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How Multigenerational Workforces Impact the Way Employers Approach Healthcare

October 16, 2019

Providing the right mix of employee benefits is always a tough needle to thread, but with a workforce that spans several generations employers face an even greater challenge in balancing out the needs and wants of workers in different stages of their lives.

With the oldest members of Generation Z — those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s — starting to enter the workforce, employers’ offices potentially can be filled with up to five generations, all with their own expectations, needs, desires and resources.

Talking About My Generation

It is vital for employers to understand generational differences among employees when it comes to health wants and needs.

·        Generation Z: The oldest of Gen Z were born in the mid to late 1990s and are among the youngest cohort in most workplaces. While generally healthy due to their youth, members of Gen Z tend to be more prone to anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Also, like Millennials, many graduate school saddled with heavy student loan debt, which can be a major driver in choosing a health plan.

·        Millennials: Ranging in age from mid 20s to late 30s, Millennials tend to be more stressed than other groups thanks to student loan debt and high living expenses. This cohort is more likely to pick plans with lower premiums in exchange for a higher cost shares.

·        Generation X: As they push into their 50s and looking to save for retirement and putting children through college, Gen X lean toward basic health plans as salary comes first. Wellness plays a role, however, as this group is more susceptible to chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other costly conditions. 

·        Baby Boomers: A little better off, Baby Boomers’ savings were impacted by the recession too, yet they’re willing to invest in a quality plan with higher premiums and Health Savings Accounts. Wellness programs are viewed as ways to manage chronic conditions.

·        75+: This group is working either because they have to or because they want to stay active. With vulnerable health, they want high-quality plans with critical illness offerings and major medical coverage. For these individuals, wellness is about managing conditions.

More Choice, More Education

The wide swath of needs and generational differences among employees means it is vital for companies to ensure their benefits offerings are as diverse as possible. One great tool to offer a variety of options is a private exchange. They often provide around a dozen or so options that allow workers to build a healthcare benefits package that best meets their needs.

In tandem with an expanded menu of choices comes the need for additional education to better inform employees on all their new options. Still, such educational initiatives should go beyond a simple comparison explaining basic differences among each health plan and include advice on how workers can save on out-of-pocket expenses such as using a Health Savings Account or filling prescriptions at big-box retailers rather than traditional pharmacies.

Employers have their work cut out for themselves. Studies have found employees don’t spend much beyond 15 to 30 minutes deciding on a health plan despite the significant impact such a choice has on their bank accounts and wellbeing.

How to Communicate: Diversified and Targeted

Communication is key to ensuring employee satisfaction with their healthcare benefits. But in a multigenerational workplace, the ways people communicate and want to be communicated with differ.

For instance, with Gen Z and Millennials, technology such as videos, web portals and mobile apps may be the best distribution channels for benefits information, whereas Gen X prefers to research choices before speaking with knowledgeable resources. Meanwhile, it’s all about personal connection and one-to-one outreach for Baby Boomers.

Employers also ought to consider looking beyond employees when communicating about healthcare benefits. For many employees, their spouses or partners at home handle more of the family’s needs including healthcare. Employers should look at what they can do to deliver pertinent information to these decision makers.

Finally, communication should be more frequent. It’s a conversation that ought to happen throughout the year rather than just during the few days or weeks of open enrollment. Surveys show that satisfaction, awareness, engagement and stewardship among employees skyrocket when they feel empowered and in the know.

Changing Landscape

The healthcare landscape keeps changing, continually challenging employers to go beyond the basics of one health plan for everyone. With more options than ever — and a workforce that is more diverse than ever —employers’ roles have evolved to educate, empower and guide more than ever before.

Learn more about our employee benefits solutions.