How to tailor benefits to a multi-generational workforce

Organisations increasingly employ workers from across three or four generations, which means they should be offering tailored benefits packages. James Whelan from Avantus Systems looks at how employers can use data and technology to individualise their benefits.

The support and engagement we expect to receive from our workplace changes drastically as we age and mature, leading to some very different requirements depending on someone's generation.

In particular, the digital revolution has given the millennial generation a very different outlook to their older peers.

With such a wide variation of life experiences and needs to accommodate, it is increasingly important for organisations to provide workplace benefits that fit different groups.

This can be a difficult task without the right tools and planning in place but can lead to greatly improved engagement and motivation if done correctly.

Defining the generations

The first step towards creating a tailored benefits strategy is to divide the workforce into groups.

There are endless options here, but separating workers by the basic age group labels of millennial, generation X and baby boomer is a straightforward place to start.

Millennials (roughly those born in the early 1980s), especially younger ones, are likely to still be relatively carefree and keen to live for the now, and so will often be more motivated by instant returns on their efforts at work.

They will also very probably be strapped for cash if they are just starting out in the world of work, so anything that can help them put money aside is usually welcome.

With this in mind, benefits that offer an immediate benefit tend to work well with this age range. Vouchers for the cinema or football, membership to the local gym and gift cards for retailers are all likely to receive a warm welcome and a high level of engagement.

Age of commitments

The next generation, referred to as Generation X (born mid-70s to early 80s), will generally have more responsibilities and be looking further into the future when it comes to benefits.

A combination of commitments including mortgages, pensions, childcare and healthcare costs will probably be their main concerns.

These needs generally fall more within the traditional employee benefit structure, particularly when it comes to pensions and bonuses.

Flexible working arrangements, for example, will be very well received by employees with children. With time often being in short supply, extra days off work or weekend breaks can also make excellent rewards at a higher level.

Finally, the generation frequently referred to as baby boomers (now in their mid-50s), will most likely be setting their sights on the end of their career and eventual retirement.

Financial insight

A particularly valuable offering for the older age group is financial advice as a salary sacrifice benefit, as this will enable them to get valuable insight on making the best of their pensions and savings to ensure they are well looked after.

Alongside this, providing recognition for their seniority and rewarding them for their years of loyalty at the company will also go a long way as a motivational benefit.

A company is likely to see some moderate success simply by using the groups and benefit suggestions above, but it is important to ensure that the workforce actually fits into the expected requirements.

Businesses need to begin gathering and analysing relevant data from their employees to help inform the decision-making process.

A good relationship with employees will make it much easier to gather data and make accurate decisions on the best benefits to provide.

Surveys can be useful for a broader look, while line managers will be familiar with individual staff and have a better understanding of their lives.

Transparency and insight

This process needs to be well communicated by the HR department and team leaders, and the aims and processes should be made very transparent to the workforce.

Making it clear that data is fully anonymous and secure can help staff to be more honest about their worries and aspirations.

With a close-knit company of 10-20 people it will be fairly easy to work out what everyone would like to see on offer.

With a larger company where there are multiple teams and locations, gathering information will be much more time consuming.

Using a scientific approach to gathering data, coupled with a simple dashboard tool will make it much easier to collect and manage the data needed to inform more tailored benefits strategies.

Machine learning and AI will also help to automate the process and quickly spot trends that would require long and tedious analysis from a human.

For example, after collating data from the entire workforce, it might become apparent that more employees are taking Mondays off this year, or that there is a notable improvement in performance from workers involved in a recognition programme.

It's easy to get carried away with data analysis, particularly if the company is exploring it for the first time.

However, it's important for any data-gathering activity to be informed by a solid strategy. While analysis can throw up unexpected insights, any questions should be asked with the answer already in mind.

By combining good employee relationships with a well-planned and scientific approach to data analysis, enterprises can begin to uncover new insights into their workforce's needs and develop a series of bespoke offerings that account for all generations.