By Fiona Hansen on November 23 2016
Employee satisfaction in workplace is consistently one of the top millennial recruiting problems. Nowadays, it’s not just about the salary—money is not enough to hold feet of millennials. More and more youngsters are considering companies that offer incredible perks and benefits, aside from salary.
This is when employee wellness programs (EWP) come into effect. When companies have healthy employees, they reap the benefits. A correctly designed employee wellness program, also called a workplace wellness program that promotes and supports the health, safety, and well-being of the company’s employees, is one of the essential perks to retain employees in the long run.
Ron Goetzel, senior scientist and director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, said that employee wellness programs have a positive impact on health behaviors and financial outcomes and that, done right, can save money—employers will see reduced emergency room and hospital visits and reduced absenteeism.
With the importance of having a good EWP as said above, here are some ways to better the program as well as the well-being of your employees.
Wellness is not all about physical activities. People need to know the reasons and motives for what they are doing in order to keep a consistent progress in doing it. An effective way to encourage health in workplace is to educate employees about the importance of having a balanced and active lifestyle, the Affordable Care Act, and preventative care benefits. Especially for Generation Y, who is yearning for learning and experiencing new things, they will be drawn to companies that offer them opportunities for self-improvement and discovery such as, let’s say, some yoga classes or aerobic sessions.
A perfect example is Google, which applies this principle in its operation and has attracted a vast number of millennials every year. Google has its own education program for its employees called Googlers-to-Googlers. The classes span from subjects like management and public speaking to kickboxing and parenting — and as the name suggests, all classes are taught by Google employees to Google employees. The organization has also created a People & Innovation Lab (PiLab) to conduct research and development within its People Operations (its version of HR). The company is extremely invested in finding unique ways to improve the health of its employees.
Millennials don’t want purely information—they want information that is better than what they have access to a bunch of articles on the Internet. They don’t want to wait weeks for lab results to come back—they want professional and compassionate care with instant access to results, and actionable plans for better health they can implement right away.
Activeness to employees’ demands displays the level of investment in the well-being of employees. They differentiate the benefits that companies offer compared with spending personal fund on seeing private doctors or experts. The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company in Virginia, is the pioneer in using internal communication to promote wellness and workplace satisfaction. Sam Whiteside, The Motley Fool’s Chief Wellness, writes a health newsletter on a monthly basis, The Flex, which highlights a Wellness Fool nominated by his or her peers. Each month, she creates a different challenge or theme to excite her staff.
Whiteside said, "April was called 'Active April.' We wanted to challenge them to make one meeting per day an active one. There were pushups during meetings and people walking around the office. It's about trying to make every month different from the month prior. It keeps engagement up because people get tired of doing the same things.”
Some companies offer wellness programs but fashion them more like a task for employees to fulfill than a benefit to gain. However, millennials don’t want more responsibilities outside work hours—they are youngsters who are open to new opportunities and affiliated with various activities after work (extra academic classes, member of different clubs, part-time jobs, etc.). Therefore, they won’t participate in the wellness program if they don’t see the outweighing benefits that it offers in comparison with activities that they take up themselves.
With that being said, companies should fashion the EWP in a way that gets people to want to do things voluntarily instead of forcing them. “Success programs are the ones that get team members energized versus forcing it on them,” said wellness coordinator Kelly Maher at Zappo. Zappo is, indeed, a good example in creating a fun and helpful wellness program for its employee. One of Zappos initiatives is called Wellness Adventures, where Maher takes a small group of employees from different departments offsite to do something fun away from their desks, like an hour-long golf lesson, laser tag or trampolining. To Maher and Zappos, wellness consists of more than just the stereotypical aspect of physical exercising, and it shouldn't be forced upon employees.
Technology is ever-changing. New trends hit the market every day. Employee wellness programs have to be updated and able to keep up with the trends. Especially for millennials whose adolescence is associated with the hasty growth of technology, EWP should be integrated with online platforms to allow them access health information conveniently and fast.
Fitbit is a pioneer in utilizing technology tools to assist its employees and those of other companies collect and track wellness data. Companies use the trackers as a motivator as part of a rewards program or company-wide competition. Then, they can use a Fitbit dashboard with aggregated data to track steps, calories burned, active minutes, distance, hours of sleep, etc. Amy McDonough, VP and GM for Fitbit Wellness said, "We help with distribution of traffic, we support activation, participation, bringing consumer excitement into the corporate marketplace and program management."
Wellness programs, like any company initiative, will prove advantageous itself with the participation of superiors and those who are in charge of the programs. This tactic will work effectively for millennials who live in the era of more democracy and less hierarchy. EWP will be more of a social program for them to learn and get involved in the community where they are equal to everyone else.
Houston Methodist, a leading Texas medical center with seven locations around Houston, understands the best way to get its employees into the program. The company plans creative competitions and events year-round. One of its first implementations was a CEO challenge, where employees were tasked with "overstepping" their superiors. Janay Andrade, director of employee benefits, said that the program excited his colleagues and employees from the beginning. "It got the CEOs out there and visible, walking with their staff," Andrade said. “You can message the CEO through the portal. There's a different dynamic. It has a socialness to it."
Since implementing this program, Houston Methodist's "Best Companies to Work For" Fortune ranking has gone up.
With all these tactics being given, if they are put into play, you should see employee engagement in your wellness programs improve quickly. Remember to always listen to employees and put their benefits as priority. More importantly, don’t forget to set an example and participate yourself. It is the best way to show employees just how advantageous this program can be.