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A menu of health benefits may help attract and keep the best employees

The job market is increasingly competitive for employers.

In fact, 86% of recruiters say the labor market is “candidate-driven.” That compares to just 56% in 2012. And 62% of employers believe talent demands are driving the job market today.

One way to stand out and attract the best talent is to offer a diverse menu of health benefits. Because workers of different ages will want different things from their health plan.

So finding the right mix of benefits can help you establish a successful long-term plan for finding and keeping the best employees.

Offer Benefits That Appeal to a Diverse Workforce

Choosing and offering cost-effective benefits that please most of your employees can be challenging. But having a few different benefit plans can help you meet different generational needs.

For instance, millennials grew up with a wide range of choices in almost every area of their lives. They expect the same from their health benefits.

Know your workforce demographics. That will help you determine the correct mix of health plan features to offer.


  • Budgets – A High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is often the least expensive plan (in terms of premiums) for employees, followed by HMOs and preferred provider organization (PPO) plans. Providing multiple HDHP options, some with lower deductibles, will give affordable choices to a broad range of employees at different phases of their lives.
  • Where they live – If most employees live within the same region, a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan with a select group of participating doctors and hospitals with a low premium may be a popular choice. They can offer a range of coverage and sometimes even different levels of copayments to help balance the costs between you and your employees.
  • Stage of life – Consider the diversity of your employees. Are your employees younger, physically active, and generally healthy? Middle-aged with children? Older and preparing for retirement? Or dealing with chronic conditions? The stage of life of an employee can also play a part in deciding what benefits are important to them.



  • Traditionalists (1922–1945) are working and living longer than previous generations. Many of them have worked for the same company their entire careers. They often expect comprehensive, “cradle-to-the-grave” benefits, including low-cost prescription drug options and provider networks that let them go to the doctors they want. Integrated prescription benefits may be an attractive plan feature for these employees.
  • Baby Boomers (1946–1964) are nearing retire­ment age but are working longer, too. They look for stability and prefer to stay with a com­pany long-term. The health care needs of Baby Boomers may also be greater than those of other generations. So health insurance is important to them. And plan premiums are not among their primary concerns. They typically want benefits that will cover the routine treatment of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
  • Generation X (1965–1980) contains veteran employees, middle managers, and even senior leaders in many organi­zations. They prefer their health care to be simple, personalized, and efficient. But they’re not likely to take preventive health measures. So easy-to-use wellness programs with participation incentives may be a great way to help your Gen Xers do a better job of exercising, eating well, and managing stress.
  • Generation Y (1981–1994), also known as the millennial generation, is the largest group of employees currently in the work­force. They like workplace flexibility, and expect to pick through a menu of health plan options. According to a recent survey, 46% of Americans between 18 and 29 prefer plans with high monthly premiums and a low deductible, compared with just 33% of those 50+.
  • Generation Z (1994–2012) is just starting to enter the workforce. Gen Z’s key health concerns are related to their age, such as stress, anxiety, skin problems, and weight issues. And they’re quick to turn to social media for answers to their health and wellness questions. So offering health tips and reminders through text messaging or your company’s social media could be a key to keeping this group informed and engaged in their health plan.



Once enrolled, employees may prefer to manage their plan information in different ways.

For example, some employees want online or mobile access. They want to manage their plan, claims, and spending accounts electronically. Others would rather make a phone call if they have questions. The same employees may want access to paper resources.

There is no one-size-fits-all plan management style here, either. Offering employees a menu of attractive options is one more way to show that you recognize and care about their individual needs.

For instance, let employees choose to:

  • Speak with a live representative by telephone
  • Access an automated telephone system
  • Communicate with the plan by “snail” mail or email
  • Chat online with a representative
  • Confirm benefits, claim status, and additional account information online



A responsive culture can play a key role in finding and keeping great employees. And knowing what your employees value can help you decide which benefits will be most attractive.

Conduct a simple employee survey to gain valuable insight into why they might pick one health plan over another. Find out what makes them happy at work.

Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive. As Anchor sees it, the incentive for organizations is clear: “happiness leads to greater levels of profits.”

So what features might your employees value most in a health plan?

  • Is an open provider network important? Would they prefer to pay a lower premium if it meant a smaller pool of participating doctors and hospitals?
  • Do they use telemedicine services? Would they?
  • Are they active in health and wellness programs?
  • Based on health plan benefits alone, would they refer a friend to work at your company? Why or why not?



  1. Remember that your insurer is your partner in providing valued benefits. Ask them which benefits are most in demand.
  2. Offer job prospects complete information about your health plans. This allows them to make the most informed decision. And don’t stop there. Educate your employees. Because employees who don’t understand their benefits will be less engaged. And that may cost you.
  3. Pay attention to who your workers are. Different age groups have different concerns. Employees in their 20s may be ready to start a family, while someone 40+ may have more complex health needs. Each worker’s health status is also a big factor in the type of health plan they need.


Securing the best new talent is an important part of any company’s business strategy. If you really want to attract and keep the best employees, offering appealing health benefits can help.