Millennials: The ‘wellness generation’

This piece is presented by Sanford Health.

Katie Nermoe

By Katie Nermoe, corporate wellness director, Sanford Health Plan

Millennials — those age 22 to 35 today — are not only the largest living generation today but also became the workforce majority at the end of 2015. In just eight years, they will make up 75 percent of the workforce.

This generation grew up in a time of rapid change, which gives them different priorities and expectations than previous generations. Their unique upbringing and subsequent values are reshaping our economy in almost every way possible. Think Uber, Fitbit, Airbnb, Etsy, Lululemon and Twitter. Successful companies that continue to adapt as the result of the millennial trend aren’t just changing the products they sell and how they sell them – they also are changing their cultures.

A healthier generation

With the exception of family, millennials value health the most. In a recent study, 79 percent said family was important in their lives, followed by health and wellness at 53 percent, friends at 39 percent, spirituality at 31 percent and career at 27 percent.

Wellness is a daily, active pursuit for millennials. They are eating healthier and exercising more than previous generations. They smoke less. Almost half consider healthy eating a lifestyle choice as opposed to a goal-driven diet.

Technology has enabled greater access to wellness information and has put personal health monitoring into the palms of their hands. Millennials use apps and technology to stay healthy; and while they are earning less than older generations, they are spending more on health and fitness.

Millennials and career well-being

Because our leadership is aging, our management practices are failing, and here’s why. Most of today’s leaders inherited 20th century institutions, which are known for lack of agility and punching a time clock. Institutions where seniority and top-down management rules. Institutions that value profits over people.

Millennials often are criticized for their lack of loyalty or “job hopping,” but it is critical to note they leave their jobs for one key reason — they do not share these industrial-age values. They value education, higher purpose and collaboration across organizational ranks, and want to be recognized and rewarded for their ideas and creative thinking.

Along with their prioritization of health and wellness, it isn’t a surprise that millennials expect work-life balance. They are more likely than other generations to view work-life balance — 41 percent — and not enough free time — 36 percent — as major career concerns. Only 29 percent of gen Xers and 20 percent of baby boomers feel the same.

Leading today’s “wellness generation”

What is your organization’s strategy to attract, engage and retain millennials? Here’s a checklist of tactics to consider:

  • Offer flexible work schedules and paid time off.
  • Pay and reward employees for results and not hours “clocked.”
  • Offer health and wellness benefits, but make sure they are convenient to access.
  • Provide wellness tools and supports that contribute to work-life balance, including mental, social and emotional well-being.
  • Ensure easy access to healthy meal and snack options at the worksite.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration across disciplines and organizational ranks.
  • Adopt casual dress codes that embrace “athleisure” — think Lululemon, Athleta — or clothing that promotes comfort and movement throughout the day.
  • Make sure your organization’s higher purpose is clear.
  • Create work-sponsored outlets to volunteer or contribute to causes that are important to employees.

Leaders who adopt this “wellness generation” view will be much more successful in attracting, retaining and engaging the most powerful generation in the workforce today.

Learn more about Leading for Wellness from Sanford Health Plan. Contact Katie Nermoe, corporate wellness director, at


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Millennials: The ‘wellness generation’

With the exception of family, millennials value health the most. For them, wellness is an active, daily pursuit. Here’s what that means for your business.

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