Gen X and Y Employees: Add More Benefits to the Workplace Menu

By Patty Kujawa

Sep. 20, 2012

Generations X and Y workers at small businesses say they are willing to pay for a wider variety of voluntary employee benefits if their employer is able to provide them, a new study says.

More than half, or 54 percent, of younger workers surveyed in MetLife’s 10th annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends say they would like a wider array of benefits, even if it means paying for them. Plus, two-thirds of these workers say they would rather pay more for benefits than lose them, survey results show. Generation X is roughly defined as people born in the early 1960s to the early 1980s, while Generation Y is those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

With fewer years in the workforce than workers from the baby boomer generation, Gen X and Gen Y workers have seen the effects of a weak economy on their personal finances. This stress and instability have younger workers turning to their employers for help, says Anthony Nugent, executive vice president of group, voluntary and worksite sales at MetLife.

“Gen X and Y employees are more conscious about having a secure future,” Nugent says. “They truly think of their employer as a source to provide more benefits, and they don’t mind paying for it.”

For its survey, which was released in August, MetLife partnered with GfK Custom Research North America in New York. The team interviewed 1,519 benefits decision-makers for the employer portion of the survey and 1,412 full-time employees in September and October 2011.

Tuning into which benefits that employees want is a critical strategy in retaining productive employees, Nugent says. Although nearly half of the younger workers surveyed said they hoped to find a new job this year, many might stay at their company if offered the right menu of voluntary benefits. Nearly three-quarters, or 72 percent, of younger employees who were satisfied with their benefits felt more loyal to their employer, the survey showed.

“Employers have to be a little more precise in what they are offering,” Nugent says. “With employees being less loyal, employers need to look for ways to solidify their relationship with employees. The best way to do it is through voluntary benefits.”

For example, MetLife’s survey showed 72 percent of small- business employees would like to have financial education programs, but less than a third, or 29 percent, of these employers offer them. About 44 percent of respondents said they were interested in getting home or auto insurance through their employer, but only 2 percent of businesses offer it.

Creating an online marketplace where employees can pick the voluntary benefits they need is critical in retaining a strong workforce, says Cristina Allan, vice president of sales and business development for AlphaStaff Managing General Agency in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“It’s a very smart way to captivate a workforce,” Allan says. “If you can offer access to one website so employees don’t have to shop around, it’s a winning situation for everyone.”

Today, Allan says a marketplace of voluntary benefits might have what you’d expect: life and health insurance, dental and vision. But new benefits are being brought in, including home and auto insurance, appliance purchasing programs, mortgage lending and pet insurance.

“More and more consumer lending programs are being offered at the worksite,” Allan says. “It really helps retain, recruit and reward employees.”

Patty Kujawa is a writer based in Milwaukee. Comment below or email

Patty Kujawa is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.

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