As improvements in benefits and “employee care” become more sought after, Gen Z employees are more likely to expect a tailored, year-round benefits experience than other employees, according to MetLife’s 21st annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.
In a recent interview, Jamie Madden, senior vice president of Workforce Engagement and Benefits Connectivity at MetLife, shared some of the survey’s highlights. Last year, Madden said, MetLife’s U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) revealed “employee care” as a profound and measurable concept.
“Our research shows when employers demonstrate care and employees feel cared for, it creates better workplace outcomes for both parties,” she added. In addition, benefits play an important role in demonstrating care, as over 60% of employees said that their benefits make them feel more cared for and more loyal to their employer, and 59% said that the benefits they receive make them more engaged at work.
As benefit advisors look at their 2024 strategies, creating tailored, educational, year-round benefits experiences for today’s multigenerational workforce will be key. “MetLife’s research found 45% of employees do not fully understand their benefits package and only 38% of employees are completely confident that they know about all the benefits offered to them,” Madden said.
Unique challenges cited
The research also found that employees across all age groups are experiencing unique challenges that they want their employers to address, underscoring the varying needs and preferences that exist across today’s highly diverse workforce. “Fifty-four percent of all employees wish they had personalized benefit recommendations and 65% want their employer to communicate with them about their benefits throughout the year, not just during enrollment,” Madden said.
To help employees better understand and utilize their benefits packages, employers can focus on creating targeted, comprehensive, and always-on benefits communication plans that empower employees to make the most of their benefits by choosing and using products that best support their needs, she added.
Employers can also look to adopt modern tools and technologies to help deploy these new strategies quickly and “at scale.” For example, Madden said that Upwise, MetLife’s benefits-engagement platform, integrates Nayya’s benefits-decision support and year-round engagement capabilities to deliver a more personalized, simple and holistic benefits experience.
Nearly half of employees (47%) said that they would feel more engaged if their employer provided easy-to-use benefits tools. “With the right strategies and tools, employees can get more from their benefits during enrollment and throughout the year so that they can feel confident that they’re making the right elections and using them with confidence year-round,” Madden said.
Steps to meet Gen Z needs
To give Gen Z employees the experience they want, employers can take several steps, Madden added. To start, they should recognize that today’s multi-generational workforce has differing needs and preferences when it comes to benefits and communications.
The MetLife data found that Gen Z employees, in particular, appear to want personalization the most when it comes to their benefits experience at work. In fact, Madden said, half (50%) of Gen Z said that most of the benefits communications they receive don’t feel relevant to them, and 63% wish their employers offered more personalized recommendations.
This gives employers an opportunity to tailor benefit experiences and more specifically communications by generation and their preferred channels for receiving information, Madden said. For example, Gen Z employees cited short-form explanations (akin to social media content) as their top choice when it comes to communications preferences, compared to older generations who may prefer email and written benefit communications.
It’s important to remember that as the youngest generation in the workforce, Gen Z employees are the least experienced when it comes to choosing and using their benefits; therefore, they often require additional support than other, more experienced populations.
Prioritizing benefits education not only supports understanding and utilization, but also helps employees to recognize the important role benefits play in their employee experience, added Madden. “With the right tools and strategies built into a comprehensive, always-on communications plan, employee groups can be reached in targeted ways, empowering employees to make the most of their benefits by choosing and using products that best support their needs,” she said.
Other groups also seek customized experience
While more vocal about their needs, Gen Z isn’t the only cohort looking for a customized and comprehensive benefits experience. The research found that employees across all age groups are experiencing unique challenges that they want their employers to address—54% of all employees wish they had personalized benefit recommendations, and 65% want their employer to communicate with them about their benefits throughout the year, not just during enrollment.1
For example, millennials navigating parenthood for the first time may be seeking opportunities to learn about childcare or fertility benefits, while Gen X employees stepping into the role of ‘caretaker’ for aging parents may be looking for benefits that can help them care for their loved ones who are in need of elder care.
MetLife’s 21st Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study was conducted in November 2022 and consists of two distinct studies fielded by Rainmakers CSI – a global strategy, insight, and planning consultancy. The employer survey includes 2,840 interviews with benefits decision-makers and influencers at companies with at least two employees. The employee survey consists of 2,884 interviews with full-time employees, ages 21 and over, at companies with at least two employees. Wave 2 of MetLife’s 21st Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study was conducted in July 2023 and was also fielded by Rainmakers CSI. The survey included 2,650 interviews with full-time employees, aged 21 and over. All employees were based in the U.S. and were nationally representative of the U.S. Data in this release was collected as part of Wave 2 and was not reported in MetLife’s 21st Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.
Ayo Mseka has more than 30 years of experience reporting on the financial services industry. She formerly served as editor-in-chief of NAIFA’s Advisor Today magazine. Contact her at amseka@INNfeedback.com.
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