Employers have long been pontificating about the impact that Millennials have on the workforce and what changes are necessary to accommodate them, but the time for discussion has passed. It’s time for action. According to the PEW Research Center, during the last two years, Millennials have overtaken both Generation X and Baby Boomers as the largest demographic in America’s workforce. This means that employers must be creating the healthy and productive work environment that’s been talked about for so long. From an HR perspective, this requires taking a close look at what benefits a company is providing and how those benefits fit into employee’s lives.
Employers should be developing programs that incentivize healthier lifestyles, engage with their company’s brand, and lower long-term costs.
Younger employees want to work in an environment in which they play an active role in managing their health and well-being and, according to a study by Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and the Future’s Company, there is a clear opportunity to engage with this demographic. For years, there has been a misconception that perks such as openwork spaces, bean bags, and ping pong tables were what Millennials were looking for, but there’s a lot more to understanding this cohort. They desire the tools to better manage their lives—whether physically, emotionally, or financially—and to participate in a meaningfully active lifestyle. With that in mind, employers should be developing programs that incentivize healthier lifestyles, engage with their company’s brand, and lower long-term costs. Here are three means to make that happen:
1. Keep it Simple —and Convenient
Millennials want a single platform to accomplish tasks. An HR benefits program must be accessible on the go, from any location and on any device. A program requires users to download multiple apps, go through different logins, or can only be accessed through a desktop computer are sure to be underutilized, if used at all.
Programs should be easy to access, with the user experience and design being seamless and intuitive. Regardless of what employees can do through the program (we’ll get to that in a moment), by providing employees access to all of their benefits on a single platform, employers can ensure that employees are taking full advantage of the perks available to them. This means that employees are also more inclined to discuss benefits with colleagues, driving additional participation and engagement.
2. Embrace Technology
Compared to previous generations, Millennials are more health conscious and have a greater level of interest in awareness of their overall well-being. That said, a benefits program designed to engage Millennials needs to leverage modern technology. This requires technology that can track and trend data from all sorts of health-care management devices, activity trackers, and smart watches and also utilize pre-programmed care plans to help users lose weight, manage chronic conditions, or receive user-specific advice and guidance from care professionals in remote monitoring centers who are also analyzing user data in real time. These capabilities have become a standard in other industries, and thanks to advancements in affordability, can now be deployed at the enterprise-level for health and well-being.
Financial, mental, and emotional support is also important to employees. Compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers, Millennials are 54 percent more likely to say that their loyalty to their company is influenced by how much that company cares about their financial well-being. In an age where student loans account for more than $1.44 trillion in outstanding debt and 44.2 million individuals are carrying student loan debt, tools that help younger employees manage finances and create a path to financial wellness will be just as important as physical health. This holistic view of employee wellness will help employers create an all-inclusive culture of wellbeing that will drive productivity and increase workforce efficiencies.
3. Integrate your Brand
Millennials can be one of the most difficult groups to win over in terms of brand engagement and loyalty, in the workplace and beyond. Because they are digital natives, Millennials have been exposed to marketing and advertising from a very young age and they know when they are being sold to—making them a hard group to penetrate for all marketers. Given all the time, money, and effort that have gone into creating a benefits program, the program ought to reflect the company’s brand. Employees need to have a clear understanding that the benefits are offered through their employer and that their employer is the one encouraging them to take advantage of available resources. The company brand should signal its commitment to the holistic well-being of its employees.
Engaging employees with company branding also means designing particular program values and messaging that will target employees. Implementing an effective wellness program requires communication from HR and organizational communications teams with a message that clearly explains the benefits of the program. Identifying particularly weak areas for employees and developing the program to support those weaknesses is a powerful method of driving engagement and encouraging company-wide use. For example, if some employees are increasingly facing issues with heart disease, the benefits program should be designed to enhance how to manage the condition. At the same time, other employees and their families may need help with prenatal or infant care, in which case the program needs to be versatile enough to address these needs.
To engage with Millennials, organizations must be willing and able to meet them at their level. This generation can immediately spot a program that is out-of-touch or outdated and will respond in turn by questioning why the business has not caught up with their needs. This not only leads to wasted resources, but can also causes issues with long-term engagement and employee retention.
By keeping it simple and convenient, leveraging technology, and communicating the company brand, employers can provide wellness programs to help employees in a meaningful way, while creating long-term investments that they can benefit from for years to come.