How to diversify employee benefits for ongoing success

In today’s diverse marketplace, successful small business owners offer products and services that appeal to a wide range of people. You probably know that. But success also requires attracting and retaining loyal employees. Small business owners who offer flexible benefit programs will have a competitive edge in recruiting the strongest candidates for any job.

But what does a flexible benefits program look like? First and foremost, it reflects the factors that define today’s diverse workforce, like generation, work style and family life.

Generational diversity

Right now, four generations (at least) of workers are on the payroll at many small businesses. A smart leader can greatly benefit from a multi-generational workforce. Older employees bring practical experience and stability to the table while younger workers bring a fresh look and a great feel for how today’s technology can be leveraged for greater success.

Much has been written about the challenge of marketing to the different generations of consumers. Reaching Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers requires a wide array of advertising and marketing strategies. But less has been said about the need to craft your small business benefits package to fit the needs of these different groups.

We know that a “one size fits all” approach to benefits has never been ideal, but frankly, a decade or so ago, it came darn close! Today, however, small business owners trying to skate by with a rigidly designed package of employee benefits are kidding themselves.

Let me pull out some examples that highlight this generational diversity. Consider these situations:

  • The health insurance requirements of 20-somethings landing their first entry-level position versus the needs of a Baby-boomer for whom retirement is within sight.
  • The dental insurance requirements for moms and dads with young children versus those of families whose children are in their college years or beyond.
  • The retirement plan options desired by young investors versus those of employees who are in their later years of employment.

Customization fits the modern workforce

The diversity among the team empowering your business today highlights the importance of being able to custom tailor your benefits package to your employees. Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers are well established in the workforce and to recruit the most experienced and talented in these groups, your benefits need to be competitive. I think every small business owner understands that.

With that said, I want to put a little extra focus on Millennials. The popular media has painted a picture of Millennials that I believe is far too stereotypical. The diversity within the group we have labeled Millennials is beginning to emerge and be understood. If you follow real estate news you will have recently noticed that Millennials are starting to drive the housing market, yet we’ve been led to believe that they’re all living in their parents’ basements.

And as they buy homes, start families, and plan for their future, being able to customize your benefits package will prove beneficial. It will serve as a foundation upon which you can build a strong team and long-term loyalty.

MetLife’s 15th Annual Employee Benefit Trends Study drilled down deeply enough to unearth the differences among Millennials. The study often divides Millennials into two subgroups: younger and older Millennials. Metlife found, for example, that 61 percent of younger Millennials (ages 21-24) were concerned about their family’s financial security in case of their death. That figure jumped to 71 percent for older Millennials (ages 25-34).

There’s more to know regarding the diversity among Millennials; let me ask you a quick question: What percentage of your employees are Millennials? Metlife also found that when employers have a higher percentage of Millennials on their team – above 25 percent – the Millennials tend to hold their employers more responsible for financial security and well-being…both now and in retirement!

Devising a strategy to successfully respond to this diversity highlights how benefits such as disability insurance, life insurance, and even legal insurance can play a valuable role in your ability to customize your benefits package.

Being ready to adapt

The main lesson here is about change. Today, the employee benefits scene is far more complex. I know you care about your employees, so you must understand that the men and women you employee value benefits that positively and hugely effect their lives; options that reflect generational diversity and are portable could be game-changers as you recruit talent.

I’ve only touched on the factors behind the evolution in the workforce that is diversifying the needs and desires within benefits packages. Metlife’s full report goes into far greater detail in its 70-plus pages. For small business owners and managers, downloading and reading it will prove to be time well invested.

Editor’s note:  This post is sponsored by MetLife. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.