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Top benefits each generation wants, according to research 

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More than ever, the workplace is a melting pot of different generations with different priorities, values and needs. And you need to find a way to build a benefits package that will address it all. 

With Gen Zers set to overtake baby boomers this year, workforce needs are evolving fast. And with benefits being a critical part of talent attraction and retention, benefits need to change as your workforce does. 

But what does each generation want? New research from Forbes Advisor breaks down the benefits each generation craves.

Different generations, different benefits 

Generation Z

Gen Zers are quickly overtaking the working world as boomers retire and younger generations enter the workforce. They’re known for speaking up at work about issues from DEI to mental health more than any generation before them. 

According to the research, the top benefit that Gen Zers crave is flexible work, with 83% listing flexible work as the most important to their job satisfaction. 

That’s followed by another flexible option: flexible parental leave options. As more Gen Z workers begin family planning, it’s no surprise that more Gen Z workers report this as a top benefit compared to other generations. 

What may be surprising, though, is that only 59% of Gen Zers listed mental health resources as an important benefit, compared to 68% of millennials. Gen Zers’ most desired mental health resources include: 

  • Insurance coverage for mental health services (53%)
  • Dedicated workplace therapist or counselor (51%)
  • Dedicated office spaces for mental health processing (49%), and
  • Mental health workshops (47%).

Gen Z was also the most likely generation to report that they wanted certain professional development resources, including mentoring opportunities (36%) and access to learning management systems (68%).  

Millennials

By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials, according to TeamStage.

Flexible work options also topped the list for millennials, with 84% saying flexible work is most important to job satisfaction, followed by flexible paid time off (PTO) and vacation (70%). 

Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) listed mental health resources as an important benefit, more than any other generation. Some of the most sought-after resources for millennials are: 

  • Insurance coverage for mental health services (54%)
  • Dedicated office spaces for processing (54%)
  • Mental health “first responders” (49%), and
  • Mental health workshops (46%). 

Interestingly, millennials were the least likely to want shadowing or cross functional learning as a professional development benefit at just 5%, compared to 18% of Gen Z.

Gen X

Gen X has been known as the “middle child” of the generations. But, by 2028, they’re expected to outnumber boomers, according to Pew Research Center.

The top desired benefit of Gen X was flexible work at 73%, followed by flexible PTO and vacation (67%), mental health resources (66%) and flexible parental leave options (65%). 

Gen X was the least likely to want a wellness reimbursement, with only 18% listing it as a desired mental health resources. Instead, they were more likely to want insurance coverage (50%), dedicated office spaces for processing (48%), and dedicated workplace therapists or counselors (43%).

In terms of professional development, Gen X wants company-wide training from other departments (55%), access to learning management systems (50%) and a stipend for continued learning (45%).

Baby Boomers

Although thousands of baby boomers reach retirement age every day, nearly half of workers in this generation do not plan to retire, according to NRMLA.

Baby boomers seem to prioritize flexibility as the most important to their satisfaction, with flexible work options (76%), flexible parental leave (66%) and flexible PTO and vacation (60%) as some of the most important benefits.

Although many other generations listed insurance coverage as the most important, boomers broke the mold by listing dedicated office space for processing as the most desired benefit.

They were also the most likely to desire company-wide trainings from other departments. Other sought-after professional development benefits include:

  • Access to learning management systems (57%)
  • Stipend for continued learning (51%), and
  • Performance reviews (51%). 

Bottom line for HR 

Obviously, you can’t make everyone happy, and catering all your benefits to one generation will not only shut out other employees, but also narrow your talent pool and discourage workers in different generations from applying. 

But there are some things you can do to make sure that all generations are happy with their benefit offerings. 

  • Focus on universal desired benefits: Across generations, 79% of all workers said flexible work is one of the most important benefits to satisfaction, followed by flexible PTO and flexible parental leave. Focusing on the benefits that all workers want, regardless of age, can help ensure that your core benefits cater to what your workers really need.
  • Survey your workforce often: Even if your head count doesn’t significantly increase or decrease, it’s important to survey your workforce regularly to make sure your benefits are still working for them. Then, you can use all your data to inform your strategy for next year. 
  • Offer a few unique perks: A few robust benefit offerings that meet most of your workforce needs is better than a whole menu of benefits that can overwhelm your employees. Focus on the quality of unique benefits, not quantity. 

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