You’ve likely heard of the generational gap. Every generation has their own set of values and beliefs that stem from the way they were raised and it doesn’t always translate to other generations. From the free-spirited Millennial to the independent Generation Xer to the dedicated Baby Boomer, this cultural phenomena is alive and well in the workplace.
Just as people have to adapt their communication and work styles to successfully work with a variety of generations, a corporate wellness program must also be able to attract participants of all ages.
To create a wellness program that speaks to multiple generations, you must first understand the background for each generation and then translate these character traits into the most effective tools for your wellness program.
People born between 1946 and 1964 make up the baby boomer population. Once the largest group of workers, with nearly 66 million at its peak in 1997, their numbers have steadily fallen as they reach retirement age. However, there are still many members of this generation in the workplace. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, boomers made up 29 percent of the workforce in the United States in 2015 with 44.6 million workers.
Baby Boomers have never been ones to shy away from exercise. After all, they were the generation who helped popularize jogging in the 1970s and aerobics in the 1980s. For many, staying fit has always been an important part of their lifestyle. Of course, there’s always a flip side to every story. Due to poor diet choices, like processed and fast foods, and often sedentary office jobs, the Baby Boomer population has also struggled with obesity.
As Baby Boomers age, they obviously become more concerned with their health. According to the American Hospital Association, about 60 percent of Baby Boomers will experience more than one chronic health issue and 25 percent will have diabetes. Including ways to address their health concerns in your wellness program will likely be attractive to the Baby Boomers.
Baby Boomers tend to be more traditional than later generations and often prefer to stick with one company en route to climbing the corporate ladder. Therefore, if you have Baby Boomers at your company, it’s likely that they’ve worked for you for the majority of their career and take great pride in the company as a whole. A wellness program that focuses on the entire company’s health, rather the individual, may be more appealing to them.
Considering that Baby Boomers didn’t grow up with fancy technology, they’re often not as fond of flashy apps and are less likely to be technologically savvy than the younger generations. They prefer to receive their information the old-fashioned way, via printed newsletters and bulletin boards, and shy away from the use of the internet and smartphones. Make sure that your wellness program has more than one way to communicate information to appeal to multiple generations.
Sandwiched in the middle sit the members of Generation X, who were born between 1965 and 1979. This generation held the top spot for workers for a mere three years from 2012 to 2015 before it was narrowly surpassed by the up-and-coming Millennials. As of 2015, there were 52.7 million Generation X workers, making up 34 percent of the workforce.
An independent bunch, Generation X prides itself on maintaining a strong work/life balance. They prefer to have the flexibility to do their own thing on their own time. In order to attract more Generation X employees to your wellness program, be sure to offer a variety of activities that they can easily fit into their schedule, whenever it’s convenient for them. Provide them with the tools to succeed but let them decide how to reach the goal on their own.
While they may not have been born into a high-tech world like the Millennials, Generation X grew up during the technological boom of the 1980s and 1990s. They’re very comfortable using computers and the majority have smartphones. As such, they’re more receptive to online forms of communication, like emails, texts, and blogs. Using a wellness portal to manage your wellness program is something that would appeal to this technical generation.
Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials compose the youngest section of the workplace. As of 2015, they’re also the largest group at 53.5 million and make up 34 percent of the workforce in the United States.
Considering that Millennials grew up surrounded by technology, it should come as no surprise that they’re very fond of the social media aspect of a wellness program. They’ve likely had a Facebook page since the social media giant was created in 2004 and immediately jumped on the Instagram bandwagon following its launch in 2010. Therefore, they tend to prefer a highly social form of health and wellness plans. They like to share their progress with their peers and participate in challenges, both team, and one-on-one, that motivate them to reach their goals.
This wired generation responds well to the gamification aspects of a wellness program. Try to create a program filled with rewards and incentives to bring out their competitive nature and encourage them to get the most out of the wellness program.
Millennials often prefer a wellness program that conveniently fits into their lifestyle. Make the wellness program easily accessible to employees by offering on-site fitness classes, like yoga, during lunch breaks or after work hours. You could also try to incorporate health and fitness into the work day by encouraging walking meetings and removing junk food from the vending machines to avoid the temptation of unhealthy choices.
Considering that Millennials are a young and relatively healthy group, they’re typically more concerned with looking good and staying fit rather than worrying about illness. Focus your wellness plan on exercising and eating healthy to draw their attention.
In order to create the best wellness plan to suit your company’s needs, first take a look at your overall population. Do you have a company brimming with Millennials or do you have a high number of Baby Boomers? Cater your wellness program to what works best for your employees but try to include something for everyone. By offering a well-rounded wellness program, you can help bridge the generational gap.