How to Drive Benefits Engagement with Gen Z Employees During the Great Onboarding

Gen Z benefits

We’re in the midst of a war for talent. With roughly 4 million employees leaving U.S. companies every month, organizations are pulling out all the stops to attract and retain their people. In addition to compensation, organizations are also upping their benefits game, offering more comprehensive parental leave, caregiving benefits, and a host of wellness benefits to attract employees.

But we need to remember that what goes up must come down. Most of these employees fleeing companies will eventually need to land in a new role. In fact, experts predict that 72.4 million U.S. employees will be looking for a job by June 2022. That means it’s time for us to stop spending so much energy focusing on employees who are leaving, and start preparing now for the Great Onboarding. 

Engaging the workforce starts with onboarding. We need to address how we’re hiring and welcoming new employees, ensuring our messages are clear, on brand, and positive so that we encourage new recruits to stay for the long haul. When organizations have a strong onboarding process, they improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by 70%, according to research from Glassdoor.Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, should be a clear target for these onboarding messages. They represent 30% of the world’s population and are predicted to make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. Yet only a tenth of organizations are ready to address multigenerational workforces, according to research from MetLife.

“How can we intentionally support these various generations of our workforce, and engage them in the conversations we’re trying to have, engage them in the benefits we’re offering as an employer, so they understand the full value of the benefits and rewards that we’re putting out there?”
Lauren Trost
Lauren Trost
National Employee Health and Benefits Program Manager, Marsh & McLennan Agency

And, regardless of generation, many companies aren’t sending the right messages during this crucial time. Gallup’s research shows that 88% of employees didn’t think their company had a positive onboarding experience. That dissatisfaction spills over into benefits discussions too.

Why employers need to emphasize benefits during—and before—onboarding for Gen Z

Generally speaking, we’re not doing enough when it comes to communicating our benefits. Our research shows that:

1 in 3
employees felt confident in their benefits package understanding during their most recent onboarding
2 in 5
employees don’t fully understand communications about their employer’s benefits offering
1 in 3
employees have never taken action as a result of their employer’s benefits communications

Common employee complaints about benefits onboarding include wanting a more detailed explanation of their benefits, and receiving more information about their benefits before their first day.

While onboarding has never been more important for employee retention and satisfaction, it’s especially so for new generations to the workforce, who may be choosing and using benefits for the first time. And for younger employees with high expectations for communication and personalization, what’s worked in the past for benefits messaging won’t necessarily work for Gen Z.

Here are five ways your organization can start sending benefits messages during onboarding that will resonate with Gen Z candidates and new hires.

1. Focus on messages that align with Gen Z’s priorities

Gen Z employees are looking for employers whose values and purpose align with their personal ethics as well as with the greater good. They want to work for organizations that are making a clear social impact.

So, be sure to highlight in your recruitment and onboarding materials how your organization gives back, whether that’s through charitable donations or days off for service. Highlight employees who are making a difference in their communities in your internal communications. And if there are ways that your employees can be meaningfully involved in your organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, give them a heads up about those too.

Gen Z workers are also worried about their financial future. They grew up during the 2008 recession and are coming out of college with significant student debt: the average college graduate with student loans owes around $30,000. To speak to Gen Z’s need for financial security, emphasize that they can make responsible decisions now that will give them the opportunity to retire and focus on important causes later in their life. Communicating about benefits like retirement savings, student loan assistance, and financial guidance can help them address and prioritize their financial challenges so they feel more secure.

2. Go deep on digital

Gen Z is more tech-savvy than any generation preceding them. They’ve never lived in a world without the internet. So, it’s important for organizations to meet them where they are: online.

Keep in mind that for Gen Z, online doesn’t mean email. Choose social media, texting, and mobile apps when you want to communicate updates about benefits. And if you’re still relying on paper for enrollment or benefits guides, it’s time to migrate these musty, environmentally unfriendly documents to a digital, sustainable format. The more searchable your benefits resources, the better, because it’s likely that Gen Z employees will jump on their smartphones to find what they need to know.

