Building effective engagement and benefits strategies for Baby Boomers.
This is the first of a four part series on engaging and educating the different generations about their benefits. There are four generations in the American labor force, from Baby Boomers to Generation Z. This blog focuses on benefits strategies for Baby Boomers, including benefit preferences and engagement styles.
When people think of Baby Boomers, the first things that come to mind are counter culture, rock ‘n roll, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and other socio-political trends and events from the mid-to-late 20th century. Born after WWII, between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers, have been a major force in American society and the work place.
As enrollment season approaches, it’s critical for employers and benefits administrators to understand employee motivations and influences, what they find most beneficial in a benefits package, and how to engage and communicate with these groups.
Baby Boomers: A Profile
Baby Boomers have some distinct characteristics that set them apart from the generations of their children and grandchildren.
A Pew Research Center analysis of US labor survey data showed less than 43 percent of the nation’s 69 million boomers remained in the labor force in early 2021. Many have already retired or are close to retirement, and some are facing a higher retirement age (age 66.5 years for those born after 1956) than their older peers.
In the late stages of their careers, Boomers often define themselves by their professional achievements. They are accustomed to working long hours, they are hardworking, and they are motivated by position, perks, and prestige. You could consider them the “workaholics” in the current American labor force.
More so than other generations, Boomers value interpersonal communications like face-to-face conversation or talking on the phone. During their formative years, Boomers grew up playing outside, often entertaining themselves with their friends.
Many Boomers did grow up with televisions in their homes. However, by the time the internet came into fruition, they were adults who had started families and began their careers. As such, their comfort level with technology is mixed. Some are receptive to it, while others are not.
These factors play a role in how employers should structure their benefits packages and engage their Boomer employees.
Benefits strategies for Baby Boomers
What kind of benefits do Boomers want?
Given their age and career stage, the top benefits priorities for the Baby Boomer generation revolve around healthcare and finances. “Traditional” benefits, such as medical, dental, vision, and life insurance top the list, along with financial benefits, like 401(k) with employer match.
Thinking of both healthcare and finance, employers should also look at tax-advantaged healthcare accounts, like Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
With an FSA or HSA, people can fund the account tax-free and use the money for qualified healthcare expenses without paying taxes on the money spent. Not only do these types of accounts help save on healthcare and reduce a person’s tax burden, Boomers also value them because they can help protect retirement savings. In fact, an HSA can even be used in retirement, where the money can be withdrawn for any reason after age 65 without penalty – similar to a 401(k).
Other desirable tax-advantaged benefits include a Dependent Care FSA. Many Boomers need care for elderly parents (or other dependents) while they’re at work. While not a financial perk, a flexible work schedule or telecommuting options are also a priority.
Surprisingly, the Boomer generation has the second highest average student loan debt, although it’s unclear if the debt was for their education or that of their family. Despite being farther along in their careers, perhaps they returned to school while working. Or maybe they are assisting children with their student loans. Either way, this debt level could hinder their retirement plans, so a student loan assistance program could be help for some of them as well.
Engaging Baby Boomers with their benefits
With Baby Boomers being the most interpersonal group in the workforce, employers and benefits administrators should consider a traditional approach to benefits engagement.
First, consider that Boomers prefer face-to-face interaction to email and web delivered communications. They like the ability to ask questions and get feedback. Benefits fairs or meetings provide this opportunity.
Second, Boomers are not as comfortable with technology as Generation X, nor tech savvy like Millennials and Gen Z. Printed materials allow Boomers to read and interpret, then ask questions as needed.
This approach is an important part of keeping Boomers engaged and educated about their benefits, which can deliver better plan participation and more satisfaction with a benefits plan.
For more information on benefits and engagement, download DataPath’s free whitepaper “Effective Benefits Strategies for a Multi-generational Workforce.”