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Health on Demand

Smart personalization: Providing employee benefits for every generation

Learn how to understand your employees' needs, flip the pyramid, and take a step-by-step approach to introducing benefits. Create an inclusive employee benefits program that will improve the health and well-being of your entire workforce.

Young millennial with pink hair at boardroom table discussion with older generations

Today’s workforce is becoming increasingly age-diverse, with four generations now working side by side: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers. As a result, employers face a new challenge: designing employee benefits that appeal to all generations.

Our latest research found that many organizations are currently missing the mark. Health on Demand data shows that just 59% of employees believe their employer benefits package meets their needs — leaving a substantial 41% who feel their benefits could be better tailored to their requirements. And it’s not that employers are catering to one age group at the expense of the others — at least one-third of employees in every generation believe their employer could offer benefits more relevant to their personal circumstances.

The message is clear: There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” approach to employee benefits — people’s needs are just too different.

Gen Z needs targeted mental health support

Mental well-being is a significant concern for Gen Z (born between 1996 and 2012). This group has grown up in the shadow of financial crises, climate change, the pressures of social media and a global pandemic. Our Health on Demand data shows that, compared to every other generation, Gen Zers are more stressed, more susceptible to burnout and more likely to have worked while feeling mentally unwell.

This group needs targeted mental health support. Gen Zers are looking for their employers to show an authentic understanding of the pressures and responsibilities employees face both inside and outside work. This generation is looking for employers to address issues affecting their well-being and design jobs and workplaces that mitigate the risks of stress and burnout. In particular, employers must be conscious of the dangers of work pressures, toxic culture, poor leadership, job security and a lack of flexibility in the work schedule or location, which can all contribute to burnout — and make a concerted effort to stay on top of these issues.

The need for urgent support — particularly for mental health issues — is reflected in Gen Z’s most highly valued benefits: “an app to help find medical care when and where they need it, even in the middle of the night” and “targeted services for children, teenagers and parents to assist with mental health, socialization and learning issues faced by youth.”

Millennials and Gen X need more support to help them care for their dependents

Millennials (born 1981–1996) and Gen X (born 1965–1980) form what is sometimes known as the “sandwich generation”: a group of employees who often find themselves caring for children, aging parents — and possibly a sick spouse or partner. Our Health on Demand data reveals that 78% of Millennials and 74% of Gen Xers classify themselves as “caregivers,” compared to just 60% of Gen Zers and 47% of Boomers.

These caring responsibilities can place a substantial financial burden on employees — and it’s no surprise that the growing cost of healthcare is a significant concern for them. For example, more than a quarter (26%) of Gen Xers and almost one in five (19%) of Millennials say they are not confident they can afford the healthcare they and their family may need.

These groups need access to comprehensive healthcare coverage for themselves and — perhaps more importantly — their families.

 

Boomers need more benefits — and more choices

Boomers (born before 1964) are a crucial, though sometimes overlooked, part of the workforce. The combination of aging populations and labor shortages makes this group a vital source of talent and experience. Employers need to do all they can to attract and retain this group, which is becoming increasingly difficult.

What do these employees want?

Like every generation, boomers highly value preventative cancer screenings, with 48% of boomers selecting this as helpful to them and their families. Beyond this, however, their second, third and fourth most-valued benefits involve technology. They may not be “digital natives” like Gen Z, but they recognize the value of digital medicine, such as the use of apps or other online platforms. This group also values free or subsidized food, transportation or housing — practical benefits to help with the cost of living.

48%

Preventative cancer screenings

43%

An app to find medical care when and where I need it, even in the middle of the night

41%

Telemedicine

40%

Apps and devices to self-manage well-being

39%

Free or subsidized food, transportation or housing

Source: MMB Health on Demand 2023

Note: “Interventions” refers to specific reproductive health, digital health, mental health and general benefits queried in the survey. This does not refer to traditional benefits such as life insurance or medical coverage.

Embracing the unique needs of every generation

Given the vast spectrum of priorities in the workforce, benefits programs should be built on a framework that promotes inclusivity and helps every employee thrive at work, regardless of age or personal circumstances. Rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach, employers should recognize and embrace the unique needs of every generation and seek to tailor their offerings to employees at different life stages.

So, how can employers give workers from each generation what they want from their benefits packages?

The answer is to offer a technology-enabled range of benefits that can meet the needs of the four main generational groups. Of course, there is a set of foundational benefits that all employees and their families will value, such as preventative cancer screenings. There is also a set of new, emerging benefits that all employees prize, including apps and devices to self-manage well-being.

However, beyond this, employers can offer smart personalization of benefits: allowing employees to choose the benefits that meet their individual needs. One way of doing this is to give employees access to a “spending account” and the freedom to use it to purchase the benefits they want — allowing them to make the choice most impactful to them personally and specifically. For example, where core benefits are already part of the benefits package, employees could use the money to fund child care or alternative mental health therapies. This modern way of applying benefits funding offers almost limitless freedom — with boundaries set by your company to ensure the company spend goes toward something that aligns with your corporate values — and benefits your employees’ health and well-being.

Smart personalization offers a neat solution: using technology to give employees access to the benefits they value while avoiding administrative overload and controlling costs. Employers can ensure everyone in the workforce has access to the core benefits that all employees value. And beyond this, they can offer people the flexibility to choose their own benefits from a wide range of possible options.

Actions for employers

  • Identify a long-term strategy or set of guiding principles for providing employee benefits underpinned by technology
  • Define a set of “core benefits,” what they mean to your organization and how they can be delivered and tracked through a benefits technology platform
  • Understand employee wants and needs through employee listening and/or personas
  • Use technology to enable sensible flexibility and ensure global consistency in line with your company purpose and values
  • Monitor the landscape for offerings — such as spending accounts and curated marketplaces — that focus on employee needs and give them flexibility while also being easy to manage and administer

Meet the authors

MMB Multinational Commercial Leader, Europe
Mercer Marsh Benefits

Paul Consterdine

MMB Multinational Commercial Leader | Europe

  • United Kingdom

MMB Multinational Client Leader, Asia, Pacific, India, Middle East and Africa
Mercer Marsh Benefits

Mike Khan

MMB Multinational Client Leader | Asia, Pacific, India, Middle East and Africa

  • Singapore

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