Employee Benefits

Grateful to All Generations!

Steve Harris, CEBS
Steve Harris, CEBS
Development Officer, Employee Benefits

My wife and I were listening in on some parents talking during one of our kids’ band activities, when I heard a concerned parent exclaim, “Those darned kids are always on their mobile phones!” The mom was being critical of those who make up the Millennial generation, as she paused long enough to post a picture to her Instagram account. If you were to Google media images from the 1950s (much like the photo for this blog), you’ll see the Baby Boomer generation staring incessantly at the media of their time — newspapers! It seems it’s a hypocritical rite of passage to be warning the next generation as our memories fade and cherish how good we had it growing up.

Since I was born in the late 60s, I am part of Generation X. We learned how to wash our own clothes, make Swanson TV dinners, and record the next Brady Bunch episode on the VCR while our parents were working. A Pew Research report referred to Gen X as “America’s neglected ‘middle child,’” as the retiring Baby Boomers or ascending Millennials make all the headlines. With an average of 20 years in the workplace, Gen Xers are taking on leadership roles from retiring boomers who relate to our sense of loyalty and work ethic. We also understand the importance of hyper-collaboration with the next generations to come and the need to digitally transform our businesses to stay relevant.

Recently, my sisters and I placed my dad into a senior living facility. It was heartwarming to see how the Baby Boomers are transforming the elder care industry. They will not stand to rock away their lives in an ‘old folk’s home’ in a way that may have been acceptable decades before. Dad has access to chef-prepared meals, an “OnStar-like” service for medical emergencies, and Uber-like senior transportation at his beck and call. This place had activities going on throughout the day that would make a Carnival Cruise line jealous.

In the same way boomers are transforming the senior care market, Millennials will not tolerate the way we currently deliver and finance healthcare. Our healthcare system is neither healthy nor is it an integrated system. With CMS projections of our nation’s health spend outpacing inflation by 2 percent or more each year over the next few decades, Millennials are estimated to spend one out of every two dollars they earn in their career towards an underperforming system. Millennials are upending healthcare in the same way they disrupted media and newspapers, transportation, and financial services. Millennials don’t trust authority and conventional sources of wisdom. They value simple, transparent, low-cost services that are easy to use.

The great news is that all generations want these things, too, Millennials are just willing to vote with their feet (or iPhones) more easily. By 2020, they will make up over 50 percent of the workforce, and in 10 years, that will grow to 75 percent. At the big four accounting firms, Millennials already make up 60 percent of the workforce.

So how do these trends impact the way you make decisions around your corporate healthcare, benefit, and insurance strategies? Here are a few quick tips:

  • Create cross-functional “Insight Committees” to weigh in on your company’s benefits, insurance, and risk management practices. This should encourage both gender and generational diversity that reflects your workforce. You might be surprised to learn that a college graduate in her 20s places as great of a value on insuring another member of her family…her pet…as much as herself.
  • Keep your health and benefit package robust by incorporating perks that are intriguing to multiple generations. Recently, I was invited to sit in on one employer’s benefit committee meeting where they decided NOT to offer a telehealth benefit in 2018. All the boomers (the ones making all the decisions) didn’t feel it was needed, despite the lower cost copay and convenience it would have brought to over 40 percent of its workforce. 
  • Engage in multiple ways with your workforce. Despite authorities who will tell you we are all in favor of a paperless society, keep your methods of communications varied. It’s best to create lots of options, so recipients can make elections or act easily based on clear instructions. A shareholder at Holmes Murphy serves on the board of the National Kidney Foundation. He found a passionate Associate and kidney donor willing to share her story who is mobilizing our workforce to act in meaningful ways.

At this stage of my life, I’m just fine with being “America’s neglected middle child.” While those in my generation are making their mark on society, it’s fun to witness the boomers transforming senior care while also aiding and abetting Millennials through the intolerance of a healthcare system that stands in opposite to what they value. It reminds me of that summer in 1978 when I was sitting right between my older and younger sister in the back seat of our family minivan —  singing The Cars: “Let the Good Times Roll.”

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