Goodbye group benefits. Hello personalized pay

Do you offer a uniform benefits package to your employees? With five generations in the workplace now, off-the-shelf benefit options are presenting employers with a challenge. Read this blog post to learn more.

In the past, it was typical for a company to provide all employees with access to the same group benefits — regardless of their age, demographics or education level. From health insurance to retirement plans and paid time off, these uniform benefit packages were designed to meet the needs of the entire workforce in one fell swoop.

But over the past few years, these off-the-shelf benefit options have presented a bit of a challenge. With five generations now in the workplace — Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the silent generation — there are diverse expectations about pay and benefit packages.

For example, baby boomers and the silent generation tend to value health insurance and a robust retirement plan. Meanwhile, Gen X workers seek a healthy work-life balance, advancement opportunities and a competitive 401(k) — or a retirement savings plan that lets you set aside and invest money from your paycheck, to which your employer can then contribute. Millennials and Gen Z prioritize flexibility — they want more paid time off, the ability to work when and where they wish and tuition reimbursement.

There is no one-size-fits-all compensation package that can fairly satisfy each generation of workers. Employees today want to feel heard, understood and cared for by their employer. Furthermore, most want a job that fits with their personal interests and lifestyle.

As a result, companies are moving away from traditional group benefits and taking a more personalized approach to compensation.

Many organizations are using social listening tools, focus groups and surveys to gather information about the types of benefits employees want. Others are taking it a step further and having one-on-one conversations to determine what motivates each individual worker and provides them with a sense of purpose at work. How else will we know what, specifically, each employee wants unless we ask them?

By collecting this information, organizations can tailor packages that effectively meet the varying wants and needs of the diverse workforce. They’re offering mixes of pay, bonuses, flex time, paid time off, retirement plans, student loan repayment assistance and professional growth opportunities. Some companies have designed an a la carte menu of benefits, with which employees can pick and choose the perks they care most about.

According to a recent survey conducted by WorldatWork and KornFerry, organizations also are offering more non-traditional benefits that can further acknowledge employees’ concerns and responsibilities outside of work. Eldercare resource and referral services, women advancement initiatives and disaster relief funds all became significantly more prevalent in employee benefits programs within the last year. Telemedicine, identity theft insurance and paid parental leave offerings increased as well.

And many organizations are taking innovation one step further. One firm recently introduced a new benefits reward program in which employees earn points based on both personal and company-wide achievements and then cash them in for perks across various categories: health and wellness, travel, housing, transportation, time off, annual grocery passes — you name it. The purpose is to give employees the power to choose the types of perks that mean the post to them.

Personalized pay can boost attraction and retention

The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the war for talent is extremely tough. The average tenure for workers is 4.6 years. For millennials, it’s half that.

This sort of high employee turnover can take a massive toll on a company’s bottom line: Experts estimate that it can cost up to twice an employee’s salary to recruit and train a replacement. Not to mention, employee churn can damage company morale and tarnish your company’s reputation.

Customized pay and benefits plans can make an employer be more attractive in a tight, crowded job market. If you want to not only attract top talent but retain them as well, it’s worth taking the time to understand what matters to your candidates and offering them personalized pay and reward packages.

Organizations need to introduce more flexibility into their pay packages and adapt to the needs of the changing workforce. After all, when you invest in your employees, you invest in the overall success and performance of your business.

SOURCE: Wesselkamper, B. (11 February 2019) "Goodbye group benefits. Hello personalized pay" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from

Study Shows Impact of Generational Differences in the Workforce

Originally posted by Jennifer Busick on April 3, 2015 on

“This is the most comprehensive quantitative study performed on generations in the workforce,” says Warren Wright, vice president of LifeCourse Associates. Wright adds, “We now know what engages different generations.”

The study included Millennials (age 30 and under), Generation X (ages 31 to 51), and Boomers (ages 52 to 69) who are employed full-time. The survey was conducted through a nationally representative online panel of 1,250 respondents, and was tested again on 4,986 insurance industry employees 2 months later.