There’s a better way to make your benefits messages stick.

3. Keep it simple

As new as they are to the workforce, this may be the first time Gen Z employees are seeing terms like “deductible,” “premium,” and “co-insurance.” That’s why it’s so important to give clear, straightforward employee benefits definitions. A glossary may be a valuable resource that you can easily compile for new employees — and be sure to keep it accessible online.

You may also want to share a series of frequently asked questions that reflect the questions you’ve heard from your employees. To go the extra mile, survey your new employees and ask what they find confusing about your benefits. Make sure you answer their questions in simple, concise language, and avoid benefits jargon.We’ve found benefits communications are most effective when they’re written in conversational language, as if you’re talking to a friend.

4. Make benefits communications more interesting

The attention span of the average Gen Z person is 8 seconds. That’s roughly the amount of time it will take you to read this paragraph. If you’re droning on in complex language, Gen Z employees are going to move on to something more interesting.

To pique Gen Z’s interest, don’t rely on text alone. This generation favors visual media like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. So, include video content, infographics, GIFs, and memes in your digital benefits communications. Explainer and how-to videos that share bite-size content are perfect for addressing tricky benefits concepts.

When you do use text, be sure you’re following these best practices: use lots of easy-to-read bullets, keep sentences and paragraphs short, and use white space strategically to give your readers space to breathe and process the information.

Above all else, make sure your communications have personality and reflect your brand. You may even want to go out on a limb and add a joke or two — just make sure they’re in good taste.

5. Personalize your communications

While you can’t tailor your messages to individual employees, you can still give them a personalized experience. Speak to people directly by using the word “you,” and use a mail merge function that allows you to personally address printed materials and emails to the addressee rather than to “Dear valued employee.”

If you’re ready to step up your game, interactive benefits education and decision support tools offer employees an enjoyable, convenient way to interact with your company and learn more about their benefits options. Instead of being forced to sift through lengthy benefits guides or presentations, employees can log into an interactive platform that asks them about their specific situation and gives them reliable, easy-to-understand, and tailored guidance.

ALEX is Gen Z’s best friend…with benefits

ALEX is a benefits engagement platform that makes communicating with employees a snap. ALEX learns about your employees with the goal of offering personalized, timely recommendations that address their individual health needs and life circumstances. ALEX also answers common benefits questions in real time and improves employee confidence and satisfaction in benefits decisions.

In a nutshell, ALEX helps organizations meet the needs of Gen Z employees in several ways:

  • Anytime, anywhere benefits information: ALEX Benefits Counselor puts 24/7 access to benefits information at employees’ fingertips, so they can make the best plans for their needs and budget.
  • A personalized experience: Employees are more engaged with ALEX because they’re having a one-on-one conversation. On average, they spend 15 minutes talking to ALEX while the platform learns their preferences, allowing ALEX to deliver tailored advice based on their family needs, chronic conditions, finances, and more.
  • Awareness of what matters to your employees: We help you send captivating messages tailored to your employees’ unique needs and preferences to build their awareness of your investment in their physical, mental, and financial well-being.
  • Targeted guidance: Employees have the option to create an ALEX ID account that saves their information securely, so they can pick up where they left off and get the most accurate, personalized guidance and tailored reminders for ongoing engagement, whenever they need it.

Knowledge is power…and it’s also the key to a more personalized relationship with your Gen Z employees. When they feel more connected to you, they’ll be happier, healthier, and more likely to stick around.

Jump to section

Discover how to reinvent your onboarding for Gen Z with Jellyvision Benefits Communications.

Hey you, join our community!

Join 22,000+ HR pros who receive monthly employee benefits insights, straight to their inbox.

You're using an unsupported browser.

The Jellyvision website no longer supports Internet Explorer. Please switch to Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome to access the site.