Boomers need benefits, too: What you need to consider
An organization’s workforce drives business results. That is why it is especially important to create a culture where employees work in harmony and understand that it takes a team effort to achieve success. This has become increasingly more difficult as the workforce becomes more diverse. It’s no secret that people are working later into their lives, which has caused an overlap in generations of employees.
Organizations have made many changes in recent years to adapt to the increase of millennials in the workforce, including job restructuring, flexible schedules, the adoption of continual feedback rather than the annual review. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of the workforce is now made up of millennials, yet other generations still make up a large part of the workforce, including Baby Boomers.
In this generationally diverse workplace, it can be challenging to create a culture where older workers still feel valued and offering benefits that attract and retain older workers can make a significant impact. The first step is for an organization is to educate workers on how their benefits change as they approach retirement years. Since many older employees face similar issues, creating employer-sponsored support groups can help. Employers can bring in experts to talk about relevant topics such as Medicare, Social Security, 401(k)s and overall pre-retirement planning.
Educating employees on the benefits they have access to is also very important. 401(k) providers all provide online retirement tools and calculators that will assist employees in building a strong financial future for retirement.
When employers are thinking about what types of benefits to implement, cost is often a major concern. An affordable benefit essential for older works is a legal plan. These plans are easy to implement and can be employer-paid or offered on a voluntary basis. With this benefit, employees have access to a national network of attorneys on a retainer basis who specialize in personal legal matters, such as wills and estate planning and preparation for eldercare. As employees get closer to retirement age, these are all essential matters that will help protect their assets and family.
Health insurance is obviously an important benefit, but especially for those nearing retirement. We often hear that employees are staying in the workforce for the sole reason of having health insurance coverage until they are eligible for Medicare. Employers may need to get creative and think about lowering the weekly hour threshold for benefits eligibility, especially as it becomes harder to find employees in this labor market. There may be options for setting up special classes of employees who would have different benefits eligibility rules. Before implementing anything, consulting an ERISA attorney is highly recommended for guidance regarding specific nondiscrimination tests that may apply.
Phased retirement is a key concept employers should explore further. Many older workers aren’t ready to retire but may be tired of dealing with their current level of responsibility and are looking for less-stressful roles with more accommodating schedules. Phased retirements also provide an opportunity for transfer of knowledge to other employees. When employees announce that they are ready to retire, it is too late to do any transfer of knowledge. Rather than approaching employees with an option of phased retirement, develop policies and create a culture where phased retirement is accepted and encouraged to avoid any age discrimination issues.
Finally, educating all employees on their differences is key to a collaborative environment. The more each generation knows and understands about each other, the more accepting they will be of each other.
It’s clear that there is a trend of employees working later in their lives, so employers must adapt their practices and start thinking about some possible benefits that will embrace this evolution. An HR consultant and benefits advisor can provide best practices for developing and implementing these critical workforce strategies.