Key Findings

  • Generations matter. Nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed, not only that there are important generational differences but also that they “sometimes” or “often” pose challenges in the workplace.
  • Millennials crave mentorship. Nearly a third of Millennials “strongly” agreed that they want to work for an organization that provides an excellent mentoring program, far more than any other generation. Millennials also experience the largest gap between what they have and what they want when it comes to mentoring.
  • Millennials want a social workplace. An overwhelming 68 percent of Millennials agreed that they like to socialize informally and make new friends while at work, about 10 points higher than any other generation.
  • Millennials want to contribute. Nearly two-thirds of Millennials agreed that they like their employer “to contribute to social and ethical causes” that they think are important, vs. barely half of Boomers and older Gen Xers.
  • Millennials and Xers want cutting-edge technology. High shares of both Millennials and Gen Xers “strongly agree” that they “like to work with state-of-the-art technology,” while Boomers rate this as significantly less important. Millennials rate their employers’ performance in this area the lowest.
  • Boomers are mission-focused. Fully 56 percent of older Boomers and 50 percent of younger Boomers “strongly agree” that they want to be “100 percent dedicated to my organization’s mission.” That number declines sharply for older Gen Xers and continues to decline through Millennials, in a remarkable 19-point generational spread.

The report is part of LifeCourse’s new Generational Workforce Audit, a customized research tool to diagnose how generational engagement affects an organization’s bottom line. For more information, visit

Why It Matters

  • Every generation in your workforce needs to be trained to work safely.
  • Since the generations grew up in different eras, you must use a variety of different training methods to reach every generation effectively.
  • Make full use of a blended learning approach to ensure that employees of all ages can learn to work safely.

How baby boomers stay resilient

Originally posted June 30, 2014 by Emily Holbrook on

As the youngest group of baby boomers approaches 50, a new study shows how the generation stays resilient in the face of challenges. The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab Resilience in Midlife study found that:

  • The most resilient adults have a strong sense of self-efficacy or the belief that they are able to manage through difficult transitions.
  • Participating in entertainment activities and hobbies is the most common way that all adults in the study cope with stress. However, the most resilient adults are more likely to participate in physical activity than less resilient adults (70 percent versus 42 percent).
  • Social connections and support are also common among the most resilient people. Sixty percent of the most resilient adults talk to or spend time with friends as a way to cope with stress, compared with 35 percent of the less resilient individuals.
  • Ninety-four percent of the most resilient people reported that they are very or somewhat happy, compared with only 32 percent of the less resilient people in the survey.
  • Thirty-four percent of the most resilient people reported that they are not stressed at all, compared with 6 percent of the less resilient people in the survey.
  • Adults in their 60s reported higher levels of resilience, compared with people in their 40s and 50s.

For boomers, the most stressful aspects of their lives revolve around personal finances, according to the study. This type of stress can be relieved, at least in part, by following the advice and guidance of a professional financial advisor. Other ways to boost resilience in boomers include:

  • Physical: Be active. Adults in our study who were more resilient reported higher levels of physical activity. Walking was listed as the top activity that resilient people participate in to help cope with stress. Whether it’s taking a walk, exercising, doing yoga or playing sports, being active is associated with resilience.
  • Social: Stay connected to your friends and family. The most resilient adults in our study reported higher rates of spending time or talking with friends and family. Are there friends and family you are close to and have important conversations with? Keep those connections strong. Whether it’s talking on the phone, meeting for a meal, or just hanging-out, talk to the people in your network you rely on and who support you.

Personal: Develop the inner qualities that build resilience. Resilience is comprised of 5 key elements: family and social networks, perseverance, coping, focus of control (belief in your ability to control the situation) and self-efficacy (a belief that you are able to manage through difficult situations). In our research, we found that the most resilient adults reported a high level of self-efficacy. They are confident that they can deal with the stressors they face in the midst of life events.

Workforce aging as boomers stay on the job

Originally posted April 16, 2014 on by Dan Cook.

There's certainly no shortage of advice on managing millennials in the workforce. But when it comes to sheer numbers, baby boomers remain the dominant generation, thanks in large part to that generation's working women.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute has further quantified boomers’ role in the workforce by crunching data found in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. EBRI's report, “Labor-force Participation Rates of the Population Ages 55 and Older, 2013,” reveals that more than 40 percent of today’s workers are age 55 or older. Additionally, participation has been increasing among the oldest age groups — those 60-64 and 65 and older.

The study found that the participation by those 55 and older steadily fell from 1975 to 1993, bottoming out at 29.4 percent. Then, the trend reversed. The current peak participation by this age group occurred in 2012, when 40.5 percent of all workers were 55 or older. That percent dropped to 40.3 percent last year.

Working older women account for much of the trend.

”The increase in labor-force participation for the age groups below age 65 was primarily driven by the increases in female labor-force participation rates, as the male labor-force participation rates of those ages 55–59 and 60–64 were lower in 2013 than they were in 1975,” the study said. “In contrast, female labor-force participation rates for those ages 55–59 and 60–64 increased sharply from 1975–2013, despite some leveling off in 2010–2013.”

