As the proportion of Millennials in the workforce surpasses that of the earlier generations, employers must be prepared to explore new ideas for programming, communications, and engagement. Nick Patel, Founder and President of Wellable, Inc., says that Millennials want three things from their employer: to deliver impact, to work for a company with purpose, and to have perks. But Patel also points out that even when Millennials have these needs met they still tend to be unhappy, and he cites four key influences.
First, this generation of workers grew up in the time of “participation medals”, meaning they may have been rewarded merely for participating in a team sport or activity. Some believe that this created a sense of entitlement which Millennials are carrying into the workplace. Next, they grew up with technology and social media. Patel describes this as making Millennials good at putting filters on things - that in the world of social media everything can appear “72 degrees and sunny.” Third, a world where rides, television, and shopping can be accessed so readily has generated a level of impatience and desire for instant gratification. Finally, the work environment can be a challenge for Millennials who have to adjust to letting go of the “participation medal” mentality.
When thinking about programming for this generation, Patel points out that financial wellness, work/life balance, and mental health are common concerns. Unlike other generations, Millennials are more likely to define “healthy” as a lifestyle of eating well and exercising rather than the mere avoidance of illness. Communications should be designed to tap into this mindset as well as cater to Millennials’ interest in reliable health content. Finally, taking a shift from some of the more legacy approaches to worksite wellness such as biometric screenings may pay off when engaging this generation of workers. Patel notes that novel wellness benefits (travel credits, 401(Play) Funds, etc) and consumer-grade technologies are more likely to drive engagement.
Athenahealth’s Megan Sireci is no stranger to the desires of the Millennial worker. Sireci, Manager of University Recruiting and Programs, believes that embracing this unique population starts with company culture. As an example of engaging Millennials in the workplace, Athenahealth has adopted the philosophy of “bring your whole self to work,” and this is accomplished by focusing on three components: Integration of life and work, societal impact, and constant growth.
Offering employee resource groups (ERGs) around topics such as diversity and women’s leadership, as well as providing extracurriculars (book club, running club) are just two of the ways that Athenahealth seeks to integrate life and work for their employees. Sireci knows that perks have become somewhat expected by this population, especially at tech companies, and sees extracurriculars and ERGs as a way of broadening the way they define employee benefits.
The second component to the organization’s philosophy is societal impact - seeing that daily work goes “beyond the desk.” Charity work and volunteering opportunities are offered to accomplish this. Finally, Athenahealth seeks to promote constant growth by creating a culture of teachers and learners. This is accomplished through a number of programs including “10x10” where managers and direct reports spend the first 10 minutes of a monthly check-in providing two-way feedback to each other. Sireci emphasizes that employees are given co-ownership to the future of their career which helps them to feel empowered.
Patel and Sireci provide a clear perspective for employers seeking to engage Millennials both in their wellness programming and their organization as a whole. While many employers should be considering these strategies, they should also remember not to lose sight of engaging older generations. Understanding what your employees want in a wellness program is an integral first step no matter their generational makeup of your workforce.
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