Mark Swain: Tips for engaging younger workers with their health and wellbeing

mark swain

Early-career professionals seem to have a growing mistrust of the ‘big bad corporate’, and anything that commits them to something over the long term. Maybe that’s symptomatic of younger people making only short-term commitments, and having many more jobs and projects over their working lifetime. And this transience is compounded by the age-old problem of younger people believing health and pensions are problems for tomorrow not today.

So how do employers create early-career enthusiasm for their employee benefits? How do they get the newbies as interested as the oldies? The answer is to find something with which those ‘earlies’ connect: and that’s wellbeing. Here are three tips for getting younger workers engaged with the idea of their employer improving their comfort, health and happiness.

Ride the biggest wave: younger workers have been stressed since they did SATs at primary school. Focus those receptive minds on their wellbeing, using words such as work/life balance, which I personally think is a blend not a balance, stress management, resilience and happiness. That language is gaining a massive following across the UK. Ride the wave.

Practice what you preach: I’ve seen far too many employers talk the talk but not walk the walk. I’m yet to be convinced that many employers care about people more than the numbers. So [employers shouldn’t] wax lyrical about [their] commitment to wellbeing, while piling on even more work. [They should] avoid patronising [their] people, for example, by providing compulsory in-box management training, with the suggestion that they can’t manage their time. Instead show some empathy, and then spotlight and highlight the employee benefits that are authentic to you as an employer and to the needs of that younger audience.

Link wellbeing to ambition: let’s make the assumption that most young people want to progress to success. So sell the idea that resilient young professionals enjoy life, and become better experienced leaders. On the one hand, wellbeing is preparing the mind and body for the challenges of bigger jobs. On the other it’s about giving younger generations demonstrable support, through both life and the demands of their work. And that has to be great for the employer value proposition.

Mark Swain is director of The Henley Centre for HR Excellence, at Henley Business School