Employee Wellbeing in 2017: The Year of the “Adulting” Millennial

Tips for supporting the growth and needs of your maturing employees.

Last year, the American Dialect Society — the organization behind the “word of the year” — nominated the verb adult as one of 2016’s most creative word creations. The internet quickly followed suit, embracing the word and dubbing any behavior related to acting in a mature manner as the action of “adulting”. For examples — see also, #Adulting

The reason this word is trending should come as no surprise. America’s favorite generation to talk about, the Millennials, are getting older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials are defined as people born between 1982 and 2000. That means many of your Millennials, like myself, are turning 30. Not just that, some are turning…35. Yikes! When did that happen?

As an Employee Wellbeing Consultant, helping high-growth tech companies in the Bay Area adjust to these realizations, I know my clients are not alone in adapting to the painful truth (and panic!) that their Millennials are growing up before their eyes. Tactics to handle internal “baby booms”, alternatives to offer employees requesting 401k loans, and resources to help employee stress levels are becoming frequent, and urgent, requests.

Speaking from personal experience, a 29-year-old who is just beginning to plan for some of my own stages of adulting (squashing my debt, starting a family, and saving for a “some-day” home), many Millennials are getting to a point in their lives where they are wanting to grow up, and desire achievements and life events that help them feel grown up. They are compiling resources to get their finances in order, seeking out advice on how to plan for and start families, and their emotional health and stress awareness (needed in order to develop the sanity necessary to do all this), is becoming more important than ever.

As a generation that spends most of their waking moments in the workplace — they are also turning to YOU, their employers and colleagues, for recommendations and advice. More than ever, 2017 will be a year in which it is necessary for organizations with aging Millennials to acknowledge what resources are needed to support the changing demographics of their workforce. So, where do you start?

Here are the Top 4 “Adulting” Areas of Focus for Millennial Employers in 2017:

1. Modern Family Planning Resources. Emphasis on Modern.

Millennials now account for 80% of the 4 million annual U.S. births, with that number of new millennial parents expected to continue to grow exponentially over the next decade. Millennial females are waiting longer to become parents than prior generations did; and, as an educated generation, the awareness of the physical implications this can have has caused many to seek out modern and alternate means to prepare. While sponsored IVF and egg-freezing have definitely caused buzz for some companies, employers should keep in mind that starting small is perfectly fine. Focus on actually having a comfortable mothers room, make transition plans an important part of a parents’ leave (both departure and return to work), and look to promote the EAP and other resources within your carriers to equip your employees with resources highlighting modern day care.

2. Resources to Save for Life Events (or Pay Off the Ones That Have Already Happened)

Financial wellness has quickly become the number one stressor, and distractor, for Millennial employees. PwC recently found in their Employee Financial Wellness Survey that 37 percent of employees spend three hours each week dealing with financial concerns while at work, and an additional 20 percent said that money issues distract them from doing their job. Although 58 percent of employers claim to already offer help in at least one category that falls under the umbrella of financial well-being to address this — the majority indicate this comes solely in the form of 401k education. Companies that are successfully impacting financial wellness in the most efficient way for Millennials are doing so by looking at modern means to take on the stressors — focusing on a balance of the now and the future. This means a mix of traditional retirement options, but also addressing pressing issues of credit debt, student loans, costly life events, and unexpected expenses.

3. Channels for Developing a Sense of Purpose

According to recent research, 77% of Millennials said part of the reason they chose to work where they do is because of the company’s sense of purpose. Unfortunately, as I find “sense of purpose” is often confused with the actual “product” of a company. A Millennial myself, I remember struggling with my preliminary job search, feeling conflicted by pursuing my passion for helping others (in my eyes, working for a non-profit) or being able to live in San Francisco (something that required a high salary). Five years ago, I wouldn’t have felt that working for a benefits brokerage was my idea of “changing the world”. However, I’ve found that it is our leadership’s clear passion for revolutionizing the healthcare industry, helping our clients navigate the complexity of best care resources, and installing volunteer programs to impact the health of others, that has truly made me feel that I do make a difference. Looking at what your company produces, and creating an internal mission your employees can identify with helps them see the value in your services. If that still feels a stretch, integrating a volunteer program can also help build that sense of purpose. Finding the equivalent of what your company does (providing a service, solving a problem) is easily transferable to an opportunity helping those in need. Even if externally from the walls of the organization, Millennials find a great deal of fulfillment in feeling their company serves the greater good.

4. Emotional Health and Stress Support

According to Employee Benefits News, one of the biggest trends of last year included a shift from physical wellness to mental stability. As they stated, “In an attempt to break the stereotypes and stigmas around mental health, many wellness consultants are making a push to encourage the use of mental and social assistance programs like EAPs, in the workplace.” The trend of emotional wellbeing is something we are seeing further perpetrated in Silicon Valley and various tech companies. In the last year, Sheryl Sandberg has voiced her concern for employee sleep and work-life balance, Arianna Huffington left Huffington Post to take on employee burnout, and Richard Branson has continued to spread his efforts through his wellbeing focused company, Virgin Pulse. As an employer, it’s important to develop your own stance on how to take care of the mental health of your employees. Bad sleep, sedentary careers, and the obvious — technology and social media, are all contributing to your employees decline in mental health. Taking an approach that addresses this, whether in the form of educational articles, lunch and learns, or stipends and sponsored resources to allow employees to experiment with different forms of stress outlets or care, are all trending offerings important to Millennials.

The growing pains of developing into “adults” later in life than prior generations are not going to be the same for all Millennials, so paying attention to your culture, evolving demographics, and employee needs is very important. The more you can support the growth of your employees, the more they will choose to grow with your company.

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