their capacity to learn. By providing balanced options for the needs of young professionals, advisers stand the best chance of engaging this generation by equipping them with options to self-educate, giving them the freedom to responsibly make their own decisions.

Engaging the millennial generation with employee benefits may not be as foreign as you might expect. While the desire for transparent, simple and authentic communication is common to all generations, it’s become an expectation of younger employees.

First, make sure the perks and benefits you represent have the power to connect with the millennial employee, scrubbing out offerings with tricky marketing tactics and unwarranted layers of complexity. Once this is in place, you have everything you need to truly build authentic, transparent and meaningful relationships with your clients and employees of all generations.

Burns is Chief Marketing Officer at Abenity, Inc., an employee perk program provider.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access