Making Sense Of Today's Consumer

The Millennial Monolith

How a generation’s ‘digital literacy’ can guide advisors to create viable benefits solutions

By Hector De La Torre

Mr. De La Torre is the Executive Director of the Transamerica Center for Health Studies, a nonprofit focused on empowering consumers and employers to achieve the best value and protection from their health coverage, as well as the best outcomes in their personal health and wellness. Visit here.

Though Millennials face many of the same workplace challenges that older generations encountered early in their careers, their digital literacy has equipped them with the ability to efficiently navigate, research, and collaborate to accomplish tasks and access information. As more Millennials enter the workforce, savvy employers know to use benefits as a means of being competitive for talent. To optimize engagement and productivity, employers should consider ways to address the needs of their millennial employees by focusing on healthcare benefits, technology, and flexibility.

As Millennials overtake Baby Boomers to be the largest generation in the United States, their value as a massive working, spending, and voting block is apparent. Millennials are projected to comprise almost half of the U.S workforce by 2020. This generation of digital natives excels at utilizing the boundless information at their fingertips, and are comfortable adopting web-based platforms inside and outside of the workplace.

A recent nationwide survey and whitepaper by national nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) showed that Millennials are more committed to employers that support their employees’ health and well-being. Notably, 70 percent of Millennials say they would feel greater commitment to their company if the company offered programs to improve employees’ health and well-being – more than any other generation.

Stability, affordability are still a cherished asset

Millennials are adapting how they access healthcare, and while they are open to a variety of healthcare options (including workplace wellness, telemedicine, prevention, and holistic care), they also remain wary of losing health coverage. With one in five Millennials unable to afford routine healthcare expenses, this generation seeks the stability of employer-based health coverage. Half of Millennials receive health insurance benefits through an employer, 11 percent through Medicaid or another state-funded program, 9 percent from a private insurance plan through their spouse or parents—and 16 percent do not have health insurance, simply paying out-of-pocket for healthcare.

Since many of the youngest Millennials are now graduating from college and beginning their professional careers, millennial employment numbers have risen recently. The survey showed 59 percent of Millennials were employed full-time in 2018, an increase of 10 percent since 2016.

When considering their job or career, TCHS research reveals that for Millennials, the most important factors in overall job satisfaction are flexibility of work/life balance (93 percent), followed by salary (92 percent), financial stability of the company (91 percent), healthcare benefits (89 percent), and retirement benefits (88 percent). Our research indicates that healthcare is deeply important to Millennials, as more than half (53 percent) report remaining at their current job because of the health insurance, while four in 10 Millennials (40 percent) had to leave a previous job because their employer did not offer health insurance or health benefits.

Of course, health insurance is also crucial for those living with a chronic medical or mental condition, and approximately half of Millennials (51 percent) report being diagnosed with a chronic condition—most commonly depression (17 percent), being overweight (12 percent), migraines (12 percent), anxiety (11 percent), and high blood pressure (9 percent). From 2016–2018, over one in five Millennials (22 percent) report being diagnosed with a mental health condition. Perhaps due to these conditions, Millennials’ biggest policy-related fear (29 percent) is losing healthcare due to one of these pre-existing conditions: a much higher percentage than Generation X or Baby Boomers.

FSAs, HSAs help to offset rising costs

Millennials are adapting how they access healthcare, and while they are open to a variety of healthcare options, they also remain wary of losing health coverage. With one in five Millennials unable to afford routine healthcare expenses, this generation seeks the stability of employer-based health coverage...

Difficulty affording healthcare and other necessary expenses is common among Millennials. Forty-four percent feel their health insurance premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses all increased within the last year, and about a quarter of Millennials are using Flexible Spending Accounts (24 percent) and Health Savings Accounts (25 percent) to cover these expenses. Beyond health concerns, millennial finances in general have also been a charged topic. In an effort to keep up, Millennials are more likely than older generations to pay for significant out of-pocket healthcare expenses with credit cards (44 percent) and 401k withdrawals (16 percent). To mitigate their financial pressures in order to attract millennial employees, some companies have even initiated student loan assistance programs.

Millennials face significant stresses that impact them in the workplace— health-related and otherwise—at greater levels than older generations. These include health problems affecting their family (58 percent), family responsibilities (67 percent), and job stability (59 percent). These stresses may be part of the reason Millennials — who potentially have children, parents, and grandparents to care for — list flexibility of work/life balance as the most important factor in overall job satisfaction, and why caregiving leave, paternity leave, and maternity leave are more important to Millennials than they are for older generations. Corporate leave policy has evolved, in part, because they understand the costs associated with employee attrition. The cost of losing an employee includes training, loss of productivity, and loss of institutional knowledge. To address these needs, retain, and attract top millennial talent, many companies like PayPal, Workday, and General Electric provide employees “unlimited personal time” at their own discretion: the ultimate nod to freedom and flexibility in the workplace.

Employers looking to empower Millennials can make benefits more accessible through mobile technology and social media. Constantly connected and increasingly informed, Millennials often seek out low-cost, holistic healthcare, and appreciate employers that offer health-related perks that keep employees healthy and productive. Many employers are already playing their part in keeping millennial employees healthy by providing health and wellness programs, and Millennials are receptive to such efforts. Among the 39 percent of workers offered worksite health programs, Millennials are the most likely generation to take advantage of them. These include healthy food options (41 percent); on-site health clinics (35 percent); individual mental or physical health tracking through a wearable device or online program (30 percent); and mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or relaxation training (29 percent).

As millions of Millennials enter their peak spending and earning years, understanding their unique consumption patterns, beliefs, and values will be crucial in shaping the modern workplace. Services that Millennials can integrate into their daily routine, such as workplace wellness programs, will likely remain especially popular with this demographic. Millennials will also continue seeking more accessible healthcare, more flexibility for supporting their families, more mental health services, and guaranteed pre-existing condition coverage. Employers who address these priorities will play a significant role in supporting the largest living generation in the U.S – a generation increasingly vital to the overall success of our corporations and country.◊