Benefit offerings impacted by millennials

Originally posted by Mike Nesper on August 31, 2015 on

Generation Y surpassed Generation X this year, to become the largest population of employees in the workforce — more than one in three U.S. workers are between the ages of 18 and 34, according the Pew Research Center. And those 53.5 million millennials are influencing the benefits employers are offering.

Millennials want more customization, says Meredith Ryan-Reid, senior vice president of MetLife’s group, voluntary and worksite benefits. Employers feel the same: 54% rated benefits customization as extremely important, according to MetLife’s 13th annual employee benefits trends study.

Millennials like variety, so employers should offer a broad range of benefits, says Joe Ellis, senior vice president of CBIZ Benefits and Insurance Services. The same isn’t true for networks. Millennials aren’t particularly concerned with narrow networks — they go to whoever is included, Ellis says.

That’s a good thing, especially as more employers are reducing network accessibility as a way to cut costs. This year, 11% of employers introduced narrow network plans as a cost containment tactic, a 7% increase from 2014, according to the Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. recent benefits strategy and benchmarking survey. Cost-sharing and changing carriers were the most frequently used strategies for controlling health care costs.

Both methods have a limited shelf life. Only a certain amount can be pushed onto employees, and recent mergers have reduced the list of major U.S. health insurance companies to just three, says Bill Ziebell, executive vice president of Gallagher Benefit Services.

Employers are also using online enrollment, telemedicine and mandatory specialty pharmacy programs to rein in costs — but premiums are still rising. Six in 10 employers reported increases of 4% or more during their most recent renewal, Gallagher found, and 23% of respondents saw double-digit increases.

Many employers are focused on medical renewals and others are hampered by Affordable Care Act regulations, Ziebell says. “It’s hard to be strategic,” he says, and that’s exactly the help advisers need to give their clients. Advisers and their employer clients should take an all-inclusive look at benefits and have a plan for several years into the future, Ziebell says.

Millennials impacted by the recession

The recession had a big impact on millennials, who entered the job market at a tough time, and many aren’t relying on government safety nets being in place later in life, Ryan-Reid says. In fact, nearly one-quarter of Americans expect no Social Security benefits, a survey found.

That has spurred millennials to take a greater interest in employer offerings. “They’re craving information,” Ryan-Reid says. However, some employers aren’t delivering.

Just 38.4% of millennials strongly agree that their company is effectively educating them about their benefits, the MetLife study found. When presented with the statement, “I am confident I made the right decisions at my last annual enrollment,” less than half of millennials, 48.5%, strongly agreed, compared to 54% of Gen X employees and 62% of baby boomers.

Access to information that’s easy to understand increases confidence among all generations, MetLife found. For millennails, they prefer education via their provider’s website, a benefits handbook and in-person meetings. “In general, most people prefer to talk to someone,” Ryan-Reid says.

5 myths about millennials and benefits

Originally posted by Lindsey Pollak on

Millennials (ages 18-31), also known as Gen Y, are 80 million strong, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As this generation climbs into leadership roles, they’ll change many aspects of the workplace, including the benefits landscape.

To help better understand this giant generation of consumers and employees, it’s time to dispel five common myths about who millennials are and what they want.

1.) Millennials all live at home and don’t have financial responsibilities.

True, many millennials are living at home today. Three out of 10 parents (27 percent) have at least one adult child, between the ages of 21 and 40, still living with them at home, according to the National Housing Federation. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have financial responsibilities: Mom and Dad might be asking Junior to chip in on rent or expecting him to pay off his student loans they co-signed.

The Hartford 2013 Benefits for Tomorrow Study found two-thirds of workers today have loved ones relying on their paycheck, with 10 percent of millennials reporting that their parents rely on their salary. That’s all the more reason for millennials to protect their paycheck by signing for disability insurance at work.

For many millennials living at home, one of their primary financial responsibilities is dealing with student loan debt. The average debt for students graduating in 2013 is $35,000, according to Fidelity. If parents are co-signers on those student loans, it’s in their best interest to encourage their kids to sign up for disability and life insurance at work. Disability insurance can help keep an income coming in (and the ability to pay back loans) should the millennial worker become ill or injured off the job, while life insurance can help provide funding to pay off student loan debt.

Help the millennials make the connection between benefits and their very real financial responsibilities.

2.) Millennials want all digital communications all the time.

True, millennials are considered “digital natives.” They’ve grown up with technology their entire lives. While they like digital options, many appreciate help in real life, as well. They appreciate an advisor who can provide advice in whatever way they desire — text, email, instant message, phone call, or an in-person meeting.

Help millennials by providing the benefits advisors that they’re looking for. They want to be able to review their benefits options online but have a real-live person available to answer their specific questions. Help your clients make this connection possible.

3.) Millennials all want to start their own companies like Mark Zuckerberg.

True, many millennials think like entrepreneurs. Many even have side projects, like a blog, in addition to their 9-to-5 jobs. But the vast majority of millennials like to work for companies of all sizes — as long as those companies understand them and their needs.

Help the millennials on your team feel like entrepreneurs, by allowing them to express their individuality and effect change around them. And share this advice with your employer clients, as well.

