UPDATED: December 28, 2023

It’s no secret that current business organizations can have up to four generations of employees – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and most recently, Gen Z. Each of these generations has its specific priorities and values regarding work.

Baby Boomers, for example, are at or nearing retirement age. Throughout their lifetimes of work, they have focused on being on-site for their normal work days, having the security of health and life insurance, and placing a lot of value on their pension/retirement benefits.

Each of the generations that have followed has its own concept of work, where and how that work takes place, and what benefits are most important. The youngest of these generations, for example, may not be thinking so much about a comfortable retirement as it is thinking about paying off student loans.

With all of this in mind, Section 125 was developed within the IRS Code that allows employees choices of taking their benefits compensation in cash or as nontaxable benefits (insurance, child care, retirement plans, etc.). But this only relates to part of what younger employees consider benefits. It’s time to take a broader view of the concept.

Re-Defining Benefits

It’s time to take a look at what younger employees consider benefits, in addition to the traditional ones that employers consider to be attractive. Here are just some of them:

Flexible Work Hours

Most households today have both spouses working. If there are children involved, there are school hours, after-school activities, and such that may require one or both parents to take time off during the normal workday hours. 

Even if single, younger employees want the flexibility of working from home when feasible or switching out work hours to accommodate their college and grad school coursework. These generations firmly believe that if they are meeting all of their job task responsibilities, the number of hours put in on the job is no longer relevant. Productivity is.

Tuition/Student Loan Assistance

Many companies have had tuition assistance programs, so long as the coursework is related to the employee’s current position or one that may become available as that employee climbs the career ladder within the organization. But what about the accountant who wants to go to law school? Many youngsters want no restrictions on courses of study.

Student loan repayment holds many Millennials and Gen Z back financially, and even some Gen X are still paying. A company that is willing to assist with repayments will be one that attracts top talent.

Other Perks

While these are not technically classified as benefits, organizations need to consider smaller perks that younger generations will find attractive and that demonstrate a company’s commitment to their happiness.

We are not talking company picnics, parties, and the like. We are talking about individually attractive and lower-cost “benefits.” The wise C-level execs will develop a laundry list of these items that employees may choose, perhaps on a quarterly basis. Such a laundry list might include:

  • Tickets to sporting events, concerts and theatre plays. You can also pay for conventions, which also provides professional improvement and networking opportunities.
  • Gym memberships, which provides the added benefit of improving your employees' mental and physical wellbeing
  • While unconventional, some employers have been known to pay for dating platforms that employees can download now to seek relationships
  • A weekend getaway at a local hotel or resort
  • Cash amount toward a meal delivery service
  • Family tickets to a major amusement park nearby
  • Gift certificates to upscale restaurants or retailers of their choice

These smaller gestures “buy” a lot of goodwill and loyalty.

Navigating Benefits for the 21st Century Workforce

If you are an employer, a C-level exec, or an HR manager, you know that you have a big challenge. You need to keep your valued employees, and you need to keep attracting the kind of talent you need to thrive. 

How do you do this? By respecting the diversity of the workforce you have and want in the days and years to come. You do this by staying in tune with their values, wants, and needs. It’s not that hard – ask and they will tell you.