Yesterday I spoke at Employee Benefits Connect in London. The subject?
“International Benefits for a multigenerational workforce”. With a 30 minute slot it was a challenge for such a huge subject. We focussed on employee engagement and communications rather than governance, systems or cost savings.
As multinationals continue to expand and compete globally for top talent, an integrated benefits and rewards strategy is high on the agenda. Corporate structures are becoming flatter as companies shift towards becoming one entity with a global culture. A global benefits strategy will be key in differentiating your overall proposition and by being part of the glue of the company:
- Aligning benefits practices with business goals/strategy
- Attracting and retaining talent
- Supporting an employer value proposition
- Enhancing employee engagement
- Promoting employee protection and well-being
The external environment in each region or country will impact your ability to fulfil your workforce needs. The demographics are clear, the global population is aging and this will have a profound impact on the make-up of the workforce globally. Statistics from World Population Prospects show that different things are happening in different parts of the world at different rates. Something to be mindful of this when developing benefits strategy.
An older, more gender and ethnically diverse workforce with greater connectivity is quickly becoming standard. Your global benefits strategy will entail global values and principles but may need to be adapted to meet regional needs.
Much has been written about the impact of 5 generations in the workplace: lifestyle priorities, leadership style, financial outlook and communications. There are plenty of infographics.
It’s difficult to know how much of this is truly generational and how much is as a result of wider changes to the world, organisations and society.
Generations are more similar than we think, research from Aon Hewitt and Barclays shows that we all want- clarity, understanding, fairness, and recognition and from our reward and benefits good value and personalisation.
But there are things that vary by generation:
- Professional training, education and career advancement is much higher on the agenda for younger groups
- Older groups save more for retirement
- Cash is king for younger groups servicing student loans, deposits and mortgage payments
- Those with children and older groups value healthcare plans but younger groups focus upon fitness activities
With benefits having been designed for a different era, nearly 90% of younger generations are dissatisfied with benefits offerings believing that they are not sufficiently flexible to meet their personal and financial needs.
However, generalisations may be unhelpful –you need really understand your employees.
Data and marketing insight
Organisations have an abundance of people data and 70% of employees believe their organisation should understand them to the same degree as they understand external customers. Great data can help you:
- Understand where you need global consistency vs local flexibility
- Segment your market and understand what benefits employees value
- Make strategic data decisions
HR often focuses on consistency, fairness, pleasing the majority. But Today’s employees are more mobile, educated, technologically enabled and short-term-focused than ever. They want recognition of needs, involvement, participation, transparency regardless of generation. And are informed consumers of your employer brand, culture, reward, benefits and career development programmes.
There’s an expectation gap so we need a different way of thinking.
Companies are turning to consumer marketing theory to gain insights about — and connect with — their current and potential talent. They are starting to understand the different segments of their varied workforces including what motivates them and what elements they value most.
Don’t focus on benefits in isolation – it’s about the whole employee experience. It’s about total reward plus more, your values, culture, brand, vision, environment and leaders. About making employees central to the offering.
Flexibility and Communications
Employees are being increasingly flexible in the way that they work: collaboration, portfolio careers, and multiple employers. At the same time, pressures on them are growing; lack of security, world volatility, rising costs, rising hours, juggling home life, providing for a longer old age. Companies that provide benefits to help alleviate some of these pressures will win.
A wide ranging benefits offering not only to meet the needs of a multi-generational workforce, but also help you compete with start-ups, who have more fluid structures and flexibility.
Importantly, benefits need to be delivered at the right life stage and communicated well. They need to evolve with the employee.
But it’s not just what you communicate it’s how. There are differences in communication preferences across generations and therefore how you effect engagement with benefits.
Engaging employees with benefits when it matters to them is important – to drive value, understanding and effectiveness so that employees are gaining maximum benefit.
But more importantly boosting engagement with benefits helps you communicate your culture and business goals through your benefits strategy.
Image adapted from 5 Generations of Royals by Drivethrucafe.