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Following in Facebook’s footsteps, Apple Inc. is about to start “selling” something new. The latest announcement from Apple is getting as much attention in some quarters as the latest iPhones and iPads. Steve Jobs might even approve, since the newest perk or benefit (choose your term), also made possible by technology, seems aimed at making it easier for women to stay working longer when they are likely to be most productive and reproductive.

I am referring to the new policy of offering to pay up to $20,000 for the expensive medical procedure for women to freeze some of their eggs in the hope of achieving pregnancy at a later date. I have raised the subject of pros, cons and motivations on social media. My purpose here is not to debate that, but rather to get us thinking about what benefits or perks people of different generations want, what the employers’ motivations for offering them are, and whether the offerings really motivate people to higher performance, retention and loyalty. 

The Apple announcement quickly generated articles in major business media (New York Times and Forbes, for example and TV political talk shows)) about the specific egg freezing perk and what could be downsides of generous perks as well. But none I saw looked at the perks and benefits issues from a generational perspective.

Benefits that appeal to all generations include, among others, employer paid health insurance, free or subsidized food, on-site or paid gym memberships, concierge services and flexible work arrangements. 

Those only directly benefiting younger workers include paid maternity and paternity leave, freezing eggs, on-site and emergency childcare.

Baby Boomers, though they tend to have better attendance records, likely use their health insurance more and may have higher premiums associated with the policies. They also may make more use of benefits that cover time off or other expenses to care for elderly parents, as might older Gen Xers.

These are life cycle realities not tied to any currently labeled generation.  And in fairness, no generation should be discriminated against because of demographic and biological factors. Yet there often are stigmas or resentments related to costs of benefits, offering of perks and finger pointing across the members of multigenerational workforces. Older workers may resent that younger ones are now getting flexible work arrangements and childcare they would have loved to have, and instead they had to struggle through on their own while trying to build careers. Younger workers might argue that health care costs are higher for older workers.

Workers may wonder if some of the generous employer perks come from a stealth motivation since they can lead to the trap of working 24/7 rather than giving the workers more control over their lives. For instance, taking advantage of free or low-cost meals and various concierge services on site discourages taking breaks to reduce stress, walks for exercise and time for useful reflection.

The benefits and perks have been shown to help attract and retain people in the talent wars. However, there has been little evidence that they motivate people to work better and harder. Especially competitive people want recognition of their achievements rather than some of the perks and only team recognition.

People of all generations welcome benefits and perks and won’t turn them down. But motivations come from another source. Here are some things that motivate – generalized to generations:


Opportunities to keep learning and contributing

Being made to feel continually relevant

Making role transitions respected and appropriately compensated.

Gen X

Recognition of individual achievements

Opening paths to leadership slots

Opportunity to do things their way

Gen Y/Millennials

Having their ideas listened to

Being shown how their role is important to the whole

Providing frequent new learning experiences

For most people the above connect to intrinsic motivations – the strongest and most lasting kind – more than the latest shiny perk. Firms/organizations need to get a better grasp on what really appeals in a deeper way to the talent they covet and pursue that path.

Please send your thoughts to pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com or comment hre or on the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIn.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com  


n      A component of the engagement package is reward. So organizations will adopt Innovative Ideas to Reward Their Valued Workers. Employers will focus on recognition and non-financial rewards that will provide the psychic rewards that professionals and other top talent need to keep them going and loyal.  And firms will learn to go to the source of most welcomed ideas – workers suggesting what rewards other than money are most appreciated. I bet that one of them, especially for Gen Y, is employers listening to their ideas and taking their suggestions seriously – so this one is a two-fer!


       Different generations and individuals have their own ideas of what is meaningful recognition. Rewards may need to be customized and must be perceived as fair.


        Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com


n      The concept behind the buzzword of the last several years will rise in significance. Focus on “Engagement” Will Replace the Focus on Retention.  That’s because we know that just having bodies in place is not the answer; the goal is increased productivity, which comes from sustained engagement and leads to greater profitability. Herman expects to see a new functional title: Directors of Employee Engagement morphing from Directors of Retention. It may be a new title, but my guess it will incorporate or collaborate with the professional development and employee benefits functions. Firms will increasingly recognize that to raise the quality of the client experience they have to improve the working experience of staff, professional personnel and managers.


      Time to go back to striving to be "the employer of choice" and identify what produces long-term engagement.


        Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com


Many Baby Boomers want to work longer, and that's a much needed economic gain for the Social Security and Medicare systems, household savings and tax collections. Unfortunately, according to a New York Times article, "For a Good Retirement, Find Work. Good Luck." by Steve Lohr (June 22, 2008), the job market is not so sunny for older workers.

The obstacles to more opportunities are both erroneous attitudes and practical economics. Several studies show that concerns that older workers are less productive, adaptable and capable of learning new skills are inaccurate or overstated. Health and fitness conditions are estimated to have added many years to older workers lives. What are real concerns to employers are benefits costs and a lack of financial incentives for employers to look beyond them. Here are some suggestions for providing incentives cited in the article:

*  Create a category of "paid up workers" who have worked for, say, 40 years. Neither they nor their employers would have to to contribute further to Social Security and Medicare.

*  To combat rising health care expenses, return to the pre-1983 policy of having Medicare be the primary payer of health care costs for people over 65, whether they are working or not. This takes the burden from the employer.

*  Increase the minimum age at which people can receive Social Security benefits by a few years (except for the disabled or financially needy). Waiting increases the amount in the monthly payments when people do get them.

Given the demographics of the work force, skilled and experienced labor needs and the fragility of the entitlements and benefits systems, something has to change. The suggestions above may not be the full solution, but a combination of types of stakeholders needs to agree on and implement change sooner rather than later.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com


Baby Boomers are now in the position of being the "sandwich generation," often having responsibilities for both their children and their aging parents. Concerned that both professionals and staff with demanding jobs are often called upon for family emergencies, a few law firms, as well as probably a greater number of accounting and consulting firms, have expanded their family benefits to include back-up care for their parents.

New York Lawyer reported that among them are Bryan Cave, Hunton & Williams and Paul Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. For example, Bryan Cave is allowing for up to 20 days per year of adult in-home care, and their employee assistance program will research nursing homes on behalf of the employee. These firms realize that they can't expect people to be optimally productive when they have serious distractions and worry about ill or disabled parents.

One of the reasons more firms have not offered the benefit according to benefits consulting firm The Arlen Group is that there are few providers of the necessary services. The potential need is greater than the supply. (It should be expanding as the need is bound to grow, so it sounds like a  good business opportunity.)

Patricia Caudel, Director of Human Resources and Employee Life Programs at Paul, Hastings said the expected need is evident by the many people who have registered for the program, though few have used it since it was instituted three months ago.

"When we think through what is needed to retain and attract top talent, the common denominator is taking care of family,'' said Caudel. "When we rolled this out, I received tons of e-mails saying 'Thank you, this has been on my mind for a long time,' " Caudel said. "Baby boomers are going to work until they drop, our parents are living longer, and reconciling that so that we take care of them is a big concern.”

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

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