For example, some companies allow millennials to pursue small projects related to their particular interests or participate in occasional community service projects during work hours.

4.) Millennials don’t want baby boomers’ help or advice.

True, millennials enjoy their independence. But in the workplace they actually appreciate theirbaby boomer co-workers’ experience and knowledge. Don’t forget that the millennials are the children of baby boomers, and many raised their kids in their own image. Millennials tend to like and appreciate their baby boomer bosses and colleagues.

The Hartford 2013 Benefits For Tomorrow Study found that 93 percent of baby boomers believe millennials bring new skills and ideas to the workplace, and 89 percent of millennials agree baby boomers in the workplace are a great source of mentorship.

Help millennials by making connections between the two generations — either at your workplace or among your employer clients. Consider the idea of co-mentoring, in which employees of different generations share knowledge and skills with each other.

When you are having discussions around company policies and decisions, make sure to have representative employees present from all generations in your company. This way there will be someone who can offer each generation’s point of view on the items under discussion.

5.) Millennials aren’t serious about being leaders.

True, millennials are often viewed as “entitled” and carefree. Case in point: the YOLO (you only live once) catchphrase. But many are leaders in all aspects of life. In fact, 15 percent of millennials are already in management positions, and there are many young people who want to move into leadership positions soon.

Help millennial leaders to understand that they need to protect their potential. Show them how insurance benefits can keep them on track to meet their professional and personal goals. For example, if they can’t work because they tore a ligament during a 5K, disability insurancemay help them pay bills — and stay on track to buying a house or traveling around the world.

By helping millennials as both consumers and employees, you can better advise your clients and manage your business today — and into the increasingly millennial-dominated future.

6 Tips to Engage Gen Y Employees

By Dr. Ronald Leopold

Benefits are typically structured to reward and motivate employees who stay at the company for the long haul. For example, retirement rewards and paid time off usually get sweeter as time goes on.  Dangling a long-term benefits carrot makes sense for driving retention right? — Perhaps not when it comes to Gen Y workers.  As companies focus on attracting and keeping a pipeline of Gen Y employees, I maintain that, when it comes to benefits, it is time for a mind-shift from long-term to a short-term value and appeal.

The annual MetLife Employer and Employees benefits survey tells us that Gen Y employees really, truly value their benefits.  This is the generation hardest hit by the recession — experiencing underemployed and unemployed and in debt forever with student loans.  Sixty-six percent of these younger workers say that, because of economic conditions, they are counting on more help from employers through employee benefits.  In addition, they are more satisfied with their benefits than any of their generational co-workers (52% compared with 36% of older boomers.)

For ten years, the MetLife study has shown a strong correlation between employee loyalty and being satisfied with benefits.  However, here’s the kicker.  Despite being super-satisfied with benefits, the study shows that more than half of Gen Y intends to be the first out the door looking for a new job!

This contradiction does not mean that Gen Y workers are a self-centered, disloyal bunch. In fact, they take their careers and their financial futures very seriously. Rather than being grasshoppers in the job market, they are serial resume builders.   To them loyalty is demonstrated by high performance not by how long you stick around.  This is a challenge for employers who are conditioned to investing in employers when they join the company, in hopes of payback measured in decades.

I suggest that employers accept the inevitable and ask themselves what they can do to create a benefits program that delivers what Gen Y workers need and want today and not in some rosy future.

Here are some examples to consider:

1. Flexibility matters. Gen Y values generous time off policies and freedom to work when and where they like.  Work-life balance is more important to Gen Y than any other generation – 50% say it makes them feel loyal to their employer.  This is a powerful retention carrot. If you offer it, they will take it – but will not take advantage.  Don’t send mixed signals about use of this benefit.

2. Gen Y prefers choice and customization when it comes to benefits.  With inelastic benefits budgets the solution for this preference is voluntary benefits.  This generation is used to reaching into their wallet for their benefits, so give them the choices they crave with employee-paid insurance products – from car insurance to pet insurance.

3. Gen Y is serious about their finances and concerned about risk.  Provide liberal life and disability coverages from day one. Offer supplemental buy-ups to ensure adequate coverages.

Financial education in the workplace is highly valued at all levels — from basic financial literacy to sophisticated investment advice.  Turn to carriers to deliver low-cost/no cost programs.

4. Health coverage is a big concern.  Sixty-eight percent of Gen Y survey respondents are concerned about paying health care premiums and out of pocket costs. Help them meet these costs with affordable supplementary health products such as dental and vision coverages. These are popular benefits that you don’t have to be sick to use.

5. Advancement opportunities drive loyalty — more than their employers realize. The MetLife Study shows that 66% of Gen Y cite this as an important loyalty driver, yet only 42% of employers are on board. Don’t make employees have to move out in order to move ahead.

6. Text and Tweet to build engagement – communicate in preferred ways to build a benefits bridge to Gen Y.

Benefits are a powerful draw for attracting Gen Y to a company – 56% of Gen Y report that benefits were an important reason why they chose their current employer. They may not collect a gold watch from you, but you can motivate them to stay as long as possible by providing benefits that clearly help them solve immediate problems and needs.