Changing Dynamics: Attracting the Millennial Generation

August 23, 2016

Changing Dynamics: Attracting the Millennial Generation

Millennials—those born in the early 1980s through the early 2000s—comprise 25 percent of the U.S. workforce, and they will make up nearly half of it by 2020. They’ve started their professional lives with more student loan debt and unemployment than their Generation X and Baby Boomer predecessors. Yet they also have more education than any young cohort group in American history, and they grasp digital communication and new core business tools in ways many senior managers may lack.1

Millennial workers want many of the same things everyone else does: job security, a competitive salary, a retirement plan, work-life balance, and good health insurance. But how they want those things differs from their parents and grandparents.

Millennials and the Workplace

Innovation in technology and computing coincided with Millennials’ childhoods, and it’s shaped the ways this generation interacts as well as their expectations for creativity and innovation in their work lives.2

Millennials desire coaching and feedback—characteristics widely attributed to prolonged reliance on parental support as they entered one of the toughest job markets in history.3 Too, this generation came of age when smartphone texts and social media use eclipsed telephone calls and written communications, so they’re accustomed to immediate responses.

Millennials are not just virtually connected via social networks; they value the role that they play in their communities. This may explain why development and work-life balance rank higher for younger workers than financial reward.4 The take-away for employers: Workplaces that offer a strong corporate responsibility mission, interesting work and high levels of feedback from supervisors have an edge.

The Future of Health Care for Future Generations

Millennials and the subsequent Generation Z workers represent a major shift in how they approach health care. On the plus side, they are more interested in healthy eating and preventative wellness than their older counterparts.5 But they also face unique challenges that Baby Boomers don’t.

For example, these generations are less likely to marry and therefore will miss out on the health and well-being benefits connected with partnership.6 As a result, they’re more likely to suffer from pneumonia, cancer, heart attacks, dementia and even accidents than those who are married or cohabiting.7 The likely reason? The so called “marriage advantage”, which offers emotional benefits as well as a live-in reminder service to make doctor appointments, go to the gym, and generally take care of oneself—things singletons may lack.

Technological advances can better predict diseases before their onset and may change the approach to treatment and prevention. However, having this knowledge doesn’t bring all good news. While it will allow millennials to make choices about their health, there are no cures for Alzheimer’s or all cancers, even if doctors spot them early.

Millennials Don’t Gamble on Insurance

It’s easy to assume that because those under 30 are less likely to get sick with debilitating illnesses—such as heart problems, diabetes and cancer—they’ll want to spend as little as possible on health plans—or not consider them at all. But that’s not the case.

Given a choice, many will still pay but they will choose a different kind of plan than their older coworkers. One study found that 46 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 prefer a plan with a high monthly premium and a low deductible, compared with just 33 percent of those 50 or older.8 Paying more each month for health care seems counter-intuitive, but the risk of wiping out meager savings with one emergency room visit is a major motivator for Millennials.

Employers will need a long-term benefits strategy to keep up with the changes in health care the younger cohort demands. Managers will need to work closely with health-care providers to ensure that what they’re offering is relevant, affordable and attractive to workers across generations.

And these young workers do their research. As digital natives, Millennials and Generation Z workers are pros at comparison shopping via digital channels, so it’s helpful to be transparent about your company’s health-care offerings.

Attracting Top Talent

New technologies, economic shifts and demographic trends have changed the way millennials think about work, their health—and health care. As Gen Y comprises more of the workforce, health and wellness at work will become one of the biggest conversations.

A recent study found about 75 percent of job seekers will accept a lower salary for a good brand.9 So as you consider compensation and benefits, keep in mind that millennials judge companies based on reputation when deciding where to work.

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 1“Millennials in Adulthood”; Pew Research Center; March 2014.

2“15 Economic Facts About Millennials”; The Council of Economic Advisers; 2014.

3“Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace”; PwC; 2011.

4“Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace”; PwC; 2011.

5“Younger folks want healthier food”; Bruce Horovitz; USA Today; January 2015.–wellness-study/22000167/

6“Why 25% of Millennials Will Never Get Married”; Belinda Luscombe; Time; September 2014.

7“Is Marriage Good for Your Health?”; Maria Pope; The New York Times Magazine; 2010.

8“How bad is shopping for health insurance”; Jay MacDonald;;

9“Nearly 3 in 4 candidates will accept lower salary for a good brand”; Deanna Hartley; Career Builder; 2013.

The Authors: 

Kristine Mullen, vice president of Humana’s Wellness Strategies & Solutions team, is focused on offering employers and members differentiated wellness solutions to improve health and increase productivity. Ranging from Health Coaching and Employee Assistance Programs, to Wellness Engagement Strategies and HumanaVitality® (an Incentives and Rewards program), Mullen’s Wellness team brings a large portfolio of offerings to the marketplace that can be customized to meet the needs of employer groups large and small, as well as to individual members in pursuit of greater well-being.