How many times in the last few months have you thought to yourself, “I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime”?
No, this isn’t a political blog post. Even outside of politics, the times they are a-changin’. If you’re a benefits professional, you need to pay attention to some big, new realities—and, if you haven’t already, you need to integrate them into your employee benefits strategy.
If you hang around LinkedIn, use Twitter, or read business publications like Inc. and Fast Company, you must have seen countless articles about Millennials—how to deal with them, how to attract them, how to communicate with them, even how to cook for them. If you’re a Millennial, you might check out the articles to see if they “get” you (and chuckle when they don’t). If you’re a Boomer or a Gen Xer, you might even entertain some of their tips for getting into Millennials’ good graces. After all, your organization’s leadership keeps talking about this sought-after talent that your organization needs to retain and attract. And a lot of those talented workers were born after 1980.
But there’s more to it than that. We’re approaching the point when Millennials will represent one out of every two workers. And soon, an even newer generation will join Millennials in the workforce as Boomers continue leaving it.
Here’s what’s significant about the generational shift in the workplace: When Boomers and Gen Xers were growing up, their main learning tools were pencils, paper, and books (and not the kind with the “i” in front of them). Many went through school before the internet was even a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye.
Millennials, meanwhile, grew up with the full gamut of technology at their disposal—including the internet, mobile technology, and social media. They’re accustomed to having information at their fingertips—literally—and they have that same expectation about their benefits experience. Unlike the generations that came before them, Millennials are not going to invest their time in reading a 28-page or even an eight-page enrollment guide. They want the information that’s relevant to them, delivered right to them. And since they’re not going to put much effort into looking for information, you don’t have much time to grab their attention.
Consumer technology is raising everyone’s—not just Millennials’—expectations. Across demographic groups, people expect all their experiences, including those that their employers offer, to match the high-quality consumer experiences they’ve become accustomed to.
Shopping, banking, travel, and even dating have incorporated technology in a way that has created savvy, informed consumers and makes transactions easier than they’ve ever been. That’s the good news.
The challenging news for employers is that employees—who are also consumers—now expect to have a similarly high-touch benefits experience. Not only do employees expect to receive just the content that is relevant to them, but they expect to have access to content whenever they need it, on their mobile device.
The takeaway here: Employees aren’t going to pay attention and take the actions you want them to take if they’re forced to muddle through a 90s-era benefits experience that doesn’t make use of the technology they’ve come to depend on.
Benefits haven’t been easy since you entered this profession. And they won’t be getting easier anytime soon. Health care benefits continue to be more and more confusing and more and more costly.
Our last presidential election has produced a lot of uncertainty. Is the ACA staying or going? What’s covered under my deductible? Meanwhile, a lot of new providers and benefit programs have suddenly popped up. Providers now offer well-being programs that are focused on financial security. Niche programs are available to help employees with very specific conditions, such as autism and cancer. These are all fantastic developments. But they don’t necessarily make your job easier.
At the same time, employees—across generations—are struggling to understand and get the most from their benefits. Many employees and their families are also struggling physically and/or financially. Consider that 61% of U.S. workers lack a savings cushion for emergencies. Getting employees engaged in their benefits has never been more important.
What do these new realities mean for employers? Lest they go the way of the dinosaur, employers—especially benefits professionals—must adapt to these changing demographics, higher expectations, and the increasingly complex benefits landscape. The old rules don’t apply and old approaches won’t work. So, what will?
By investing just a fraction of what you pay for benefits in effective benefits communications, you can design an employee experience that addresses diverse employee needs, meets consumer expectations, and simplifies benefits so that your employees can get the most from them.
What’s it worth to your organization to take one simple step that will ultimately make your employees happier, more engaged, and more productive—and help you retain and attract the best talent?
Need help owning your employee experience, or improving the effectiveness of your communications? Let’s talk.
Brandon Moore, SVP Strategic Accounts Director, with more than 15 years of experience in HR communications, leads our large client relationships and strategic partnerships.