EBRI said women ages 55 to 64 comprised 47.9 percent of that age group in 1975. By 2013, they made up 67.2 percent of workers in the category. Other older worker subgroups showed the same trend, with the number of women increasing vs. men.

When viewed strictly by age rather than gender, the participation of younger workers declined between 1997 and 2012 as that of their elders increased.

“In 1997, workers ages 25–54 accounted for 83.9 percent of all workers ages 25 or older, while those ages 55-64 accounted for 12 percent, and those ages 65 or older, 4.1 percent. By 2012, those ages 55-64 represented 19.2 percent, and those 65 or older 7 percent, while the percentage of workers 25 or older represented by those ages 25-54 had fallen to 73.8 percent,” EBRI reported.

“The upward trend in labor-force participation by older workers is likely related to workers’ current need for continued access to employment-based health insurance and for more years of earnings to accumulate savings in defined contribution (401(k)-type) plans and/or to pay down debt,” said Craig Copeland, senior research associate at EBRI and author of the report. “Many Americans also want to work longer, especially those with more education for whom more meaningful jobs are available that can be performed into older ages.”

There may be a downside to this trend, Copeland noted.

“The data raise a basic question: Are older workers filling the void or displacing opportunities for younger workers?” Copeland said. “The fact is, older workers are more plentiful in the labor force today, whether a result of financial circumstances related to the lack of sufficient or adequate accumulation of resources for retirement or because of the desire to continue to remain actively engaged and productive.”

Biggest boomer retirement regrets

Originally posted by Lisa Barron on

The last of the baby boomer generation will be turning 50 this year, and it's time for them to get a fix on how they are going to prepare for retirement.

Fortunately, there are valuable lessons, financial and otherwise, to be learned from those who have already reached their later years.

On the financial front, there is of course room for many regrets.  "Generally, the failure to have a plan is number one," Pete Lang, president of Lang Capital in Hilton Head and Charlotte, N.C., told BenefitsPro.

"I find people five years into retirement with no plan whatsoever."

Lang said that includes a tax plan, an income plan and an investment plan.  Otherwise, he cautioned, "All your money is slipping through your fingers."

He left out an estate plan, Lang said, because while it may be needed for a financial blueprint it is not needed to retire, as are the other three.

On taxes, according to Lang, the biggest regret is the failure to use a tax-forward plan, such as deferring Social Security. "If you don't take it at 65 or 66, you can defer it and that will minimize taxes."

Other tax regrets include withdrawing money from tax-deferred IRAs too early, and not spreading Roth IRA conversions over a period of time.

As for income, Lang goes back to Social Security deferrals. "Everybody thinks the government will go out of business. That's not the case. The checks will always continue," he said.

"If the government gets into trouble with inflation, that's another issue. But the checks will be there, and deferral is a great way to guarantee enhanced income stream."

Finally, turning to investment, Lang said the big regret is the failure to hedge against inflation. "The inflation rate over the last 15 years has averaged 2.5 percent. And when you look at portfolios, they are also taxable. You have to use a tax co-efficient.  I use 3.4 percent. So, if you're not growing at that rate you are not hedging money against inflation. If that's the case, you're losing buying power," he explained.

Given the risk inherent in equities and the current low yields on Treasuries, Lang said, "Use the standard rule to diversify a portfolio to create an income stream from safer allocations short term and in the long term from a more aggressive plan."

Clarence Kehoe, executive partner in accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin, told BenefitsPro he sees regrets over some very basic mistakes made during the peak earning years.

"From my experience, a lot of people when they get to retirement age look back and say 'why didn't I' or 'I wish I had,'" he said.

The two biggest killers are a lack of savings and a lack of understanding of how much will be needed in retirement, according to Kehoe.

"If you look at it realistically, many see a rise in income as they mature in their career, and when they see salaries go up, instead of saying now I have a chance to save, they are spending it. A lot of people don't pay attention, and don't say I have excess cash and I should save it," he said.

Going hand in hand with this is the problem of excessive borrowing. "Consumer debt has gone but the affluent person who wants a bigger house will have taken a mortgage or taken a second mortgage to take a vacation. Excess leveraging can squash the ability to save for retirement," Kehoe said.

Among other regrets sees is retiring too early. "There are people who have taken themselves out of the work force, some even in their mid- 50s, but they are robbing themselves of extra years of savings."

