How to meet Millennials’ unique benefits needs

Human resource professionals can strengthen employee recruitment and retention by reimagining workplace benefits through the lens of Millennials, according to a new white paper, “Millennials Come of Age,” recently released by Colonial Life. In the white paper, Colonial Life points out that, even though they’re the youngest generation in the workforce, Millennials value benefits as much as other generations, (citing LIMRA’s MarketFacts Quarterly, Number 1, 2016).

More specifically, about 94% of Millennials say having health insurance through the workplace is important or very important, and they rate dental insurance and vision care similarly, at 91% and 89%, respectively. Colonial Life points out that the value Millennials place on these benefits doesn’t change based on whether they pay for it or it’s paid by their employer (“Millennials A New Mindset for Financial Products, LIMRA’s MarketFacts Quarterly, Number 1, 2016).

Start by flipping the lens. The first step in reimaging the 21st century workplace with Millennials at the center may be to alter how benefits are positioned in the first place, says Colonial Life, which recommends that, moving forward, benefits including insurance are best cast as an important piece of overall physical, emotional and financial health.

For example, rather than considering dental insurance as a way to protect themselves against tooth decay and high-priced dentist bills, Millennials may be more willing to consider dental insurance as a way to stay healthy, according to the report. Rather than considering life insurance as a way to prevent their families from being left with burial costs, Millennials may want to consider it a way to ensure their children’s college education is covered if a household income-earner dies.

“Our thinking needs to evolve,” said Stephen Bygott, vice president for marketing at Colonial Life. “For Millennials, being healthy doesn’t just mean not feeling sick. It’s a commitment to an ongoing healthy approach to life, including eating habits, exercise and avoiding activities that can be viewed as damaging.”

Millennials are economically fragile Millennials make up the most-concerned generation about building emergency funds, saving for large purchases, paying off education loans, maintaining a good credit score and following a monthly budget (U.S. Consumers Today: The Generations, LIMRA, 2014). Paradoxically, though, nearly one-third of Millennials report having no savings set aside for emergencies or to cover their expenses if they are forced to miss work. In comparison, just 23 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of Baby Boomers have no savings (Colonial Life, 2014 Benefits Environment: The Employee Perspective).

Colonial Life theorizes that this lack of savings may be driving a delay in marriage, starting a family and home ownership. In 2010, 23 percent of Americans 18-31 were married and living in their own household, down from 43 percent in 1981 and 56 percent in 1968, the white paper says (quoting from “A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home,” Pew Research Center, August 2013).

“These life events are traditionally seen as drivers for insurance purchasing decisions,” Bygott said. “When people get married, have a child or buy a home, they have more to protect or worry about.”

Today’s higher-deductible health plans may be attractive to Millennials because premiums are lower. However, these plans can leave employees vulnerable to considerable financial risk. Products such as disability insurance, critical illness insurance and accident insurance are built to allay those concerns. To make benefits communication efforts for this audience as effective as possible, HR professionals should consider adopting tactics to better communicate to Millennial employees using technology and multiple touchpoints through using a variety of different methods to reach employees at work, at home, and on the road.

Colonial Life also advises giving them someone to talk to, since it can be difficult to communicate complicated benefits information effectively without human interaction. Colonial Life adds that, while Millennials are tech savvy and embrace digital technology and social media, a recent LIMRA survey of life insurance buying preferences showed that Generation X and Generation Y consumers want information and service online, but they also want the option to talk to someone by telephone (LIMRA, “Seeking the Ideal Experience: How Gen Y and X Want to Buy Life Insurance,” 2013). Colonial Life further advises employers to use technology to supplement, not replace, face-to-face, ongoing communication with this group.

SOURCE: Colonial Life press release and white paper, November 21, 2016

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