How to avoid stereotypes and assumptions when designing reward for an ageing workforce

By their very definition, stereotypes are difficult to avoid. Views of a certain demographic are often based on largely anecdotal evidence, and can be exaggerated, outdated, or simply incorrect.

Older worker using an iPad

The issue is when we bring these stereotypes to the design of a benefits scheme for your employees. One of the most common stereotypes in the workplace is that ‘Millennials’ want different benefits to the older generations, and the volume of content on this subject suggests that this is a huge focus for employers. However, with people living and working for longer, there’s a growing need to ensure you have a reward strategy that also speaks to those employees looking to retire in the next 10-15 years, not just those just starting out on their careers.

What does the data tell us?
Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘the more you know about your past, the better prepared you are for the future’. So, rather than make assumptions, employers need to understand what drives and motivates their employees by learning from past behaviour. In analysing the selection data of your older employees, you can identify what’s important to them, and predict trends in areas such as savings or wellbeing. Gaining this understanding will help you to design a benefits scheme that will appeal to this demographic, with take-up reflective of that relevance. It’s important to not bring your own biases to these analytics exercises, but simply let the data tell you what it tells you.

The assumption most heavily associated with those closer to retirement is that they aim to boost their pension pot. So, increased pension contributions are the most valuable benefit to an older worker. In this instance, the data does support the hypothesis. So much so that some organisations allow employees to draw from their pension while still earning a salary as a way of incentivising them to stay on beyond State Retirement Age. Then, any employer contribution is paid into an alternative saving vehicle (or in cash). This gives employees a boost to their income for a short period.

That said, pension isn’t the only benefit where we see consistently popular engagement for an ageing workforce.

Ageless benefits

Holiday Buy is consistently one of the top-performing benefits across all demographics, and tends to see take-up of 20-30 per cent with employees over-50. Linked to this is Travel Insurance. If this were to be sourced privately or through a travel agent, the age of the traveller would almost certainly impact the cost of the policy, but not only are corporate schemes not age-rated, they tend to be more comprehensive than those available online or through your bank. For example, most policies will include Financial Failure Protection so if your airline goes out of business, the insurer will work to find you an alternative. Or if your flight is delayed by only two hours, you can access an executive lounge; which would have come in handy if you had to wait at Gatwick in the pre-Christmas drone delays.

Insurance benefits which aren’t age-rated tend to see take-up of around 10 per cent with the over-50s. Dental Insurance is an example where there are no restrictions around pre-existing conditions. As we age and require more restorative treatment on our teeth; the ability to claim money back on private dentistry becomes more valuable. Providers are aware of this, and we’ve seen in recent years that some policies offer cover for parents, too.

What are your employees saying?
Analysis of the data is invaluable, but speaking to your employees directly is essential. It helps you determine if the analysis and approaches are correct or need re-tuning, and it can give the employees themselves a sense of involvement and inclusion in the benefit design process.

Surveys are a great way of achieving this. Employers might find a ‘post-enrolment survey’ particularly useful, with questions designed to get a view on which other benefits could interest their people. When drilling down for demographic-specific insights, personalisation of communications is key. For example, a specific pre-retirement survey could be issued to employees over a certain age, asking tailored questions related to what they would value in the run-up to retirement. This laser targeted approach to communications ensures that, not only is your messaging appropriate, but employees feel like they’re being spoken to directly with personalised and relevant communications, rather than everyone receiving blanket emails and hoping that there’s something in there for them. 

Finally, it’s useful to acknowledge that people take on information and interact with questions in different ways. Sometimes, getting a group of people together to share their thoughts on – and knowledge of – certain topics can be the best way of understanding what they want. As with surveys, this also gives employees the sense of inclusion in the benefit design process. Workshops or seminars on a specific topic such as ‘saving for retirement’ can be a great way to engage in more of a classroom-style approach. We’ve also seen roadshows with benefit providers and internal wellbeing contacts in attendance, targeted at particular demographics. Here, specific messaging can be shared with employees, highlighting the elements of the benefits package tailored to them as individuals.

Bring it all together
Stereotypes can influence the way we think but, the demand for valuable benefits is consistent. It’s in the understanding of what is deemed ‘valuable’ that will help you design, maintain and continually evolve your reward and benefits strategy, not only for an ageing workforce, but for all employee demographics.

Overall, while we want to avoid making assumptions about our workforces based on age, we can make predictions based more on someone’s stage of life in order to design a reward scheme that they’ll love. Generally, there are some inevitable correlations between age and life stage, but as society embraces wider lifestyle choices, employers must cater to them. You may have a 20-year-old employee who is starting a family, while an employee in their mid-fifties is buying a house for the first time. Employers can’t assume that any employee doesn’t want something because of their age. But you can use data analysis, direct communication and engagement with your employees to try and understand what they do want and why, and design your reward scheme accordingly.

The author is David Palman, Senior Consultant, Benefex.

This article is provided by Benefex. 

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