Which Benefits Appeal Most to Gen X Employees?

Posted on: March 4, 2024

Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen X is sometimes referred to as the sandwich generation (located between the larger Baby Boomer and millennial generations). Gen Xers are seasoned workers that make up about one-third of today’s workforce.1 They witnessed some of the world’s greatest technological advancements and historical events. Let’s take a closer look at Gen X.

Who are Gen Xers?

  1. They value education.

    Gen X was the first generation to embrace getting a college education out of high school.2 The cost of higher education was lower when this generation was in school, so these students didn’t borrow as much as millennials. Despite that, it may be surprising to note that Gen X is shouldering some of the highest balances per borrower and carries 26% of the country’s outstanding student loan debt. As of 2023, the average Gen Xer owes $48,733 in student loan debt.3 In addition, Gen X may be carrying loan balances for their children’s education.

  2. Along with education, they prioritize career growth opportunities.

    Gen Xers are characterized as loyal, but are not as committed to their employer as Baby Boomers were. They’ll leave a job if it’s required to advance their career, but they’ll stay put if there’s room to grow.2 They’re willing to retool for new opportunities using a variety of methods. As early technology adopters, Gen Xers are comfortable with technology and appreciate a variety of learning opportunities (i.e., technology-based learning, traditional seminars, conferences, on-site workshops). They value learning that is personalized to their skills and goals.4

  3. They require flexibility for work-life balance.

    Some refer to Gen Xers as the sandwich generation because they balance caring for children and aging parents. While Gen Z and millennials value flexibility, Gen X needs it. In fact, 38% of Gen X respondents indicated they would walk away from their current job if flexibility wasn’t available, compared with 33% of millennials and 25% of Baby Boomers.5

  4. They value communication and collaboration.

    Also known as the “latchkey” generation, Gen X is a highly adaptable generation that values diversity, self-reliance, practicality, and informality.6 They excel at collaboration across teams and generations, and they prioritize straightforward communication4 and having clearly defined goals and expectations.7

  5. They want to do meaningful work.

    Gen Xers do their best work when their work responsibilities align with their values.6 In a Zety survey of over 850 Gen Xers, 69% of them said they would accept a lower salary to work for an employer with values that match their own vs. 39% who said they would accept a higher salary to work for an employer with values that don’t align with theirs.8 The same survey found that 24% said doing meaningless work could prompt them to leave their current job.

Which benefits appeal most to Gen X?

The retirement outlook is bleak for Gen X, the first generation to enter the workforce since the shift away from pensions toward 401(k) plans.9 Gen X has invested in their own student loans, childcare, activities, and college tuition for their kids, and now elder care for their parents. Time off, flexibility, and financial benefits are vital to engaging Gen X.10 Whatever benefits you do offer, Gen X employees may be the easiest generation to reach. They’re widely receptive to benefits information because they’re savvy with digital media, but still comfortable with benefits meetings and print communications.2

Here are some key benefits most valued by Gen X:

  1. Student Loan Assistance.

    While only 13% of working Gen Xers have student loan debt, the average amount is slightly more than $40,000. Sixty percent of Gen Xers with student loan debt are women and 22% of them are Black, even though Blacks only represent 10% of Gen X overall. The average retirement savings is consistently lower in Gen X households with student loan debt than those without, suggesting that student loan debt is hindering retirement savings for these Gen Xers.11 Employers who wish to gain a competitive edge with Gen X can offer programs like BenefitEd’s Employer-Assisted Student Loan Repayment or implement provisions of SECURE Act 2.0, which recognizes student loan payments as qualifying contributions to an employer’s 401(k).

  2. Benefits Supporting Work-Life Balance.

    Allowing Gen X workers the option to work flexible hours and/or giving them the option to work from home part or all of the time goes a long way toward accommodating the wide array of life situations they face.10 Raised as the latchkey generation, Gen X values work/life balance and highly appreciates the flexibility needed to enable that balance.6 For that reason, strong maternity/paternity leave5 and childcare are valuable benefits employers can offer this generation.12

  3. Financial Assistance.

    PwC found that more than 53% of Gen X employees are worried about their financial well-being.12 In addition to strong financial protection through competitive salaries with bonuses, student loan repayment, matching 401(k), life insurance, stock options, and comprehensive medical, dental, and vision insurance, employers can assist Gen X by offering financial education.5 Gen X balances many financial responsibilities as they pay off debt, save for college and retirement, and help with elderly parents.

  4. Professional Development Opportunities.

    With Baby Boomers staying in the workforce longer and millennials coming up, Gen X workers have been promoted at rates 20-30% slower than millennials.4 Pair opportunities for growth with leadership development programs, individualized coaching, and mentorship; this group is motivated to stay for financial stability.5 Given the financial burdens Gen Xers may carry, you can offer tuition reimbursement or assistance programs to help these employees if your organization requires them to re-educate or retool.

  5. Health and Wellness Initiatives.

    Gen X wants comprehensive medical, dental, and vision, but with multiple coverage choices. With their busy schedule taking others to appointments, they appreciate telemedicine options.12 They also appreciate apps and wellness portals that allow them to access wellness programs on their own schedule and equipment such as standing desks, as well as mindfulness and stress management tools, employee assistance programs, and support programs to help them deal with life events like aging parents.5

Learn how our team can help.

Reach out to us today. Our expert team at BenefitEd would love to assist you with setting up education benefits to help you support your employees from all the various generations they represent.