Millennials are taking over the workforce. Facing an increasingly competitive fight for top talent, how can employers plan to meet the expectation of this generation when it comes to health benefits?
Our 2016 “State of Employee Benefits” report on actual, behavioral benefits enrollment data across 500 large employers revealed that a majority of these companies now offer at least one high-deductible health plan (HDHP).
This illustrates a larger trend: Employers are altering their plan design and offerings to shift greater financial responsibility to employees, and as a result, driving the need for a different and more cost-effective approach to health care consumption.
And millennials — born between 1980 and 1998 — are leading the charge there, as the report also showed that this generation selected HDHPs more than any other age group represented in our 700,000-plus sample. The baby boomer generation, which prefers the security of the traditional PPO, is beginning to be overshadowed by millennials signing up for the HDHPs.
Keeping millennials in mind, here are examples of how employers can stay ahead of the soon-to-be largest generation in the workforce:
Millennials expect you to understand them, and you simply cannot reach them through generic content. This generation has been raised on personalized recommendations and suggestions tailored to their specific tastes, habits, and desires.
For example, when they watch a movie or television episode via their Netflix or Amazon account, they’re immediately provided other similar programs to watch. If you watched that, you may enjoy this. The same is true with health benefits. They expect targeted content in context with their personal situation, and they want to be able to access that information wherever, whenever and however they want it.
Technology is the driving force behind this consumerization of everything, and health benefits are no exception. Benefits managers are now using communications technology to give employees access to convenient and engaging educational resources that can help them choose the best plan for their needs. And we’ll continue to see online benefits enrollment evolve into the personalized shopping experience, and employers begin to cater to all types of audiences with varying communications styles and preferences.
There are now more mobile devices in the world than humans. Sixty-four percent of American adults own a smartphone, and mobile platforms account for the majority of digital media time spent in the U.S. This is how people want to consume information.
Millennials are the generation for whom technology has never been something new or something that they had to familiarize themselves with. As this age group continues to drive innovation in the workplace, they’re compelling HR managers to take a mobile-first approach and employ modern communication technologies.
Millennials (and the generation behind them, Gen Z’ers) are doing most of their social interaction, research, and purchasing through a mobile device. Whether they log in through a mobile web browser or an app, they want to be able to enjoy the same decision support tools and personalized experience offered by a benefits provider on their smartphone or tablet anytime, anywhere. Investing in mobile-friendly benefits technology that embraces this behavior may be vital to helping employees get the most out of their benefits.
With the Affordable Care Act forcing employers to more closely monitor how much they spend on health benefits, businesses are looking for other ways to provide value. If we know anything about the millennial generation, it’s that they expect innovation and are far more progressive than traditional.
The same goes for their expectation of health benefits. Forward-thinking companies are moving toward the notion of offering outside-the-box voluntary benefits in the form of pet or infertility insurance, mortgage repayment bundles and even student loan refinance or consolidation options. These voluntary benefits are not only meeting the immediate needs of millennial employees, but also helping employers stay competitive for top young talent.
When developing or updating your benefits strategy, be sure to keep millennials and Gen Z’ers in mind. Personalize their experience, engage with them where they already are and support them while driving your own organizational goals. Ready or not, they’re coming, along with a host of new needs and wants.
 Pew Research Center, April, 2015, “The Smartphone Difference”
Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/