Flexible wellness programs have a significant impact on meeting the diverse needs of employees, improving employer branding and building a robust total rewards strategy
Employees spend an average of 10 hours in the office and therefore each interaction with the facility should speak wellness
Scene 1: Yash, a college graduate, is offered three job opportunities during placements. All three jobs offer tempting work experience, but Yash decides to join a lesser known brand. This is because the company’s work culture was closest to complimenting his personal and professional needs. Also, the organization’s benefits package encouraged him to experiment and explore his potential.
Scene 2: Pooja, an enthusiastic HR executive, manages talent for the same organization that Yash now works at. She prides herself in creating an empathetic healthcare program that includes a multitude of offerings for the organization’s employees. However, she is beginning to get concerned as the employee reaction is below lukewarm and she is unsure about how to bridge the expectation gap and engage the GenY employees with her wellness program.
Yash and Pooja showcase two sides of the same HR coin. On the one hand, there is a demand for wellness programs from potential hires, while on the other there is a dearth of participation by employees. This can be attributed to the paradigm shift taking place in the HR landscape, where the complacency of senior colleagues is being replaced by the aggression of GenY, while the wellness frameworks play catch up.
GenY see the overall benefit plans in their current avatars as only “nice to have” compared to their senior colleagues. This stems from the younger generation’s belief that they are healthy and indestructible. However, research suggests that they are more stressed and less healthy than their older counterparts. The increased levels of stress stems from the younger generation’s desire to have everything right here and right now, rather than delaying gratification. GenY wants responsibility at work, a well-balanced family life at home and a thriving social life as well.
GenY see benefit plans that help them attain better overall health and remain disease free as more valuable than those that are heavily dependent on insurance products. Therefore, the challenge for any HR executive like Pooja is to provide wellness programs that not only give the new working crop what is the most healthy or beneficial for them, but also what they would find engaging and interesting.
Some constituents of the wellness programs that HR managers are considering while designing wellness programs include:
Holistic Wellness and not just a weight loss program: In order to keep GenY engaged, the wellness program needs to cover opportunities to learn and practice, improved eating, physical fitness and spiritual wellness, environmental wellness, social wellness, emotional wellness and professional/ intellectual wellness aspects. These objectives can be approached through a variety of ways including monthly newsletters offering latest information on healthcare, blogs and seminars on holistic wellness.
A flexible program: Flexible wellness programs have a significant impact on meeting the diverse needs of employees, improving employer branding and building a robust total rewards strategy. Such programs address the needs of GenY employees who are more focused on and interested in benefits such as gym membership, health and fitness programs, vacations and personal development. Above all, they give them more control over their own health.
Variety is the spice of life: Even within the group of GenY employees, different wellness offerings are appreciated. Some like to do yoga, taichi or even Zumba, while others prefer just a simple walking program. Organizations situated inside campus complexes are developing jogging and cycling tracks for their employees.
Gamify: Nothing gets the millenials going like a good competition. One Indian MNC gave all their employees pedometers at subsidized rates and engaged the group in a virtual walkathon. Marathon training, programs that offer self-monitoring technology and weight loss challenges, where employees enter as teams of two or three and gain reward points based on how many kilos the team loses over a specified period of time, are gaining popularity.
Incentivize: No competition is complete without rewards. The winners of wellness competitions are rewarded by cash and non-cash rewards such as iTunes cards, T-shirts and parking space. As the wellness program and its acceptance matures, wellness program incentives can tie into the overall benefit program such as an increased subsidy on health cover costs, for those that meet certain pre-defined health criteria.
Innovate by blending work, social lives and recreation: Wellness programs are no longer limited to dental and medical insurance plans. Since the Millenials are interested in blending work, social lives and entertainment, organizations are introducing programs that offer the option to pay for gym membership, travel insurance, extended paternity and bereavement leave, adoption assistance etc.
Leverage technology to simplify and make it interactive: GenY want an accessible and easy-to-use interface, a fun and enjoyable wellness experience and a convenient 24/7 mobile-accessible solution. To this end, organizations need to integrate online resources. These resources offer the latest information on healthy living, blogs about their experiences, the ability to track their reward points, assess their performance on improved fitness against their peers, learn about the EAP services available from their company and sign up for email communications about the wellness program.
Wellness role model: GenY needs to believe that the organization they work for supports wellness as a strategic priority and not as another benefit. It helps if they can look up to a member of the senior leadership, who not only espouses the cause of wellness but also lives and breathes in his or her everyday life. CEOs are increasingly participating in yoga and TAICHI sessions, alongside their employees and showing to their younger professionals that they think these are important enough to make time for in their busy schedules.
An environment that supports the wellness initiative: Wellness programs are not limited to a 60 minute daily exercise or Zumba session. Employees spend an average of 10 hours in the office and therefore each interaction with the facility should speak wellness. Staircases should be well lit and easy to access, birthday cakes can be replaced by fruit salads, vending machines should offer health snacks and the cafeteria should offer fresh fruits and avoid heavily processed foods.
Wellness programs in organizations help create sustainability and build towards succession management. In an on-the-go world where people hold the capability to work like machines, initiatives that help bring out the workforce’ individualism and appreciate their interests and able to better connect and retain them.