Employee Wellbeing Incentives (Motivators) for the Multigenerational Workforce

Businesses incorporating wellbeing programs have become common for good reason with reports of Return on Investments (ROIs) of up to 5:1.[1]  Wellness programs are set to take on even higher importance as the research and case studies of benefits sees higher and higher returns, including the: recruitment and retention of Millennials, prevention of chronic diseases, reducing absenteeism, and increasing engagement of the workforce.

A wellness program’s ROI, however, and the correlated increases in employee health, are only as good as the sponsoring company’s participation rates.  As Millennials make up one in three of American workers, corporations have to entice up to four generations of employees simultaneously, each with different health risks and reasons for participating or avoiding the program.[2]  Although Millennials demonstrate higher interest in a corporation’s wellness culture, older generations could see even greater benefits, especially as they are challenged to reduce the effects of aging, long work hours (an inherent trait of the Boomer generation), and sometimes destructive nutrition habits from outdated health information.

Here are some ideas to increase participation across workforce generations:

Boomers & Gen Xers

  • Monetary Incentives or Penalties: Sinces wellness is not an intrinsic motivator across all generations, nearly half of businesses offering wellness programs have increased participation through decreased health care premiums, co-pays or deductibles.[3]  Meanwhile, 32 percent of employers have started to experiment with penalties, premiums or surcharges for unhealthy lifestyles, such as tobacco use, and have seen even high participation rates.[4][5]
  • Personalization: Not all employees will start their wellness journey with similar fitness or health statuses.  By tailoring programs and goals to make the wellness program more meaningful or attainable to individual employees, companies can help entice first steps.  Communicating the values of participating, both in long-term or short term goals, unique to individual lifestyles can help employees understand the impact to their individual motivators, such as “keeping up with their young children, preparing for retirement, or contemplating quitting smoking or losing weight”.[6]
  • Variety of Offerings: The same differences in the messaging of wellness programs should be incorporated into the variety of offerings within the program. For instance, an employee accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle might be more comfortable learning about healthy eating than participating in a fitness challenge.
  • Communicate with the Technology-Averse: Mailings, printed newsletters or flyers might help businesses communicate and promote the offerings of online portals to those who shy away from new technologies.[7]
  • Ease of Use: Just as Millennials are a highly-stressed generation, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers tend to be over worked.  Ensure wellness program activities can be easily incorporated into work schedules and accessed from home or at work.  Consider broadening the program to include families or partners, which will help incorporate the program into an employee’s lifestyle and discourage longer work hours to fit in a wellness activity that can be completed at home.[8]

Millennials Although Millennials typically demonstrate higher participation rates in wellness programs, their perception of the wellness programs “authenticity” will help validate and increase participation.  In turn, businesses can see higher recruitment and retention of the future workforce.

Data Personalization: Investing in technologies that personalize a participant’s fitness goal and utilize their personal data to provide feedback will demonstrate a company’s dedication to a wellness culture.  Millennials have come to expect personalized and data-fed technologies and will expect this from any wellness program.[9]

Work/Life Integration: Millennials have begun to extend the concept of work/life balance to work/life integration.[10]  We see this demonstrated through the corporate “campuses” of Facebook, Google & Apple.  One method to accomplish this within a corporate Wellness Program and increase the authenticity of the program is to ensure the program can be participated in an employee’s “own terms” wherever they may be through on demand access from multiple devices and data collection via wearables.[11]   This concept also extends into the next category…

Create a Culture of Health:  A meaningful wellness program would seem insincere without the incorporation of wellness initiatives into the culture of a company.[12]  This can mean everything from the participation and investment of corporate leaders to the offerings of healthy snacks in the break room.  One great way to achieve this and reduce the rise in stress levels, is to incorporate fitness or mental health activities into the work day.  For example, employees from Apple are allowed to take 30 minutes each workday to meditate or take a yoga class.[13]  This also speaks to the Millennial tendency to value mental health in addition to physical health.[14]

Gamification & Group Participation:  Fitbit challenges and athletic achievements posted on Facebook aren’t just a trend, they’re a wellness motivator for Millennials.  As a generation who grew up with social networks, Millennials, as well as other generations, seem to be more likely to adopt and keep healthy habits when surrounded by people who do the same.  By utilizing a mobile portal or online app that increases participation or (friendly) competition among co-workers can help the effectiveness of a wellness program.  Beyond wellness, peer-to-peer challenges can help employees build new connections, strengthen existing relationships, foster solid support networks, and even enhance a work environment as a whole.”[15]

While most incentives will appeal to nearly all age groups, wellness programs can be strategically designed and promoted to maximize the participation of all or specific age groups.  By leveraging online portals and participation data, a company can analyze which demographics need increased attention and which programs are appealing to different segments of the workforce.  Whether through data, technology, or customization, you can drive maximum ROI for your employees and your business.


[1] http://www.healthadvocate.com/downloads/whitepapers/WorkplaceWellnessGuide.pdf
[2] http://www.quantifiedhabits.com/blog/2016/5/29/millennials-what-do-they-think-of-your-wellness-program
[3] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/life-sciences-health-care/us-lshc-wellness-programs.pdf
[4] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/life-sciences-health-care/us-lshc-wellness-programs.pdf
[5] https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/ebsa/researchers/analysis/health-and-welfare/WellnessStudyFinal.pdf
[6] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/life-sciences-health-care/us-lshc-wellness-programs.pdf
[7] https://medikeeper.com/blog/how-to-create-a-wellness-program-that-bridges-the-generational-gap/
[8] http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/print.jhtml?id=534359286
[9] http://www.quantifiedhabits.com/blog/2016/5/29/millennials-what-do-they-think-of-your-wellness-program
[10] https://thebossmagazine.com/what-are-millennials-looking-for-in-health-and-wellness-programs/
[11] http://www.quantifiedhabits.com/blog/2016/5/29/millennials-what-do-they-think-of-your-wellness-program
[12] https://thebossmagazine.com/what-are-millennials-looking-for-in-health-and-wellness-programs/
[13] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/life-sciences-health-care/us-lshc-wellness-programs.pdf
[14] http://www.quantifiedhabits.com/blog/2016/5/29/millennials-what-do-they-think-of-your-wellness-program
[15] https://thebossmagazine.com/what-are-millennials-looking-for-in-health-and-wellness-programs/