We now have four, and potentially five, different generations in the workforce. Employees across these generations have been saying for some time that a comprehensive benefits package is a key factor when seeking a new job. Intriguingly, a significant proportion – some 85%[1] – express dissatisfaction with their current package. The generations are also consistent in reporting that benefit packages are often too inflexible to meet their needs. All of this points towards a need for greater personalisation of benefits, or at very least a wider range of available options from which the employee can choose.

So, having accepted the need to review a benefit offering, the next question for many employers is where should I start and what are the priorities? Of course, a professional adviser can help this process but here are some pointers towards creating a benefits package to engage today’s multi-generational workforce. We caught up with  David Prosser, Head of propositions, The Health Insurance Group to get his view.

How multigenerational is your workforce?

It’s probably worth employers taking a step back and asking how well they you know the shape of their workforce in terms of age and gender, and comparing that either to the UK average or other available information pertinent to their particular industry. Each generation has different attitudes, values and lifestyle together with a variety of health and wellbeing needs.

In following a generational needs-driven approach, it is important not to fall back to stereotypes or put age groups into silos. For example, there is clear evidence that the youngest in the workforce are shunning the type of behaviour associated with previous late teens/early twenties through a decline in teenage pregnancy rates, smoking and excessive drinking, and so a more nuanced view is required.

What are the physical, emotional and financial wellbeing needs?

In broad terms, younger generations face emotional and mental wellbeing issues with a particular emphasis on financial and debt concerns. The older generations are starting to experience the onset of chronic conditions that will require ongoing management. There are gender differences within the generations themselves. For example, young females have relatively high levels of mental health issues whereas problem gambling is highest among young men.

So, what do the generations themselves look like?

Generation Z, those aged 18 -22, currently making up 8% of UK workforce[2]

This generation are true digital natives and fully embrace technology and everything associated with it. They are family and security orientated and tend not to indulge in the type of stereotypical behaviour associated with their contemporaries. They want meaningful work. They are health aware and self esteem is very important to them. Partly because of this, they feel under significant pressure from social media, causing mental health to be a major cause of concern.

Generation Y, aged 23-37, 34% of the workforce

‘Millennials’ are the first generation to say they want their workplace culture to be ‘fun,’ and flexible working/work-life balance is very important to them. They are certainly the first to incur student debt and have also been labelled ‘generation debt’. While they are aware of lifestyle issues, some reports indicate they could be the most overweight yet with rising obesity levels. They say mental health is very important to them.

Generation X, aged 38-53, 37% of the workforce

Generation X redefines what it means to be middle-aged, with many triathletes and extreme sports enthusiasts in this age group. They are ‘digital immigrants,’ enthusiastic technology converts. They are upwardly mobile, status hungry and lead demanding lives, often being described as the ‘sandwich generation’, routinely caring for dependent children and ageing parents. Divorce is common, and because of these characteristics, they are less likely to seek help for any resulting depression and anxiety.

Baby boomers, aged 54-71, 21% of the workforce

Baby boomers are said to be the generation who ‘had it all,’ they are however struggling with the onset of called ‘invisible’ health conditions, with diseases and disabilities more likely to occur in this age group. As such, they may have multiple chronic conditions that will require management for the rest of their lives, the most prominent being musculoskeletal, circulatory and depression and anxiety. This is the first age group who say their biggest financial concern is not related to debt but to later life/retirement planning.

The silent generation, aged over 72, 1% of the workforce

By far and away the smallest workforce age group is the Silent Generation, likely to increase as the population in general ages (although there has been a plateauing of longevity recently). Coronary heart disease is prevalent and this generation need to remain active. Social isolation and loneliness are considered to be prevalent and some may wish to continue in work to counter this and to top up inadequate pension income.

And finally

So a modern benefits package needs to engage these different needs, with appropriate communication methods that suit different age groups. While not silo-ing the generations, this is likely to involve onsite, face-to-face or written communication for the more mature worker and digital based options for the younger employee – either way, a range of communication methods will aid engagement. There is also little doubt that the delivery of health technology will continue to grow in the coming years, especially in delivering mental health support, which is vital across all generations.


[1] ‘Talking about my generation: Exploring the Benefits Engagement Challenge’ Barclays 2013

[2] Data received from the Office for National Statistics 18 August 2018