This Is Not Your Mother’s Benefit Plan (And That’s Okay)

Across all age groups, employee benefits are becoming a more important factor determining where people choose to work. In 2012, for example, only 28% of respondents in Metlife’s annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study said that benefits were an important reason they chose their place of employment. In 2013 the number was up to 43%.

Employees of all ages who are satisfied with their benefits are also happier, more productive employees, says the American Psychological Association that studies this Picture1trend.  In these positive work environments employees gain increased job satisfaction, improved morale, better physical and mental health and enhanced motivation.

In short, if a school wants to court the best employees, they might want to start thinking now about how to retain and keep the best employees happy.

But which employees, exactly, are we trying to please?

According to the US Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey, the average age of a traditional public school teacher in the US is 43, and 37 for public charter schools. But this continues to change. Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials, (whom we define as those ages 18-34) now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69). And Generation X (ages 35-50 in 2015) is projected to pass the Boomers in population by 2028.

We’d be wise to pay attention to the Millennial Generation not only because they are legion and can unravel the mysteries of Snapchat, but also because they set societal trends. The rising generation historically shapes the way our culture thinks moving forward. What they want today tends to drive what we offer tomorrow, and sets the new standard for what we all come to expect.

So while charter schools are recruiting teachers of every age, millennials make up the largest portion of the nation’s work force – and understanding what matters to them can help your school’s HR team stay ahead of the hiring curve and attract and retain the best teachers at any age.

  1. Millennials care about their benefits. Contrary to popular belief, millennials aren’t spending all day at the end of a carefree selfie stick. They are thinking long and hard about how to get by in a competitive world. And one thing they care about, is benefits. More than any previous generation they have student loans to pay, family members to support, and beliefs that social security won’t cover their needs in the future. A Pew Research Study found 51% of millennials believe there won’t be any money left in Social Security by the time they retire. They’ve seen their grandparents and other loved ones work way past retirement age, something they believe they will also have to do. It’s no wonder they take their financial responsibilities seriously and want to know how their employers will help. They want to know about their 401K and what type of accounts their employers offer.  And they aren’t the only ones.  Across generations, the security that a strong employee benefits plan can provide helps diminish the sting of recent recessions.
  1. Millennials want to choose what type of coverage they get. In the past, employers used to offer fixed plans that were about as flexible as a brick. These packages included a certain amount of money allocated for medical, dental, disability, and life insurance. But young teachers who grew up with lots of choice don’t want that. It’s about as appealing to them as – well – a brick in the face. They want choice. If they never go to the doctor, they may only want a little bit of medical insurance – but if they insist on new eye-glass frames every year they may want vision insurance. And if they are about to go on that skydiving trip, they may want to throw a little life insurance into the overall mix.  Forward-thinking schools are responding with new types of benefit models that give employees at every age lots of choice and flexibility.
  1. Millennials want real-time, instant information … Millennials expect to have information quickly, instantly, and constantly. Gone are the days schools can simply put posters in the teachers’ lounge, hand out benefit enrollment packages, and call it a day. Schools must use technology to provide continual information about benefits, and make onboarding, enrollment, and support, effortless and effective. Even those of us who grew up spending Sunday mornings with the NY Times (yes, the actual paper version), have become increasingly impatient with bureaucracy and red tape, and expect the easy, breezy ways of the high-tech world to come to our rescue.
  1. …But they also crave face-to-face mentorship. In the past, young professionals signed up for benefits as early as age 18 or 21. Now, they can stay on their parents’ coverage until 26, which means they might not have had to think about it before and are suddenly astonished by their lack of understanding of “the system”. So, while millennials do want to be educated and receive information about what to do digitally, they also want one-on-one time with someone to help walk them through the process. Meanwhile, those of us that didn’t grow up with tiny screens and tweets clearly understand the value of the human touch. Schools would do well to partner with providers who can help teachers talk through the intricacies of employee benefits.
  1. Insurance Cards will no longer do the trick. Millennials want information about their benefits available whenever and wherever they need them. This isn’t just so they can check up on their enrollments on a day-to-day basis; it’s also so that the one day they end up at the doctor’s office or the hospital they don’t have to find a tiny card that arrived in the mail years ago. Not to mention saving paper and the planet! Mobile apps help millennials have all their information stored in their phones. They are the wallets and purses of the future – without the crushed Kleenex and slightly fuzzy mints.

The bottom line? What is good for millennials is good for us all.  The things millennials crave – flexibility, information, freedom to decide what is best for them – we all crave. Paying attention to what they want will not only impact the success of charter schools nationwide, but also society at large! Over the course of time, this massive generation of people will be making choices about the right employee benefits for them. Given the right options, they’ll sign on – which in turn contributes to the overall reduction of the cost of healthcare. So yes, pay attention to what’s coming! Because what’s coming can benefit what’s already here.

Flexibility, support, and freedom of choice all flock together at Little Bird. Find out here the choices you can make that can benefit every generation!