"A lot of people don't realize life expectancy is longer than they think, which means they need more money," he added.

Finally, Kehoe stresses the need to plan for age-related expenses. "People look at themselves unrealistically. They are not thinking about some of the extremes in older age. But even if you keep yourself in great shape your body wears down," he said.

That means more regular doctor visits, not all of which will be covered by the government or insurance, Kehoe warned.

Not all of the retirement-related regrets pertain strictly to finances, notes Daniel Kraus, an advisor and branch manager with Raymond James & Associates in Boca Raton, Fla.

One of the biggest one he sees among clients is the lack of a plan for what to do with their time. "A recent client commented, 'I'm bored. I don't know what to do with myself,'" Kraus told Benefitspro.

"After working for 50 years, he retired at 73 and said he wasn't prepared for the lack of activity. So there's a psychological impact of going into retirement that is dreadfully overlooked," he said.

Another area that can be overlooked has to do with way of life. "We do experience clients unwilling to change their lifestyle or unable to make that change," he said.

"I've got a client who's 84 and is burning down her money because she won't change her lifestyle. So that's an investment and psychology issue."

Another client can't make the tough decisions she needs to. "In her case, she knows she has to sell her real estate but she can't bring herself to price it at a price where it will sell," he explained.

"Retirement is all about making choices and compromise."

The person who isn't willing to change their lifestyle and runs out of money has regrets, said Kraus, as does the person who retired too early and finds the market is down and the person who pulled all of their money out of the market in 2008 and 2009 and put it in the bank.

His final cautionary tale: Regret is having long-term care expenses and not having planned for it.

Pointing to statistics showing that two-thirds of those over age 65 will incur long-term care costs, Kraus said, "There's nothing certain in life but death, taxes and long-term care."


Baby boomers, Gen Xers view retirement through rose-colored glasses

By Margarida Correia


The majority of baby boomers and Gen Xers appear to be looking at their retirement years through rose-colored glasses. More than three in four feel confident they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, even though nearly 40% of baby boomers and about two-thirds of Gen Xers have less than $100,000 in retirement savings. Moreover, a worrisome percentage —21.7% of baby boomers and 27.8% of Gen Xers — has no retirement savings at all. The grim statistics are the highlights of a report released by the Insured Retirement Institute.

In addition to insufficient savings, significant portions of baby boomers and Gen Xers lack investment knowledge and have not taken important retirement planning steps such as calculating a retirement savings goal, the report found. Slightly more than half (51.4%) of baby boomers and less than half (40.7%) of Generation Xers have tried to calculate how much savings they will need for a comfortable retirement.

It wasn't all bad news. Baby boomers and Gen Xers who work with financial advisers, calculate their retirement savings needs and own annuities report having greater levels of retirement confidence, the study found. For example, among baby boomers who consulted a financial adviser, 42.8% reported feeling extremely or very confident about their retirement readiness compared with 32.3% who did not consult an adviser.  Gen Xers also registered similar gains in retirement confidence from working with financial advisers.

The report was drawn from two surveys conducted by Woelfel Research, Inc., on behalf of IRI. One survey polled 503 Americans, ages 50 to 66, in February and March 2012.  The other polled 802 Americans, ages 30 to 49, in November 10 - 22, 2011.

Failing to See

By Marli D. Riggs

Baby boomers are not taking advantage of available eye care benefits, leading to lost productivity

Despite employees reporting a strong interest in their company vision program, today's workforce isn't taking full advantage of the coverage — especially baby boomers.

Baby boomers (age 45-64) are only slightly more likely than younger employees to enroll in their vision benefit (79% vs. 75%), according to Transitions Optical's Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey.

"1-out-of-4 employees that have an opportunity to enroll in the program do not," says Pat Huot, director of managed vision care and online retail for Transitions Optical.

"Of those that do enroll, 1-out-of-3 employees in the baby-boomer age range and 1-out-of-4 in the 65-plus range have not used their vision plan at all in the last year."

Huot believes the industry is trying to make it easier for employers to help employees become connected with the importance of the annual exam and all of the other touch points associated with it, "but if employees don't use the benefit, there's no opportunity there for them to realize that benefit."


The consequences

Studies by The Vision Council, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit optical trade group, show about $8 billion is lost by employers every year due to lost productivity that stems from employee vision issues.

"This is mainly because employees' eyes are either not in focus or they have debilitating eye conditions that aren't managed well, so they just aren't as productive as they could be," says Dr. John Lahr, the medical director at Cincinnati-based EyeMed Vision Care.

