Benefit packages that appeal to different generations

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Employers in the furniture industry must now reconcile that standard benefit packages are no longer the only expectation of workers. Attracting and retaining employees requires benefits to appeal across a multi-generational workforce.   

Benefit packages for four generations 

It is incredible to realize that there are currently four generations in the workplace, ranging from the Baby Boomers through Generation Z. This challenge requires employers to cater benefit plans to these various groups with different needs. While each person has a unique personality and temperament, each generation also has a general set of values shaped by their experiences and significant historical events during their formative years. Because of this, each generation looks at work and employers’ obligations to workers differently.   

1. Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers, who grew up during a war and other movements such as the Women’s Lib and Civil Rights Movement, tend to appreciate benefit packages and options that provide them with stability. These would include benefits such as pensions, vacation, sick leave, retirement plans, and traditional health and welfare plans, such as health, dental, and vision. They believe in loyalty and appreciate service awards that recognize longevity in an organization. This generation also feels confident that Social Security will exist for them during retirement.   

2. Generation X

When it comes to Generation X or Gen X, they witnessed mass layoffs, with many of their parents receiving or fearing “pink slips .” They also watched events such as Watergate, so they tended to distrust the government and employers. This generation was also latchkey because divorced and single-parent households became commonplace. Gen X parents were often required to put work over the family, with many parents missing significant events due to work commitments. So, Gen X wants you to show them the money! They want bonus opportunities or equity in the company through stocks, Employee Stock Ownership (ESOP), or restricted shares.

Work-life balance became more prominent when Gen X entered the workforce because they value their time away from work. They want recognition programs that celebrate their successes and relaxed dress codes. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) for medical and dependent care are critical to this group, who essentially believe that women should not depend on men for financial support, as they had seen in the prior generation.   

3. Millennials

The Millennials, who now represent the largest group in the workforce, grew up with technology as their native language. Their generation is also marked by mass school shootings, multi-culturalism, and fear-based preparation drills. They believe that the workplace is archaic in many ways, especially those requiring workers to come into the office. They don’t want to waste time or gas going into the workplace unless it makes sense. When it comes to their health care, they want more Health Savings Account (HSA) type plans that allow them to control some of their funds. They care about the company’s impact on the environment and the communities it serves. They believe in fairness and equity.

Millennials appreciate benefit packages such as mental health days, Employee Assistance Plans (EAP), flexibility in scheduling, paid volunteer time off, and professional development. They also enjoy benefits such as pet insurance options or the ability to bring their pet to work. Some progressive organizations allow parents to get their babies to work with them until the child can crawl or allow unlimited paid time off (PTO) programs.   

4. Gen Z

The newest generation to enter the workforce is Generation Z or Gen Z. They are the “woke” generation. They want employers to show that they care. Gen Z wants to know and understand the values of the organization and proof that the organization is living accordingly. Gen Z doesn’t just want diversity in the workplace, they expect and demand it. They want to see the workplace take measures to combat discrimination and climate change and create sustainability in the workplace and community. They hope the company takes positions on issues and promotes equity rather than for it to be an afterthought. Gen Z wants to see benefit packages for same-sex couples or opposite-sex partners who are living together rather than just for married couples. They want the workplace accessible to those with disabilities and for programs to be available to individuals with limitations. 

They want to write their ticket by being able to pitch a job that doesn’t even have to exist to the employer to demonstrate their value. An exciting career, or one that creates an impact, is equal to or more important than salary to this group. They need regular ongoing feedback outside of a formal performance review. Student loan repayment is also a newer benefit being offered as a retention tool. Gen Z wants two-way mentorship programs that also allow them to mentor more experienced workers on how to operate more efficiently with easy-to-use technology tools while also being mentored. They value experiences and don’t want to wait long periods before being able to take time off, even if it is unpaid. Having a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for commuter benefit is essential since many in this generation would prefer to use mass transit than rely on a vehicle.   

Where to start with benefit packages

Even with all this information, it may be challenging to know where to begin. The best way to start is to ask your employees and solicit their feedback. Once you have this information, go a step further and create some feedback groups. Be sure to invite a diverse group of employees who can represent the different interests of the positions, genders, generations, and so forth to get more specific information. You can float some potential solutions to their concerns that have been identified and solicit their ideas.   


All employees will appreciate the ability to be heard and that their concerns are being addressed. No matter what, be sure to continue communicating with everyone to let them know where you are to show progress.   

Tracy Jackson, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HFA Chief HR Strategist

Tracy has extensive knowledge building and overseeing top-performing HR departments and teams working in the public, private and employee-owned companies across a variety of industries. She spent the majority of her career as the VP of HR for Sleep Train and Mattress Firm.

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