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Generation Next
Generation Y represents the future of your business - and will see workplace benefits plans in a different way

Many aging employers are quick to complain about the youngest members of the workforce. Whether labelled as Generation Y, Millennials, or the "Peter Pan" generation, the demographic group is often characterized as having a sense of entitlement, with no respect for authority.
But Generation Y also represents the future of every business. By 2020, those born through the 1980s and 1990s will account for no fewer than 40% of Canadian workers.  This is the largest cohort of employees since the Baby Boom, and they are the people who will replace the Boomers who retire.

The good news is that they have plenty to offer. Generation Y is characterized as being better educated and more diverse than any employees who came before them, opening businesses to new opportunities. Demographers who study the population are quick to point out that members of this generation are quick to embrace strategies which make it possible to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently. And the young employees generally adopt new technologies as extensions of themselves.

Benefits plans can play a key role in recruiting and retaining this valuable group - as long as they reflect different demands.
"Rewards and recognition, communication and career path expectations differ across the generations," Ceridian explains in its 3rd annual Pulse of Talent Survey. "Companies that poorly manage these differences risk high turnover rates, lost revenue and missed opportunities."

Raised in an era of the Internet and smartphones, members of Generation Y certainly expect the ability to personalize benefits plans, turning to online portals and apps to manage their claims. The tools are even seen as a minimum standard. "If I don’t need vision, I should be able to opt out and move it over to dental or prescriptions," said one member of a Sun Life Financial Generational Research focus group. "Why be covered for something that doesn’t affect me?"

Younger workers also tend to see benefits plans as "nice to have", compared to established Generation X and Baby Boomer employees who see benefits as increasingly important, Sun Life concluded. This should not be too surprising. Twenty-somethings tend to be healthy and feel indestructible. The same could be said for younger versions of the generations who came before them.

But workplace benefits are not limited to drug and dental plans.
The Sun Life research, like several other studies, concludes that Generation Y is more interested in blending work, social lives and recreation. This attracts these employees to wellness programs which offset the price of gym memberships, or the travel insurance which protects them while on holidays.

Perhaps there should be little surprise that members of this "Peter Pan" generation - so named because they spend more years living with their parents -- tend to favour a better work-life balance. During formative years they watched a dot-com bubble burst and a stock market crash, while the concept of a job for life was laid to waste. Their concept of job security comes from learning skills which can be transferred from one industry to the next.

Of course, Millennials still have health concerns which benefits plans can help to tackle in the ongoing battle against absenteeism. During a recent Desjardins Insurance luncheon, stress management expert Dr. David Posen was quoted as observing how Generation Y was under a lot of stress, which can contribute to mental health claims and burnout alike.
Employers who refine benefits plans to reflect unique needs like this will establish one of the strongest tools to attract and retain younger employees in the first place.

As a final note, have a happy holiday! We look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

Top Tips:

  • Investigate wellness programs as a tool to recruit and retain members of Generation Y.
  • Explore flexible options which allow younger employees to customize plans based on their own experience.
  • A generation raised in the era of the Internet will expect to manage claims through online tools and smartphone applications. Ask your benefits provider for details.

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The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Disability Management Opportunities for employer action: The Conference Board of Canada

Whats wrong with gen Y?: Benefits Canada

Early intervention makes sense for small business: smallbizadvisor

Many Canadians lack sick leave coverage: smallbizadvisor

Supporting an employee through trauma: Benefits Canada

Succession Planning -- Its not just for big business: smallbizadvisor

Community Ethics, Big City Expertise

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