Dr. Lahr, who has been in the field for nearly four decades, talks about the need for correction, which becomes more prevalent as employees age. The crystal lens of the eye where cataracts form, he says, is very elastic and loses that elasticity as people age.

"Usually, those between 40 and 45 cannot focus optimally for close vision and require reading glasses, or if they already have glasses they might need a multi-focal application to be able to read," he says.

"This factor really hits the worker that's in their 40's, 50's and 60's and is looking at a computer screen daily," adds Dr. Lahr. "If you measure that distance in which they are viewing it's usually 22 to 24 inches, where the normal reading distance is 16 to 18 inches."

He adds that the focus of glasses or contacts for everyday use is not optimal for the computer screen.

"In turn, employees lose a lot of productivity because they get eye strain, headaches, and they're also leaning forward in unnatural positions."

"In 2006, the very first baby boomer turned 60," says Transitions Optical's Huot. "As a snapshot of where we are as a country in terms of an aging workforce, it amazes me that every 10 seconds from that point in 2006 until 2023 someone in the U.S. will turn 60."

At age 40 employees should start protecting their eyes against serious diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration - neither of which has symptoms in the early stages, says Dr. Lahr.

He adds that these diseases are much more prevalent in blacks and Hispanics.

"We find there are profiles where we can draw to try to assess risks and try to be more cautious with those individuals."


The obstacles

According to the Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey, not having vision or eye health problems is the most commonly cited reason for not enrolling in a vision plan. This shows a lack of understanding of the importance of preventative eye care, says Transitions Optical's Huot.

He and his team encourage brokers to motivate their clients by giving them an interactive set of tools.

For example, his company's Healthy Sight Calculator helps clients educate their employees, calculate costs and learn about potential ROI with their vision plan.

"High profile tools, such as an online calculator, are designed to help the employees become more engaged around how a vision benefit connects to total health care versus" mentioning it as an afterthought in a larger presentation about health benefits, he says.

"We have yet to meet that broker that says, 'My clients can't wait to talk about vision!,'" adds Huot with a laugh.

EyeMed Vision Care tries to create an awareness of routine eye care and the associated benefits by providing an identification card that plan participants can put in their wallet to serve as a reminder during the year, says Dr. Lahr.


A personal experience

A decade ago Patrick Tibbs of Everence Financial Advisors in Indiana began to experience pressure in his eyes. He went in for a routine eye exam where the ophthalmologist determined his symptoms could be a cause of glaucoma.

Tibbs now goes once a year to have his eyes checked and glasses dispensed. He says by taking preventative steps for his own vision he feels a personal satisfaction knowing that employees are doing the same.

Vision care benefits are "near and dear to my heart," he says.

Vision benefits play a key part in motivating employees to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam.

EyeMed Vision Care's Dr. Lahr has seen in studies that those who have vision care coverage are more likely to get preventive eye exams even if they don't have symptoms.

"Our average utilization of a voluntary benefit where an employee defers money out of their paycheck we see about 35%," he says.

One factor keeping that utilization rate from rising is a misguided assumption that "if I see well [then] there's nothing wrong with my eyes."

Tibbs says baby boomers who are paying higher premiums for health insurance at the same time they're seeing their 401(k) values drop, yet still having to cover dependents with out-of-pocket costs, could be avoiding routine eye care "because they can't afford to pay $75 to $100 for an eye exam, then pay $300 for a pair of glasses."

Vision care is the summer

In the summer months employees' calendars are filled with vacations, parties and other outdoor festivities. Protecting eyes from ultraviolet rays is a must - but that is not the only one to be careful of, says Dr. John Lahr, medical director at Cincinnati-based EyeMed Vision Care.

In ophthalmology there is a new acronym to account for as a contributor to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration: high-energy visible light.

"This is the blue spectrum which we would see longer wavelength that is closer to the UV spectrum," says Dr. Lahr. "It has been studied through longitudinal studies which measured people's development of the two key eye diseases," cataracts and macular degeneration. "Since both of these eye diseases are much more prevalent in individuals that have high exposures to UV light, now they're starting to break down where they are when they're exposed," he adds.

As employees age, they have a heightened risk for cataracts that can impair performance at work," says Indiana broker Patrick Tibbs. "Out of 20 million people with cataracts it's estimated that 20% of those are caused by ultraviolet rays. Having proper eye wear is important and it will help with productivity." -Marli D. Riggs