Employer / Salary Sacrifice

How to tailor your benefit provision across the generations – part one

For the first time, organisations have five generations in the workplace. Each with contrasting views of the world and different needs and expectations from employers.

In the first article of this two part series, we review the demographics likely to exist in your workplace and take a look at what this means for attraction, retention and engagement.


We hear a lot about baby boomers and millennials, some of it accurate, much of it not. Developing a solid understanding of the preferences of each generation is an important part of understanding your staff. And being able to provide benefits that will attract, retain and engage.

The following research from Barclays summarizes each generation’s psyche, helping you understand what’s important to the people who make up your workforce.


  • Percentage in UK workforce: 3%
  • Formative experiences:
    • Second World War rationing
    • Rock ‘n’ roll
    • Nuclear families
    • Defined gender roles, particularly for women
  • Aspiration: home ownership
  • Attitude to technology: largely disengaged
  • Attitude to career: a job is for life
  • Communication media: formal letter
  • Communication preference: face to face

BABY BOOMERS – 1945 – 1960

  • Percentage in UK workforce: 33%
  • Formative experiences:
    • Cold War and post-war boom
    • Swinging sixties
    • Apollo moon landings
    • Youth culture / Woodstock
    • Family-orientated
    • Rise of the teenager
  • Aspiration: job security
  • Attitude to technology: early IT adopters
  • Attitude to career: careers are defined by employer
  • Communication media: telephone
  • Communication preference: face to face but phone or email if required

GENERATION X – 1961 – 1980

  • Percentage in UK workforce: 35%
  • Formative experiences:
    • End of Cold War and fall of the Berlin Wall
    • Reagan / Gorbachev / Thatcherism
    • Introduction of first PC
    • Early mobile technology
    • Latch-key kids; rising levels of divorce
  • Aspiration: work-life balance
  • Attitude to technology: digital immigrants
  • Attitude to career: early portfolio careers; loyalty to profession not employer
  • Communication media: email and SMS
  • Communication preference: email and SMS

GENERATION Y – 1981 – 1995

  • Percentage in UK workforce: 29%
  • Formative experiences:
    • 9/11 terrorist attacks
    • PlayStation
    • Social media
    • Invasion of Iraq
    • Reality TV
    • Google Earth
    • Glastonbury
  • Aspiration: freedom and flexibility
  • Attitude to technology: digital natives
  • Attitude to career: digital entrepreneurs; work with organisations not for profit
  • Communication media: text or social media
  • Communication preference: online and mobile messaging


  • Percentage in UK workforce: currently employed in part-time jobs or new apprenticeships
  • Formative experiences:
    • Economic downturn
    • Global warming / energy crisis
    • Global focus
    • Mobile devices / cloud computing
    • Arab Spring
    • Produce own media
    • Wiki-leaks
  • Aspiration: security and stability
  • Attitude to technology: technoholics; entirely dependent on IT, low grasp of alternatives
  • Attitude to career: career multitaskers; will move seamlessly between organisations and pop-up businesses
  • Communication media: hand-held or integrated into clothing devices
  • Communication preference: facetime


This is all very interesting but what do these insights mean when it comes to attracting and retaining employees? The main differential is that baby boomers and generation X grew up in a world pre-credit crunch whereas generations Y and Z experienced their formative years post-downturn. This raises several issues for HR and employers:

  1. Attraction – for generation Y, loyalty to an employer means anything more than two years. Gen Y employees are likely to have between 15 and 20 employers over the course of their career. When recruiting, baby boomer managers will need to adjust their perspective – this isn’t job hopping but the new norm.
  2. Retention – the UK is one of the most expensive countries in which to hire and replace staff with costs estimated at around 50% to 150% of the salary attached to the role. Reducing staff turnover in a way that manages generation Y’s lack of intent to stay is vital. And benefits play a part in this. Research reveals that 12% of the generation Y workforce is so dissatisfied with their current benefits package that they have considered moving to a different organisation. Developing an engagement strategy that includes benefits appropriate to each generation is critical.
  3. Engagement – attracting and retaining are important risks that need to be managed. But as important is engagement. The worst alternative is that people stay with your organisation despite being disengaged and give much less of themselves impacting your bottom line.

To ensure your employer value proposition remains attractive for all generations, you need to move away from traditional benefit packages.

The majority of the UK’s wealth and assets are owned by baby boomers. And it’s this generation who built employee benefit packages that focus on the needs of their age group.

Given the additional economic pressures younger generations are under – high rents, large house deposits, unsecured debt, student loans – they have different financial needs. So employers must start creating less orthodox benefit programmes that meet the needs of all.

What does this look like and how will getting it right impact your attraction and retention? Read the second article in this series to find out.


Interested in finding out more?