So far the third millennium has been an extraordinary one – full of “firsts”.
Among these firsts, the wholesale uptake of Smartphones has revolutionised the way people communicate and access information in their personal and business lives. Another first on our doorstep is that organisations will soon have five generations sharing the workplace, namely Baby Boomers – born 1946 to 1964, Generation X – born 1965 to 1980, Generation Y (or Millennials) – born 1981 to 1995, and Generation Z (or Centennials) – born 1996 to 2012. Employing this generational mix may appear to be a rather demanding prospect to employers, as each generation is seen as having its own needs and expectations regarding how their employer communicates with them. 1
Reflect your employees’ priorities
With the broad-ranging ages of employees in mind, employee-benefits packages are required to appeal to a diverse workforce. The various generations typically have different priorities – each will need to utilize their employee-benefits to suit these priorities. For example, Generation Y may be focused on paying off student fees while Millennials may be more focused on getting out of debt. Generation X employees may be all about saving for their children’s education and Baby Boomers are very likely to be focused on being financially ready to retire. It may prove advantageous for organisations to be able to reflect the employee-benefit priorities of each generation within their workforce; quickly communicating the employee-benefits that support a particular employee’s life-stage.
When it comes to Millennial and Generation Z in South Africa, research indicates that that there are over 14 million Millennials in the country. By 2020, almost half of the workforce will be made up of Millennials, yet one of the biggest challenges for organisations will be engaging and retaining them. In South Africa one third of the population is under 21. Those aged between 6 and 22 years old fall into the Generation Z cohort – the oldest of which are already entering the workforce. It is vital that employers look at the diversity and flexibility their employee-benefits offering to ensure that organisations remain relevant in attracting top talent, to ensure the continued success of their business. 2 + 3
Personalise the information
Millennials and Generation Z appreciate being acknowledged as unique individuals – as do most people. So, even though employee-benefits information may be directed at hundreds or even thousands of employees it is important to remember it is being received by individuals. Tailoring information and where possible personalising it with an individual’s name will increase engagement.
Use concise information and everyday language
Many younger Millennials, and the older end of the Generation Z cohort, are recent graduates and not yet very clued up about employee-benefits. It is important to explain common key terms up front and in plain language. Millennials place great value on their time. To truly engage these employees, information on employee-benefits must be concise, accurate, and current – with the importance and relevance of the information being evident from the get-go.
Demonstrate employee benefits by tapping into the power of testimonials
The arrival of social media has resulted in Millennials and Generation Z putting great store by the opinions of their personal and business networks. Providing testimonials from employees who are already enrolled in a programme, or who are reaping the advantage of a benefit, can work to boost buy-in or even to launch a new benefit or programme into the workplace. Witnessing their peers vouch for a programme will serve to convince other employees to partake themselves.
It can also be helpful to educate these employees regarding the upside of greater employee participation. For example, pointing out that a younger, healthier working population partaking in an organisation’s medical aid scheme will serve to help keep the rates affordable for all employees; or that wholesale participation in wellness programmes will serve to increase productivity through less absenteeism – along with boosting morale.
Incorporate some ‘millennial methods’ into your communication
Millennials and Generation Z prefer mobile communications over meetings. Generation Z is the first generation born into a fully technological environment – a world of being connected, being digital, and having mobile phones or tablets as a matter of course. They require access to employee benefit information 24/7 — in the same way that they will turn to the internet for everything that they need to learn. When it comes to accessing benefit information and tasks mobile apps are a recommended source of communication.
If you must have employee-benefit presentations, consider providing an online webinar-style option, or perhaps even creating a hashtag and encouraging employees to tweet about it. Keeping communications short and to-the-point is essential, so avoid being long-winded – and it is perfectly in order to use abbreviations with the generations who regularly text in acronyms and short forms. At the same time, Millennials and Generation Z also desire detailed instructions. So, it is important to provide the steps they need to take to, say, sign up for benefits or how to select providers. 4
When all is said and done it is flexibility in employee-benefits that will result in Millennials and Generation Z employees – not to mention all an organisation’s employees – valuing and utilisng their employee-benefits. Younger employees particularly want flexible benefits that give them the ability to decide what meets their individual needs as their lives change. 5