Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

How to Address Multigenerational Needs for Disability Management

Today’s workforce, composed of four generations of employees, is potentially more diverse in age than ever before. Because of this, employee needs are evolving, and many organizations are finding that a one-size-fits-all approach to employee benefits no longer works.

eldersWith a multigenerational workforce comes a diverse set of needs and stressors regarding benefits, such as the cost of health care delaying retirement savings, long-term care and assistance needs, and retirement savings needing to catch up from the 2008 economic downfall. Some employees may be experiencing all of these stressors, while others may be fixated on one or two benefits needs.

Many employers recognize that today’s diverse employees can’t be treated with one solution and are turning to comprehensive disability programs to understand each employee’s health needs and additional life stressors. A comprehensive approach to disability management can turn a less effective, reactive program into a more customized, proactive program that better addresses absence and disability in the workplace.

Why a Proactive Approach Is the Answer

 In the past, disability management carriers have taken a reactive approach to helping employees, giving employers traditional disability tactics to manage employees’ health conditions in the workplace. This focuses on an employee having to prove he or she is disabled and in need of assistance instead of the carrier providing holistic support. This approach may limit an employer’s ability to create the right support for an employee in the workplace.

A comprehensive disability program flips this around, helping to treat the whole person. Proactive programs think bigger than the siloed conditions that an employee is exhibiting to help address all needs. This approach provides emotional and behavioral support, considers creative accommodations, and coordinates resources from other benefits programs, which can help make sure the whole person is helped. Overall, this type of program can better address each employee’s needs, no matter his or her age or situation.

How to Make the Transition

 Transitioning to a proactive, holistic approach to disability management isn’t completely on the shoulders of the HR team. A disability carrier can do the heavy lifting instead, helping to offer more creative accommodations and coordinate other program benefits to ensure an employee gets the assistance needed to be productive or return to work. Making the transition is as simple as looking for a carrier with a comprehensive program that supports these four important actions:

  1. Identifying the person in need of assistance

It can be difficult to identify and support an employee with a medical condition at work, but a disability carrier has the necessary tools to help. The carrier should try to understand the organizational culture, integrate with the internal benefits team, and provide managers with the information they need to identify an employee in need of stay-at-work assistance or help an employee remain comfortable once he or she has returned to work.

  1. Interacting with the employee

Comprehensive disability carriers often have consultants available to engage an employee in conversation and better understand what factors may be contributing to delays in recovery. A consultant can then determine the best accommodations to address those factors, whether it’s ergonomic accommodations or an action plan toward a full work schedule.

  1. Integrating programs to treat employees

While a disability carrier may be able to offer robust assistance to help employees with a stay-at-work or return-to-work plan or accommodations, it also may be able to integrate other benefits resources to help them get the full range of support needed. This can include help in navigating the healthcare system during treatment or recovery through referrals to other benefits vendors, including disease management, wellness, and employee assistance programs.

  1. Improving outcomes for the organization

A comprehensive approach that treats the whole person may help an at-risk employee stay at work and may allow an employee with a disabling condition to return to work more quickly. Employer costs may be lowered when an employee can stay at work or return to work more quickly and be productive upon return.

Improving Disability Management

 Each employee may require a different mix of accommodations and assistance for a health condition, and although that has always been the case, the diverse age range in the workforce currently is amplifying this situation. Four generations of employees means what each employee requires for better disability and absence management is more varied than ever before. Comprehensive disability management can help address this by turning a reactive program into a proactive one to better address the evolving needs of employees. And making that transition can be simple with the help of a disability carrier.


Jung Ryu is the national accounts practice leader for The Standard and is responsible for developing comprehensive disability management solutions that address the whole person to meet the needs of the most complex clients. He provides recommendations in all aspects of benefits, ranging from core to ancillary products, and is focused on providing strategic direction and advising stakeholders on the latest benefits trends. His experience includes helping organizations develop multiyear healthcare strategies, creating ideas around operational efficiency and cost avoidance in health and retirement as a Big Four consultant, and is head of Total Rewards for a major insurance carrier.

About The Standard

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc., and subsidiaries.