Building and communicating effective benefits strategies for Generation X.
This is the second part of our series on engaging and educating the different generations about their benefits. There are four generations in the U.S. labor force, from Baby Boomers to Generation Z. This blog focuses on Generation X, benefits, and engagement strategies.
What do you associate with the term Generation X? For many people, things like Atari, MTV, the Cold War, the World Wide Web, and the Los Angeles riots are among the socio-political trends and innovations that come to mind.
With enrollment season right around the corner, it’s important for employers and benefits administrators to understand each generation of employees. What motivates and influences these groups? What do they want from a benefits package? How can we engage and communicate with these people so they understand and use their benefits? Find out more about benefits strategies for Generation X below.
The Gen X Profile
Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen Xers are sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Generation X is sometimes thought of as “The Forgotten Generation.” However, they cannot be overlooked. Ranging today in their late 30s to early 50s, Generation X is the second largest employment group in the nation. In fact, they make up one-third (33%) of the entire U.S. labor force.
It was once fashionable to view Generation X as lazy and apathetic, but the “slacker” label no longer applies (if it ever did). They are the first generation to wholeheartedly embrace higher education immediately following high school. Now well established in their careers, the overwhelming majority of Gen X has more than a decade until retirement.
While they can be characterized as loyal, Gen Xers are less committed to a single employer than Boomers; they are also willing to change jobs to advance their careers. They want roles in which they have the opportunity to learn, and are more likely to stay with a career that offers growth.
Gen X is unique among their professional counterparts in that many are caring for older parents while also raising children in the home. Their family demands are very dynamic and they need flexibility.
Socially, Gen Xers bridge the gap between the more traditional preferences of the Boomers and the tech-oriented Generation Y (Millennials). Keep in mind that during the 70s, 80s and early 90s, Gen Xers grew up with television and video games. However, many were in college or in the early stages of their careers when the internet and personal computers really took off. They’re comfortable with both face-to-face communications and less personal interaction like email and texting.
Benefits strategies for Generation X
What types of benefits does Generation X want?
Not old, but no longer young, Gen X places healthcare benefits as their top priority. Many prefer the “traditional” benefits such as major medical, dental, vision, and life insurance, with multiple health plans to choose from. Though retirement is not imminent, Gen Xers are also focused on financial benefits, such as retirement accounts, tax-advantaged benefits, and student loan assistance.
To help protect their retirement savings, Generation X is drawn to employer-sponsored healthcare benefits. Tax-advantaged accounts such as Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, and Health Savings Accounts (paired with a high deductible health plan) are popular.
With unique family considerations, Gen Xers want workplace flexibility. The opportunity to work remotely or have a flexible schedule can help them attend to various family needs. Financial tools that can help them cover the cost of care while they’re working, such as a Dependent Care FSA, are also desirable.
While Gen Xers are mid-career and should presumably be close to paying off their student loans, their debt is higher than the younger Millennials. The average Gen X student loan balance is $39,584. The high debt is due to several factors: first, Gen X is still paying off their own student loans; add to that, many are assuming the financial burden for sending their children off to college. A Student Loan Assistance Program to help with the financial costs of higher education can be a very attractive benefit incentive.
Engaging Generation X with their benefits
Generation X may be the easiest group to communicate with for employers. They are comfortable with both traditional printed materials and modern digital media. Information can be presented in person, through email, online, or videos.
Generation X is receptive to case studies, situations, and games that emphasize the benefits to the individual (“How can this help me?”).
Don’t forget about Generation X! They are loyal and hardworking, and they are relatively easy to reach. Building a benefits plan that helps with flexibility and financial incentives, and communicating through a variety of mediums, can help deliver more engaged and happier employees.
For more information on benefits and engagement, download DataPath’s free whitepaper “Effective Benefits Strategies for a Multi-generational Workforce.”