It’s hard to miss the ongoing transformation of today’s diverse workforce. More generations, greater gender balance, and, of course, a variety of cultures are dramatically reshaping it from past norms.
An organization is richer for it, but also challenged to shift its perspective on how to best manage an increasingly diverse and multi-faceted group of employees. And a primary area of concern is employee benefits. Employers know there’s more to an employee’s well-being than physical health and a far bigger payoff than just moderating healthcare costs.
The result is a sharp focus on health and performance programs geared to support employees around the multiple dimensions of health. Diet and exercise, stress management and money management all combine to add considerable value to benefits programs. It also is a big differentiator for recruitment and retention purposes.
In order to broaden wellness programs, it takes keen insights into the “total” employee — their motivations, values, interests, preferences and cultural influences. You don’t want to create a siloed approach around each generation in your diverse workforce, but you do need to understand their distinct needs in order to establish a strong foundation for your program.
Think about work schedules, for example. Flexibility is increasingly important across the board, but for different reasons. Millennials (born 1982-2000) would be happy if they could arrange their schedules in a way so they could work out in the middle of the day and make up the time on either end.
For Gen X employees (1966-1983), the goal is to attain psychological equilibrium through a schedule that accommodates work and family balance. And they tend to share with baby boomers (1947-1965) the responsibility for caregiving. Whether for aging parents or young children, a flexible work schedule removes major stress factors and increases productivity.
Financial health is an issue for multiple generations, and a mounting concern as basic financial education is neither taught at school nor typically imparted by parents. Pressure points can vary. Millennials, for example, are burdened with student loans. Gen Xers are grappling with the dual needs of saving for retirement while paying off their schooling. And many boomers are still trying to regain the financial ground they lost in the Great Recession.
What they all share, though, is the need for basic financial education. They need to learn, among other things, about budgeting and saving, how interest rates are determined and charged on different types of loans, and what’s behind credit scores and why they should be monitored. This sort of knowledge will better equip all employees to better manage their particular financial situation, making financial education a key wellness benefit.
Finding the common ground occupied by your distinct employee groups is important. So is the need for employers to frame solutions to their wellness issues in a holistic manner. Having a wellness program that goes beyond the physical considerations will generate payoff with a more motivated, productive and competitive diverse workforce where everyone thrives.
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