Corporate India has seen a storm of changes in the last decade in terms of its way of spending, business margins, demography, impact of technology, employee performance etc. Majority of the decisions in corporates are currently being made by generation X and the sizable population that gets impacted by these decisions comprises of Gen Y's (Millennials) .This article is an attempt to look at the way "corporate wellness" is driven by these X's and its impact on the Y’s (millenials).
Who are millenials and how are they different when it comes to wellness?
Millenials are those born between 1982 & 1995. But, personally, I believe, its apt to consider those born between 1986-1995 as millenials in the Indian context, because we were a closed economy till 1990 and we had access to the outer world and vice versa only after mid 90’s. India's current median age of the working population is around 26 and surprisingly their interests and traits are not kept in mind while corporates create their wellness policies. Currently millenials constitute 34% of working population and the same is going to go up to 46% by 2020.
- This millennial population got introduced to artificial / processed food much earlier in their age vis-à-vis any other population; as it was during their childhood that India saw a surge in fast food options and per capita income. This increased spending capacity of their parents "the Gen X", entailed highest ever consumption of rich food by any generation ever before.
- This population also saw most technological change ever exposed; better transportation, better entertainment etc which warranted limited physical activity opportunities.
- Millenials are also the population who have had very limited outdoor games due to the surge in internet & television.
As such, this population, although currently medically healthy, is marching towards early age lifestyle issues. The problem gets further amplified due to the fact that this generation assumes that they are immune to health issues for another 20 years, as that is the age at which their parents faced these issues. What they are not cognizant of, is that their parents had much better food, much more physical activity and a purer environment. However, unlike earlier generations, millenials are aware of effects of lifestyle on their health as they see this happening to their parents and the world around, but do not feel the need to act on the same.
Are the current wellness practices relevant for millennials?
For gen X the wellness programmes originated with the annual fitness tests & organisational health centres which are also a part of the manufacturing industry. With increased density of medical facilities and decreased costs, these are of no more interest to the millennial population, as they do not see it as a ‘value added benefit’ any more. As such the millennials who are already impatient by nature and need immediate results, don’t relate to corporate India's current wellness strategy.
Moreover as international boundaries collapse, and global exposure becomes a norm among this generation, they are well aware of popular trends on wellness and expect to have those even here at their doorsteps. But our corporates haven’t felt the pinch with their healthcare costs so far. As a result, action around preventive healthcare in true sense is yet to get evolved and is limited to a diagnostic test or a lecture on awareness. Let’s be honest - the generation we are talking about here, are avid multi-taskers due to the amount of change they were exposed to, in their early years and engaging them over a health lecture is going to be near to impossible. An example for this would be their view on fitness, "majority of millennials rejected the onsite fitness facilities as a motivator, but chose company subsidized membership in an outside fitness centre as motivating". Corporate India also needs to find a way in which wellness could be made more engaging and driven through team behaviour which is another important trait amongst millennials.
How can you make your wellness policy engaging for millennials?
A “Flurry” analytics on the iOS apps shows an interesting trend. "Millennials were engaged with their smartphones every hour in the day and used fitness and health apps twice as much as the average of other age groups. In a gender split, women use health and fitness apps 200 percent more than men do".
Though this partially contradicts our earlier assumption on consciousness, but shows their interest in the topic. If this interest can be converted to actionable outputs one could find an answer to the question, how to engage millennials around wellness?
They live in a gamified world and they want the same when it come to wellness; lectures, screening and consultations aren't their cup of tea. They need reward points for attempting gamified health content, clocking walking steps on their phone app, for bettering their BMI, for drinking more water per day, for reducing caffeine/nicotine daily dose etc. Additionally they want avenues where they can en cash these points for health goodies.
Understanding the most fundamental expectation from millenials that they want complete freedom on what they will use, how will they use it & when, is going to be the crux. There are some innovative technology companies in US, who have been trying to address this opportunity while in India, the trends, though nascent, are gradually moving in favour of the millennials!
As a wellness & HR professional, I feel, it is the right time when we start focussing on wellness for millennials else our current strength “World’s youngest country” will become our weakness in a couple of decades.