How Responsive Are Your Millennial Employees To Your Wellness Efforts?

Millennials put a lower priority on medical care than other generations, according to recent research from Aon Hewitt. However, they are the most likely to want employers to play an active role in supporting their overall health and wellbeing. The analysis is based on data from the 2014 Consumer Health Mindset report, a joint survey of more than 2,700 U.S. employees and their dependents conducted by Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health, and The Futures Company. Aon Hewitt analyzed the perspectives, behaviors and attitudes of employees from different generations towards health and wellness, as well as employer-sponsored wellness programs.

According to the analysis, Millennials are the least likely to participate in activities focused on prevention and maintaining or improving physical health compared to other generations. About half (54 percent) have had a physical in the last 12 months, compared to 60 percent of Generation X and 73 percent of Baby Boomers. In addition, just 39 percent say preventive care is one of the most important things to do to stay healthy, compared to 49 percent of Generation X and 69 percent of Baby Boomers.

Millennials are also less likely to participate in a healthy eating/weight management programs (21 percent), compared to Generation X (23 percent) and Baby Boomers (28 percent). Interestingly, they are the most likely generation to engage in regular exercise (63 percent), compared to 52 percent of Generation X and 49 percent of Baby Boomers.

“Given their younger age, most Millennials are relatively healthy, so they may not feel a sense of urgency to go to the doctor regularly or eat a well-balanced diet,” said Ray Baumruk, employee research leader at Aon Hewitt. “However, the lack of health prevention and maintenance when they’re young may lead to greater health risks as they get older. Employers should communicate the importance of participating in health related activities now to avoid serious health issues later in life.”

Millennials want employer support. Despite their relative lack of action around prevention, Aon Hewitt’s analysis shows that Millennials are the most likely generation to embrace support from employers in their overall health and wellbeing. More than half (52 percent) say “living or working in a healthy environment” is influential to their personal health, compared to 42 percent of Generation X and 35 percent of Baby Boomers.

Millennials also are more open to having their direct manager play an active role in encouraging them to get and stay healthy (53 percent), compared to 47 percent of Generation X and 41 percent of Baby Boomers, and are most likely to participate in an employee assistance program (16 percent), compared to Generation X (10 percent) and Baby Boomers (8 percent).

“Employees are increasingly defining well-being to include physical, emotional, financial, and social health, and they will expect their employers to support them in their efforts to be healthy,” said Karen Marlo, vice president of the National Business Group on Health. “Employers have a unique opportunity to engage and motivate the Millennial generation and they are likely to get the strongest results by demonstrating the benefits of establishing healthy habits and behaviors today, not just tomorrow.”

Reaching Millennials for your wellness campaigns. To effectively reach Millennials, Aon Hewitt experts suggest employers consider taking the following steps:

  • Make it easy and convenient. Forty percent of Millennials say they are more likely to participate in health and wellness programs if they are “easy or convenient to do.” Employers should remove barriers to helping this generation create good health choices and habits by focusing on programs that meet their work/life balance. For example, employers should consider implementing walking meetings or group fitness events or offering on-site health and fitness programs like yoga or Zumba.
  • Understand what motivates. It is critical for employers to understand what motivates and engages Millennials. More than half of Millennials (55 percent) report their motivation is “to look good,” and not as much to “avoid illness.” Employers should tailor their strategy and communications to show how poor health can impact an individual’s energy and/or appearance.
  • Know how to reach your audience. Millennials are significantly more likely to prefer mobile apps, text, or popular social channels including Facebook and Twitter (or internal sites like Yammer and Chatter) to access both general and personal health information. Employers should explore social channels like blogs geared to individuals with certain health conditions, location-based tools like Foursquare and media-sharing sites like Pinterest. Short-form video sharing services like Vine may also be effective channels to reach this generation. Companies also should take advantage of apps and mobile-friendly websites to help engage employees in health and wellness campaigns. This might include resources that coordinate an individual’s fitness, food and stress management programs, resources and activities. However, regardless of channel, it’s important to ensure their communication delivers the authenticity and hyper-relevance that Millennials have come to expect in exchange for their attention and action.
  • Add an element of competition. Millennials are the most likely generation to be interested in “friendly competitions.” Employers may want to explore adding game mechanics and player-centric design, as well as competitions to motivate and engage Millennials. Company-wide well-being or fitness challenges, or providing access to a social web platform where individuals can buddy-up, build teams and initiate their own mini-challenges, also may be effective.

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