I recently had an eye-opening generational experience while at a Slovenian picnic a few weeks ago. The crowd was varied (made up of the Slovenians who had immigrated to Chicago in the early 20th century and their descendants): 80-something-year-old immigrants who sit on picnic benches the whole time and have long conversations in their Eastern European tongue, 50-somethings playing bocce ball with a beer in hand and the 20-somethings like me.
The people in my parents’ generation undoubtedly talk about work or when they can finally retire. Where should they invest? Will retirement be in 10 or 15 years? Will they retire in Arizona or Texas or Asia? They speak like they’re one of those persnickety couples on House Hunters International, saying things like, “I really don’t care where we live as long as we’re five minutes from the beach,” and “But we could get a much better deal if we’re willing to move further from the beach!”
The people in my grandparents’ generation also bring up work and retirement, like when my grandfather shows off his construction union retirement gift (a gold watch that’s probably fake, he points out) and tells stories about his job.
Meanwhile, my similarly aged cousins and I have different thoughts on the same topic. Like on the evening news, my cousin and I both had a minor panic attacks when the anchor said something along the lines of, “College graduates today may not be able to retire until age 75.” That’s a big jump from 65. I’m hoping that’s a case of exaggeration for the sake of ratings.
In any case, it hit me that despite this huge generational divide between my parents and grandparents, we care about the same thing: security. The only difference is, we’re in very, very different places.
Much like my large, extended family, the workforce is multigenerational. That can seem daunting to a company managing employees in five different generations, but it’s less daunting when you consider that ultimately most people want the same thing. They’re just in different places in their lives in terms of attaining it.
“Millennials don’t necessarily look at benefits in a wildly different way than the other generations. They’re worried about base pay, bonuses, retirement,” said Carlos Hernandez, vice president of strategic alliances at Acclaris, an information technology and services provider that manages health care plans. As an employer, “you have to offer the basics.”
Where there may be a difference, though, is the messaging itself, added Hernandez, who has more than 25 years of experience in the health care industry advising employers on how to best meet their benefits goals. Companies, when considering benefits offerings, have to use different messaging to different groups — like age groups — to show the value points they have. But it’s still the same program underneath that skin.
One way to facilitate the access to information, for example, is bring a financial firm to a lunch and learn every month and let employees sign up to speak to an adviser, Hernandez noted. This could be appealing to a baby boomer who’s retiring in 15 years, or someone just starting out their career who wants to get on the right path.
Also useful to facilitate access is a creating a touchpoint, like a mobile app or portal or private conference room, he added. Companies could use something like this to deliver services and guidance in private.
Finally, in terms of managing a multigenerational workforce, he suggested creating a committee or a strategic forum made up of employees of every generation. These representatives of the company could talk about issues, like financial or health benefits, from their own points of view.
“That sense of involvement cannot be understated,” he said.
Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.