Anthony York: How can employers offer benefits to suit all generations of employees?

Can employers offer benefits to suit all generations of employees? Yes. How? It depends …

It usually isn’t possible to keep everyone happy all of the time. But a strategic view of requirements, openness to new ideas and (of course) a willingness to invest will get you a lot closer to that goal. That includes ensuring your benefits package suits your people regardless of their generation.

Perversely, the best way to achieve this might be to ignore generational differences, at least at the start of your development process. Instead, focus on the attributes your employees share. It is rare to find an organisation without significant binding similarities. Whether driven by industry, culture, working or hiring practices, vocation or even geography, such commonalities are the best place to start the development of a core reward package. Approaching development from this angle also maximises commercial and cultural alignment.

Your core package should then be complemented by additions that support the diverse requirements outside of these shared elements. This should include generational differences, although our experience suggests that the correlation between age/generation and benefit preferences is less pronounced than stereotypes might suggest.

Flexible benefits are an obvious way to enable this, but you still need to make design choices appropriate to your workforce mix. You might also consider voluntary schemes, top-up risk benefits or changes to your working patterns and environment.

As with anything else, success will ultimately be driven by communication. To engage successfully across generations, tailoring both the message and the media platform to your intended audiences will be necessary. Once again, definition of the shared message and experience will inform a more successful process.

There is no single ‘right’ answer. By accurately identifying the characteristics of your workforce, and considering this alongside your commercial goals, you can identify the right approach for your organisation.

Anthony York is director of consultancy Only People