It’s happened: Generation Y (millennials — born since 1981) has surpassed Generation X (born between 1965-1980) as the largest population of employees in the workforce. More than one in three U.S. workers are now between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the Pew Research Center. And without a doubt, those 53.5 million millennials are influencing the benefits that employers are offering.
For starters, millennials absolutely want more customization, says Meredith Ryan-Reid, senior vice president of MetLife’s group, voluntary and worksite benefits. Interestingly, employers feel the same. As reported by Benefit News, 54 percent of employers rate benefits customization as extremely important, according to MetLife’s 13th annual employee benefits trends study.
At Businessolver, we’ve seen the same trends. Millennials like variety, and employers that want to remain competitive are at last aware of and starting to respond to the need to offer a range of benefits.
But that doesn’t mean employers need to expand their offering of medical networks. Apparently, millennials will go to whomever is in their health plan network. They want variety among types of benefits, not necessarily more medical plan choices.
And that’s a very good thing. Because more employers are reducing network accessibility as a way to cut costs, various reports show. According to the Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. recent benefits strategy and benchmarking survey, 11 percent of employers this year introduced narrow network plans to contain costs. That’s a 7 percent increase from 2014, the company said. (Still, cost-sharing and changing carriers were most frequently cited as strategies for controlling healthcare costs.)
In essence, what millennials want speaks loudly to the ‘one-wallet’ benefits concept,” says Jennifer Daniel, our vice president of carrier development. The one wallet concept embodies a more holistic view of benefits and a new look at how employees perceive and buy benefits.
But here’s the rub: Despite these trends, tools to help employees make wise benefit decisions seem to be failing millennials.
Fewer than 4 in 10 millennials (38.4 percent) of millennials strongly agree that their company effectively educates them about their benefits, according to the MetLife study. When asked if they were confident that they had made ”the right decisions” during their last annual enrollment, fewer than half of all millennials surveyed (48.5 percent) strongly agreed. By comparison, 54 percent of Gen X employees and 62 percent of baby boomers strongly agreed that they had made “the right decisions.“
Embracing the one-wallet concept is a huge step toward giving employees greater support for making wiser benefits choices. It argues for employers, brokers, carriers, analysts and consultants to make the benefits-selection process a more engaging and positive experience for employees, and appeal to the “whole” employee.
“There is a growing need for tools that provide a full picture of all benefit offerings that reflect the financial, emotional and overall health needs of employees and their families,” Daniel says. “With the resulting data and employee insight, benefits administrators can better plan for the future and have a more positively engaged employee population.
“Just as there is no one size fits all formula for offering the right benefits,” she says, ”there’s no single way to gauge employees in making good selections.”
To learn more about the one-wallet concept and how it can help employees make benefits choices based on more than just the cost of their medical premiums or copays, listen to our webinar, “One Wallet: The Evolution of Decision Support to Holistic Recommendation Engine.”