These days, you can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing a new indictment of millennials.
You know the stereotype: This newest generation of employees is selfish, narcissistic, entitled, and impatient. I understand where this portrayal comes from — no one admires the guy with the selfie stick — but it’s an inaccurate generalization of my generation.
In fact, a growing body of data has revealed that the millennial generation is more altruistic, socially engaged, and health-minded than our predecessors, making us perfect consumers for employee well-being programs.
The trick is to speak the language of millennials, and as a millennial myself, I’ve got some advice to share.
Here are my five rules for engaging millennial employees in employee well-being programs.
Rule 1: Be legit
The key to earning the trust of millennial employees is authenticity. Mine is a generation that has grown up with the internet, and thus has a very keen eye for PR spin, marketing jargon, and advertising. Millennials have grown up truly surrounded by marketing, and they’re a bit immune.
Research has shown authenticity is of utmost value to millennials. Seventy percent of millennials will stay loyal to a brand that has earned their trust. And 75 percent view themselves as authentic, meaning that being legit is the truest way to earn that trust.
When you’re considering your well-being benefits, create a brand that resonates and accurately represents your workforce. Use images of real people instead of photoshopped models. Offer programs that allow people to set their own goals, rather than impose parameters and benchmarks.
Avoid jargon and long detailed benefits explanations. Instead, be straightforward. You’ll telegraph authenticity and your employees will connect with your brand.
Rule 2: Cut to the chase
The millennial preference for all things direct and convenient is unsurprising given our obsession with authenticity. A marketplace devoid of middle men, where consumers are empowered to make their own informed decisions, is a millennial touchstone. Some of the country’s most impressive consumer companies have tapped into this preference. Consider Uber, Roku, and Airbnb.
The attributes that define the millennial marketplace — speed, convenience, transparency — are the ones that will also shape the future of well-being benefits.
Forty-five percent of millennials say they’re more likely to participate in health and wellness programs if they’re easy or convenient to do. This means that we need to make enrolling in well-being programs straightforward and easy if we’re going to attract the next generation.
Seek out vendors that offer Single Sign On (SSO) integrations to relieve your employees of additional accounts, usernames, and passwords. When possible, offer programs that are flexible — that employees can tackle in their own time, on their own schedule.
This flexibility means programs can easily be accommodated and adopted within an existing or preferred schedule, and your engagement rates will climb.
Rule 3: There’s gotta be an app for that
An appropriate motto for the millennial generation is “all mobile, all the time.” It may astonish older generations to hear that even a PC is passé to a millennial. Instead, we rely on our phones, tablets, and even our watches for all of the information we need.
Wellness and benefits cannot expect to be an exception to this rule. To remain relevant to millennials, you must allow them to enroll, participate, and access resources from their phone. This is absolutely critical, as millennials have little tolerance for anything else.
The good news is the industry is catching up to these preferences. Many well-being vendors have native apps that employees can download and access through their phones and smartwatches.
When selecting your well-being program, find a vendor that is committed to mobile innovation—this trend is advancing rapidly, and you’re going to want a partner that keeps up with the swift pace of mobile invention.
Rule 4: Sharing is caring
For a generation that is constantly in touch, frequently checking in online, and publicly voicing our opinions, sharing is an important part of millennial life — professional and otherwise. Contrary to the stereotypes, this tendency to “overshare” isn’t just about self-involvement or grandstanding. In fact, sharing opinions, publicly voicing feedback, and reaching out to others serve an important purpose.
More than any other generational cohort, millennials rely on our friends, family, and peers for recommendations and suggestions. This is particularly true in the consumer arena — consider sites like Yelp and Amazon — but it has important implications for well-being benefits as well.
If you’re able to get an enthusiastic group of early adopters to enroll in your benefits program, you’ll likely enjoy a successful ripple effect with millennials. That’s because word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing for my generation. This ties back directly to our obsession with authenticity — we trust the recommendations and views of our friends and peers more than the promotional efforts of a corporate department.
When you’re implementing a well-being program, devote time and resources to building a champions network that will get the word out, share updates, and encourage others to join.
This will attract hard-to-engage populations and keep them invested throughout the program duration. Find a well-being vendor that has experience creating champion networks and your program will benefit immensely.
Rule 5: Offer well-being, not wellness
Unlike previous generations who have used traditional milestones to measure success — climbing the corporate ladder, getting married, buying a house — millennials aspire towards balance, in life and in work. In fact, 97 percent of millennials named happiness as a primary interest. It’s nearly unanimous.
This focus on balance extends to the way millennials conceptualize health, which is much more focused on well-being than previous generations. Seventy-two percent of millennials say they exercise once a week or more, and 95 percent say they care deeply about their health.
For wellness benefits to be relevant to millennials they can’t merely focus on the physical realm of health. Instead, they’ll be drawn to a range of programs that address other ways to find balance and achieve happiness.
For example, financial wellness is of great interest to a generation that’s shouldering record levels of debt. My generation would also benefit greatly from emotional resiliency programs, since we are incredibly stressed.
To engage millennials in wellness, you have to extend the definition to embrace holistic well-being, incorporating programs that address the multiple factors that contribute to work-life balance, including mental, social, and emotional variables. Companies that adopt this millennial view of well-being will be much more successful in attracting, retaining, and engaging the most powerful generation in the workforce today.