Fostering productive work relationships and keeping employees engaged within a multi-generational workforce has been a hot topic in recent years. Baby boomers are still in the work place while more and more millennials enter the labor force, often with very different attitudes and expectations for their careers and the companies they work for. Meanwhile, generation X employees are straddling this generation gap with their own sets of wants, expectations and needs.
Understanding how to effectively engage employees across generations also poses an interesting challenge for corporate well-being programs. The key to running a successful cross-generational well-being program is twofold:
- Make it easy for everyone to participate
- Consider your range of employee ages and needs
Here are some practical tips you can implement to help your well-being program be successful and attractive to employees of all ages.
Encourage employees to create shared-interest groups
Having a common interest brings people together despite generational differences. Set up interest groups in your well-being platform that focus on different well-being activities. These groups help employees connect and create a support and encouragement network that can motivate people to continue participating.
If there are several employees who enjoy hiking, create a hiking group that gathers once a month to tackle local trails. This gives co-workers a way to get to know each other outside of work and builds a go-to support team for being active. Be sure the group includes some easy trail hikes occasionally. This is a good way to introduce new, curious members to the group and ensure everyone can participate at some point.
Creating a book club that meets over lunch once a month can motivate people to read more – which helps them unplug from the “always-on” world and can help relieve stress. (Reading can lower your heart rate, relax your muscles and relieve stress by up to 68%!) It also gives co-workers from different departments something to chat about when they run into each other in the company kitchen or breakroom.
The idea of focus groups can also extend to sharing information. Set up a place within your well-being platform that allows employees to ask questions about a certain topic – financial well-being or yummy low-carb recipes, for instance – and encourage other employees to chime in with their answers or recommendations.
Set challenges with long enough deadlines
Everyone is busy, but how busy we are can also change depending on our age. Employees who have kids at home won’t have as much free time to dedicate to well-being challenges as people without kids might have. Young adults and empty nesters might have plenty of personal time to devote to tackling a well-being challenge, but some challenges (such as physical activity or exercise challenges) could be easier for someone with a young, healthy body to accomplish than for someone who’s living with arthritis.
The point is, not all your employees have the time or ability to accomplish a challenge in the same timeframe. If an employee doesn’t feel like there’s any chance they’ll accomplish the challenge in the allotted timeframe, they’ll be less likely to participate at all.
Take this into consideration when setting a deadline or end date for corporate well-being challenges. Some challenges might fit within a month, while others might be better suited for quarter-long or year-long challenges. Consider you workforce demographics when deciding on your company challenges and how long they’ll last.
Offer a range of incentives
Article after article examining millennial employees note that workers in this younger generation have different motivations than the generations preceding them. While many companies are paying close attention to these trends in order to attract and keep the best young talent possible, it’s also an important consideration when setting well-being program participation incentives.
Depending on where an employee is in life and their priorities, they may be motivated by different incentives. If they’re not at all interested in the incentive being offered, they won’t be particularly motivated to engage in the well-being program. Ideas of incentives that might appeal to different employees include:
- Contributions to an HSA
- The company paying more of the employee’s health insurance premium
- An end-of-year bonus
- A gift card or gift
- Additional paid days off
If you have a particularly diverse workforce, consider offering a range of incentives and allowing employees to opt in for the incentive that is most appealing to them.
A robust incentive program should include constant communication about both the extrinsic and intrinsic incentives associated with the well-being program. While a good extrinsic incentive (like the ones noted above) can help get employees started, intrinsic incentives are what help people stick to their goals when things get tough or time gets tight. Keep reminding employees that participation in the well-being program can lead to less tangible but no less important benefits like feeling great, having more energy, losing weight, becoming stronger and most importantly, having fun, making friends and loving where they work.
Solicit feedback (and listen!)
The best way to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, what employees like and what they’d prefer is to solicit regular feedback. Asking for feedback formally has a better chance of getting input from both engaged and non-engaged employees. Send out a monthly questionnaire via a company-wide email, include feedback opportunities within challenges or the well-being platform, or attend a group event once a month and see what they like or don’t like about the company well-being program.
If you have super users, ask them specifically why they’re so engaged and what encourages them to keep participating. If you have employees who never participate ask them what you could do to make the program more appealing (make sure your discussion is casual and has an air of seeking input and help, not that you’re “cornering” them for not participating). Hosting focus groups with each demographic is a good way to ensure you get the information you’re looking for and that your request for input doesn’t go unheeded and forgotten.
Getting feedback from a range of employees will help you improve your well-being program over time, offer challenges, features and incentives that will be more appealing and make sure you don’t accidentally do away with something that your employees love.