7 ways to look after millennial employees

So, what exactly is a ‘millennial’?

Although the word has reached common usage, there is no strict definition as to what defines a millennial.

However, the term is widely assumed to refer to people born sometime between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. It’s the demographic cohort that follows Generation X and has become associated with a certain set of behaviours and habits.

Driven by the digital age, millennials are thought to seek instant gratification and be on the look-out for adventure. They see themselves as global citizens and are passionate about values.

In the workplace, they are seen to be driven by flexibility, personalisation and progression, as well as a desire for a strong work-life balance.

So how do you cater for this demographic and do you need to tailor your benefits offering to suit? Here are seven tips to consider.

Take an holistic view

Compared to previous generations, millennials generally appear to take a broader view of their health and, consequently, put more thought into daily decisions concerning factors such as diet or exercise.

This means employers looking to engage with millennials might want to consider increasing their focus on employee wellbeing to support these life decisions.

Initiatives such as cycle-to-work schemes, free fruit, healthier lunch options, discounted gym memberships and health checks might be particularly well received, helping to supplement more traditional benefits.

The benefit to the employer is that this feeds into a more proactive approach to employee healthcare, helping to reduce the risk of illness by having a positive impact on overall health.

Gamify it

Gaming comes as second nature to millennials. This generation has grown up with computer and mobile games, so they understand the concept and derive great pleasure from them.

Therefore it might make sense for employers to apply ‘gamification’ to employee healthcare. Gamification involves the application of typical gaming mechanisms – such as point-scoring and competition – with the goal of incentivising health improvements.

A number of apps and wearable technologies take this approach, allowing the user to track fitness improvements and earn rewards when they achieve certain goals. But employers may even take a more simple approach, applying an element of friendly competition to schemes that encourage weight loss, healthy eating or regular exercise by offering prizes to the employees who make the greatest improvements.

Provide quick information

Information is easy to come by in the digital age. Millennials are used to having the answers to everything at their fingertips and will often do a large amount of their own research before making any decision.

So, employers should consider how they communicate health and wellbeing schemes to ensure they are meeting the needs of this generation. Regular communication, providing information on everything from benefits availability to health advice, can help to boost employee engagement an uptake of schemes.

But it is also important to consider how this information is delivered. Millennials do an increasing amount of their browsing on mobile devices and tablets, so the bread and butter of face-to-face briefings and email bulletins might be supplemented by information delivered via appropriate healthcare apps.

Offer plenty of choice

Following on from the desire for greater – and more frequent – information, millennials like to think of themselves as more informed than previous generations. This means they like to make their own choices based on the information they have gleaned.

So, while previous generations may have been more willing to be led on employee benefits, it might be more appropriate to provide younger employees with an increased number of options, allowing them to personalise their package.

Employers may approach this by gathering feedback from staff on what they want to gain from their benefits before implementing a carefully-managed selection that meets both employee and business goals. An appropriate technology platform through which employees can make their choices is also a key consideration.

Be a little flexible

Work-life balance is more of a focus for millennials than previous generations, perhaps due to the increased amount of discussion around this topic in recent years.

Thinking beyond health and wellbeing initiatives, employers may want to consider a more flexible approach to working practice as a way to boost morale and mental wellbeing. Millennials may be particularly receptive to arrangements that allow them to avoid the pain of waiting in rush-hour traffic or provide the opportunity to work remotely.

The advent of new technologies, such as video conferencing and cloud-based office software, mean it is easier than ever to meet this demand. As a result, flexible working may increasingly be viewed as an important part of the overall wellbeing mix alongside benefits and healthcare schemes.

It’s good to talk

Studies have shown that millennials are more aware of mental health issues but also that they are more prone to depression and anxiety than previous generations.

Therefore, it is perhaps more important than ever that organisations put the proper framework in place to offer constant support and advice around issues of mental health. Management may be offered training in empathy or the identification of mental health issues in order to help them better cope with the changing demands.

It may be appropriate to consider benefits such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that provide staff with access to a 24-hour telephone helpline and counselling support, allowing them to discuss any issues with trained professionals.

Similarly, mindfulness courses may be a low-cost way of helping employees to find coping mechanisms for everyday issues.

Provide regular feedback

Millennials have been found to crave regular feedback more than other demographics so it may be appropriate to establish a practice of regular one-on-one manager meetings.

This will help to keep them group engaged and motivated, providing them with goals to aim towards in work and health, as well as the encouragement they need to reach them.

By offering regular feedback and providing the opportunity to discuss workplace issues, management can make adjustments to help millennials better perform their jobs. Research by the American Psychological Association found millennials feel the effect of stress more than other generations. This group are said to be more prone to workplace stress so a proactive approach may help to address any early signs and put measures in place to mitigate the risk.

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