Gen Y Demands New Workplace Benefits Strategies

Colonial Life white paper shows voluntary insurance, communication are key to attracting major workforce

COLUMBIA, S.C., Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Generation Y is taking over the world and the workplace — and employers who want to attract, engage and retain this huge workforce need to understand its preferences and communication styles, especially when it comes to workplace benefits.

That's the finding of a new white paper released today by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. "Pump Up Productivity from the Next Generation: Build Voluntary Benefits into Workplace Strategies to Attract, Engage and Retain Generation Y" uses proprietary and industry research to outline what employers should know about the benefits needs and preferences of Gen Y to develop effective employee benefits programs.

"The ability to recruit and retain younger workers is quickly becoming essential for employers to ensure long-term business success, especially as Baby Boomers begin to retire in increasing numbers," says Stephen Bygott, director of marketing programs and research at Colonial Life. "But Gen Y has different needs, expectations and preferences than previous generations, so companies need to take a different approach when it comes to designing and communicating their benefits packages. Those who don't consider changes could risk losing their competitive edge and may be left behind."

Key information in the white paper that employers and human resource managers should know includes:

  • Gen Y tends to be less financially stable than other generations. Only 58 percent pay their bills on time,(1) 43 percent have high credit card debt(2) and 70 percent aren't building a cash cushion for emergencies.(2) They also tend to change jobs frequently: The average 26-year-old has already had seven jobs.(3)
  • Gen Y puts great value on a strong benefits package, yet is woefully underinsured. Sixty percent of Gen Y workers list benefits as the second most important aspect of job satisfaction.(4) However, a recent survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of Colonial Life showed Gen Y is the least likely working group to take advantage of workplace insurance, from major medical plans to voluntary coverage such as life, disability and accident insurance.(5)
  • The workplace is the number one source for benefits information, but Gen Y seems to prefer more personal communication. Despite their "constantly wired" reputation, Gen Y employees don't use online resources such as forums or blogs any more than other workers do. And they're significantly more likely than other workers to turn to a family member or friend for information.(5)

Opportunity to improve benefits communication

"Benefits communication emerged in the research as a clear opportunity for employers to more strongly engage Gen Y workers," Bygott says. "These workers give employers low marks for the effectiveness of their benefits communication, and Gen Y women in particular are much more likely to say the communication they receive about their benefits is not at all informative, including cost, what's covered and what they need."

The white paper outlines numerous tactics and tools employers can use to communicate benefits more effectively with Gen Y workers, including:

  • Implementing one-to-one counseling
  • Using appropriate technology for the message
  • Employing multiple communication methods
  • Making content more interactive

"As benefits decision-making continues to shift more toward employees, Gen Y workers will become more eager for the products and information they need to manage their personal financial security," says Bygott. "Employers have a tremendous opportunity right now to create a greater return on investment by evaluating their benefits offerings and communication methods to appeal to Gen Y. The result will be a more loyal, engaged and productive workforce."

The complete white paper is available in Colonial Life's online newsroom at

Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company is a market leader in providing insurance benefits for employees and their families through the workplace, along with individual benefits education, advanced yet simple-to-use enrollment technology and quality personal service. Colonial Life offers disability, life and supplemental accident and health insurance policies in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Similar policies, if approved, are underwritten in New York by a Colonial Life affiliate, The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company, Worcester, Mass. Colonial Life is based in Columbia, S.C., and is a subsidiary of Unum Group, one of the world's leading providers of employee benefits. For more information about benefits communication, call Colonial Life at (803) 798-7000 or visit

(1)  Dugas, Christine, "Generation Y's Steep Financial Hurdles: Huge Debt, No Savings," USA Today, April 23, 2010.

(2)  MetLife, "Y Worry? Gen Y Optimistic About Recovery, Looking for Guidance, Met Life Survey Shows," press release, Nov. 10, 2009.

(3)  Fisher, Anne, "To Keep Gen Y Employees, Treat Them Like 'Rock Stars,'" Crain's New York, July 9, 2010.

(4)  Society for Human Resource Management, "2010 Employee Job Satisfaction: Investigating What Matters Most to Employees," 2010.

(5)  Colonial Life, Harris Interactive Survey, June 23-27, 2011.

SOURCE Colonial Life