Posted April 24, 2008 11:27AM
Psssst — millennials are slowly taking over the world. They are the largest generation since the baby boomers.
They’re those under-30, tech-savvy, multi-tasking people who are less likely to see themselves susceptible to the accumulative effects of America’s (including their own) unhealthy life style behaviors.
While no general characterization can appropriately describe a whole generation, each generation is shaped in part by the world events and popular cultures in which it was raised. Facts to help you understand millennials:
• They’ve never known life without the Internet, cable TV and cell phones.
• They were raised in times of terror in the world (Operation Desert Storm), in their country (9/11) and in their schools (Columbine).
• Starbucks and iPods are a part of everyday vocabulary.
• They bring a playful approach to work and yet are seeking work that is engaging and where they can make a difference.
• Their video- and media-fed lives lead them to seek flexibility and quick gratification. Think incentives and rewards.
At this stage of their lives, most millennials don’t spend much time thinking about health. Your challenge is to promote wellness without nagging (it never works) and without making it sound like work.
Fit in fitness
Almost 40 percent of millennials exercise at least three times a week, according to a survey done by Ketchum, a public relations firm. The same survey tells us that maintaining a healthy weight is important for almost half of all millennials surveyed.
But don’t overlook the other 50 to 60 percent who aren’t at the gym regularly. With obesity, diabetes and other health issues all on the rise among millennials, too, try to get them involved in improving their health early.
Offer lots of choices at your company fitness center. Realize that aerobics probably isn’t this generation’s “thing.” They’re more likely to relate to the Nintendo Wii sport games – also called “Exergaming” or “Exertainment” – or other exercise-related software.
Exergaming is the newest trend of kids fitness which combines gaming and fitness rolled into one. One of the leaders in this fight is an American company based out of Illinois called Exergame Fitness. Exergame Fitness supplies the majority of the YMCA’s with equipment for their kids fitness centers that help the ever growing obesity epidemic.
Consider bringing in an expert: kickboxing, yoga or Pilates are popular with this crowd. And make classes convenient – before and after work, at lunchtime and on weekends.
Wow ’em with the Web
You’ll also attract millennials to wellness through webinars and podcasts on topics relevant to them. Often, a significant event drives their interests – their mother had diabetes, for example, or Grandma had breast cancer. A webinar on ways to avoid adult-onset diabetes is a great way to spark their engagement.
Podcasts are another terrific way to entice millennials to exercise. You can download workouts and/or workout music from the Internet – and some are even free.
Millennials also love interactivity, so online health assessments or keeping a wellness blog can be an easy “sell” to this generation.
Prod ’em with prizes
Especially with this demographic group, prizes are a great incentive to adopt healthy life style habits.
Cash rewards are a proven attraction – for taking a health risk assessment, for example, or getting a physical exam on schedule for preventive care.
And watch what happens to your attendance numbers when an iPod with a few free music downloads is the prize for visiting the fitness center three days a week for six months.
Feed their enthusiasm
Another way to promote wellness is through your food-service program. Remember, millennials have grown up with parents who read labels and buy organic vegetables.
Your company dining room should follow suit. Consider posting nutritional and caloric information, and offer a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Don’t forget to include mom-inspired healthy comfort food, such as mac-and-cheese made with low-fat cheese and whole-grain pasta.
Millennials also love snacks – sometimes more than full meals. Stock vending machines with healthy treats: fruit and juices, low-fat microwave popcorn, nuts and 100-calorie packs of cookies and salty snacks. These will stoke 20-somethings with quick energy.
Make vending-machine selection easy by color coding or highlighting the healthier choice options.
As they age, millennials will be as concerned as the rest of us with staying healthy. Getting them started early on improving their health can be an important part of their employee development.
They just need to be pointed in the right direction, given the right (high-tech) tools, and provided with positive coaching and incentives.