How Do Demographics Affect the Value of Benefits in an Organization?

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It's quite the challenge for an employer to create an employee benefits package that appeals to the company's entire workforce. Employee demographics can determine what benefits appeal to certain groups of people. However, finding commonalities throughout the workforce -- in addition to acknowledging differences -- may simplify the task, creating a nearly perfect benefits package.

Employee Development

Employee development -- whether in-house training or tuition assistance -- is a benefit that appeals to different segments of the workforce for a variety of reasons. For instance, younger employees who put off going to college because of the sizable cost of college tuition could find that a company-sponsored tuition assistance program is an attractive benefit. In addition, well-constructed tuition assistance benefit programs can improve employee retention, especially among young workers, who are prone to changing jobs more frequently than older workers. In-house employee development programs enhance existing talent. An organization whose focus has been on creating a diverse could have a workforce comprised of historically disadvantaged workers -- women as well as members of minority groups -- who will benefit from educational opportunities to improve their chances for success.

Retirement Savings

Workers under 40 years old and new entrants to the workforce have little confidence that Social Security benefits will even exist by the time they retire. Additionally, the workforce includes older workers whose retirement funds shrank due to a volatile stock market. Therefore, employer-sponsored 401k plans with attractive matching contributions by the company, are widespread options in addition to IRAs. Employees typically want to determine how much of their salaries they invest and they want to designate where they invest their contributions. For 401k participants, the greatest appeal may be in the percentage an employer contributes, as well as how quickly funds are vested. Vesting refers to the time it takes for the employer's matching contributions to be available to the employee -- many companies' programs take three to five years for the contributions to be fully vested.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Working parents, as well as members of Generation X and Generation Y, appreciate flexible work arrangements. Although working parents might view flexible scheduling and telework options as benefits, members of younger generations may consider flexible schedules and telecommuting standard policy and not necessarily benefits. At any rate, flexibility appeals to a large segment of the workforce. Employers offering flexible work schedules that accommodate employees' needs to achieve work-life balance are among those companies able to recruit some of the most qualified, enthusiastic and committed workers.

Health Coverage

Predictions that a significant number of baby boomers planned to exit the workforce in the first decade of the new millennium didn't exactly come true because economic conditions prevent many of them from taking full retirement. Consequently, employers that planned to modify their benefit packages to appeal to younger workers found that they needed to maintain many of the benefits that baby boomers traditionally prefer, such as group health benefits. In his article titled "The Aging Workforce and Retiring Baby Boomer Population," professor and human resources consultant Mitchell Langbert states that the health care costs for older workers are as much as 140 percent to 220 percent higher than costs for workers who are 40 and younger. Therefore, the benefits most attractive to employees deemed members of the aging workforce are group health coverage, wellness plans and flexible spending accounts that defray medical- and health-related expenses.

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