Age before Beauty?
How to cater to the multigenerational workforce
Growing old gracefully is a phrase we’re all too used to hearing, and yet one which is being adhered to less and less. In the 1950’s, there was a clear-cut structure as to how your life and your career would pan out. You begin work after high school, go on to progress exponentially for a good 40 years, wind down somewhere around your early 60s, and ease yourself into a comfortable and well-earned retirement. However, whether for better or worse, that’s simply not the way things are done anymore.
Thanks in part to significant advances in medical science, a better understanding of what keeps us alive for longer, and changes to the law, employees are now routinely working their planned retirement age. This leaves us with the rather modern phenomenon of the multigenerational workforce. With varying age groups traversing alongside each other, HR departments have their work cut out in re-evaluating certain aspects of the workforce to make them suitable to all employees – most pressing of which is their benefits packages.
Business in the Community’s Age at Work Director, Rachael Saunders, says that one way to retain an elder workforce is by tailoring what you offer them to make them stay. She explains: “68% of unemployed 50-64-year olds and 85% of inactive over 65s said increased availability of flexible and part-time work would help them return to work. Older workers are also more likely to be ‘overemployed’ and work more hours than they would like to, and flexible working can help to address this. Employers can support this by enabling remote working and/or flexible hours for all employees, engaging with older workers to make them aware of flexible working as an option which may not have previously been available and introducing flexible benefits with options for people at different stages of their lives.”
So, what exactly should HR be looking out for when crafting a multigenerational benefits package? Well, according to Debra Corey, Group Reward Director at Reward Gateway, it’s a lot to do with flexibility. “The key to creating a benefits package that appeals to a multigenerational workforce are three simple but powerful words - balance, choice and flexibility,” she explains. “By keeping these in mind, you’ll have a better chance of appealing and engaging with your workforce, regardless of generation. When it comes to choice and flexibility, ask yourself - what can I do to build this into each benefit programme? For example, if you offer a wellbeing benefit, why not provide one that gives employees choice, letting them decide what wellbeing means to them personally? By introducing choice and flexibility, you’re putting decision-making in the hands of employees and creating a more meaningful benefits package that meet their individual needs.”
The reality is that older workers will have different ideas of what a benefits package should include when compared to their younger colleagues. Our lifestyles change as we age, our priorities shift and our notions of usefulness overtake our penchant for extravagance. Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, reveals to us what benefits should be at the top of employer’s perks list: “HR needs to set clear objectives around what you want the package to achieve, these can range from staff attraction and retention, through to improved health, wellbeing and productivity. The latter, as we know, is growing in importance to individuals so it makes sense to focus your employee benefits packages on that.
“On the surface, younger workers are not particularly interested in Group Life Protection; however, they may be interested in benefits such as Critical Illness, Medical and Cash plans: more immediate benefits. Nowadays, younger employees are part of “Generation Rent”, and as such the most important benefit that they should be considering is Group Income Protection. Ironically, this is the one benefit younger workers believe they will not need. State benefits have been reduced massively – so much so that losing one person’s income would make it impossible to live in many UK cities. Younger workers need to protect their incomes, and should do so sooner rather than later.
“For older workers, the importance of Critical Illness is growing whilst single people also value that benefit as it is paid to them, as happens with group income protection, rather than their dependants as happens with a death benefit scheme. Everyone will know someone who has had cancer, a heart attack or stroke and so by having benefits such as Critical Illness, employees are safeguarding themselves from the sometimes disastrous outcome of being diagnosed with a serious condition.”
And, as Avis suggests, younger workers will have different needs to older staff; they’ll also have different expectations of HR. Corey expands on this, adding: “We often talk about designing benefits to appeal to a certain age or generation, but instead I like to think of them appealing to a certain ‘need’. Just because you’re 21, it doesn’t mean you’re not interested in pension, for you may be. Just because you’re 30, it doesn’t mean you’re interested in childcare vouchers, as you may not have children. What appeals to you depends on you, what you personally need and what motivates and drives you.”
And whilst we may have veered away from the era of nine-to-five, and perhaps enjoy a faster pace of life, we have the benefits to help us through. It may not be the 1950’s boom any more, but we can still enjoy the high life.