What Gen Y wants (aside from money)

What Gen Y wants (aside from money)

With baby boomers hitting retirement it has become essential for organizations to understand, attract and retain Gen Y workers. One of the best ways to do that is through benefits.

A lot has been said about the way Gen Y work. Often labelled selfish, spoiled and disengaged, Gen Y’s are reportedly unreliable job-hoppers who have caused much hand-wringing in the corporate sector. Born between around 1979 and 1997 (or after 1982 and before 2000, depending on who you ask) Gen Y is one of the largest generations, almost three times that of Gen X. In fact, it is estimated Gen Y’s will make up 40% of the workforce by 2020.

While Gen Y’s are often painted as fickle and financially insecure it would be a mistake to assume they don’t care about employee benefits. A recent white paper from Colonial Life found 60% of Gen Y workers list benefits and the second most important aspect of job satisfaction.


A 2011 ‘bright paper’ from Sun Life Financial said Generation Y employees express desire for benefits that prevent illness rather than treat it. Gen Y responding well to wellness programs that promote healthy eating, subsidize gym memberships or workplace fitness facilities.


The Sun Life study also found Generation Y’s prefer educational benefits, with reimbursement for the cost of education and self-development courses (personal, professional and spiritual courses) being highly valued and not widely offered by employers.


Sharon Hogg, president or Benefits Experts, a Nova Scotia based benefits provider and administrator, says offering flexibility is the key to providing benefits for younger workers.

“Flex plans are great for Gen Y”, she says. “They don’t want to be told they have to take the full benefits package and it’s important to them to pick and choose.”

Providing core benefits – healthcare, dental, pension plan- along with ‘add on’ solutions, such as HSAs, might be a good way to offer flexibility to younger employees while maintaining the benefits older workers value. 


Gen Y are a communication savvy bunch. According to Sun Life they want communication about their benefits minus the HR jargon and Sharon Hogg says the way benefits are communicated to Gen Y is as important as the benefits themselves.

“We find older generations would prefer to sit down and read something while someone like my daughter, who is 24, would respond better to an email or text message, something she can go through quickly and respond to.”


According to Sun Life Gen Y think paper claims are a time waster and prefer a making health care claims online, or even better, via their smart phone. Sharon Hogg agrees.

“Smart phone delivery has been very successful with this age group,” she says. “ I’ve just implemented a plan for a new group that never had benefits before whose average age is 23. One of the reasons the company chose the plan they did is so they could use the phone to submit claims. That was a big deal for them”