Despite their "constantly wired" reputation, Generation Y employees don't use online resources such as forums or blogs to access voluntary benefits information any more than other workers do, according to new research. And they're significantly more likely than other workers to turn to a family member or friend for information.

Gen Y also tends to be less financially stable than other generations, says Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company in its recent white paper "Pump Up Productivity from the Next Generation: Build Voluntary Benefits into Workplace Strategies to Attract, Engage and Retain Generation Y."

The findings could have implications for how employers and benefits managers communicate benefits information to employees.

"Benefits communication emerged in the research as a clear opportunity for employers to more strongly engage Gen Y workers," says Stephen Bygott, director of marketing programs and research at Colonial Life. "These workers give employers low marks for the effectiveness of their benefits communication, and Gen Y women in particular are much more likely to say the communication they receive about their benefits is not at all informative, including cost, what's covered and what they need."

Gen Y puts great value on a strong benefits package, yet is underinsured, according to the report. Sixty percent of Gen Y workers list benefits as the second most important aspect of job satisfaction, according to a 2010 Society for Human Resource Management survey. Yet a recent survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of Colonial Life showed Gen Y is the least likely working group to take advantage of workplace insurance, from major medical plans to voluntary coverage such as life, disability and accident insurance.

"As benefits decision making continues to shift more toward employees, Gen Y workers will become more eager for the products and information they need to manage their personal financial security," says Bygott. "Employers have a tremendous opportunity right now to create a greater return on investment by evaluating their benefits offerings and communication methods to appeal to Gen Y. The result will be a more loyal, engaged and productive workforce."


Gen Y action plan

Colonial Life sets out a Gen Y action plan for benefits professionals. Among its recommendations:

* Review the current make-up of your workforce and evaluate your company's human capital needs for the next year, five years and decade. Identify key areas where workplace strategies need to be developed or fine-tuned to attract and retain Gen Y employees.

* Match benefits offerings to Gen Y's needs and explore voluntary plan options to help them close any financial or medical gaps in coverage.

* Integrate voluntary benefits with core group offerings to help Gen Y employees protect themselves against increased financial exposure and to help alleviate the economic pressures many of them now experience.

* Keep in mind Gen Y's preferences for how it wants to get information. The message doesn't likely need to change, but the delivery mechanism does.

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