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Communication Breakdown: How Generational Messaging Helps Employees Understand Benefits

Communication Breakdown: How Generational Messaging Helps Employees Understand Benefits
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 by Kent Rausch

At your next family reunion, your conversation with your cousin who just graduated college will be different than your conversation with your grandparents.

multigenerational-communication-tipsAnd this makes perfect sense—people at various stages of their lives have changing interests and concerns. We recognize this concept in our personal communication, and we should apply it to our communications about employee benefits as well.

Benefits packages are not one-size-fits-all, but too often our strategies for talking to employees about their benefits still is. For employees to make informed decisions about a benefits package that is right for them, they need to understand how the options available fit in with their needs.

Recognize time frames, not labels. Generation X, Millennials, Gen Z—these are helpful terms but not hard and fast categories. What matters is the decade when employees were born, which will help you understand how to tailor your messaging to them. Generations in the workforce today include people born in the 1950s, who are now in their 60s and possibly preparing for retirement, as well as children of the digital age who were born in the 1990s. Between these two poles are people born in the ‘60s, the Watergate years, and Millennials born in the 1980s, now the largest generation in the workforce. Take stock of the various decades in which your employees were born and use that to inform your communications strategies.

Risk vs. reward. Younger workers have decades until they plan to retire, but for employees in their 50s and 60s, protecting their nest egg is of vital importance. These older demographics may be more interested in 401(k) plans that offer less risk, and they are also likely seeking information about disability coverage and supplemental insurance. At the other end of the generational spectrum, workers in their 20s may be more inclined to enroll in HDHPs since they can tolerate higher risks. Making information available on the benefits and risks of various health plans therefore requires knowing which generational cohort you’re speaking to.

Family comes first. Employees in their 40s and 50s are often saving for their kids’ college or are actively paying tuition. They also may have adult children staying on their health plans until age 26, as well as aging parents they need to care for. For these populations, consider discussing premium right-sizing and dependent care accounts. Millennials, meanwhile, are thinking about having children or have young children already. Dependent care accounts are of interest to this group as well, but with an emphasis on daycare rather than eldercare. Knowing where these families are at in their life stages will help you adjust messaging about similar benefits such as dependent care accounts—and it will help your employees get the coverage they and their families need.

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