Many leaders treat Employee Health & Wellness and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) initiatives as two distinct programmes within their organisations, despite the fact that they are inextricably connected. As a feeling of acceptance and belonging is closely tied to good mental health, there should be no doubt in employers’ minds that mental health challenges in the workplace can arise from a lack of focus on DEI. To fully meet the needs of every employee, leaders should synchronise their DEI and wellbeing efforts.
“To fully meet the needs of every employee, leaders should synchronise their DEI and wellbeing efforts.”
“Generational differences in the workplace are a specific type of diversity that go largely ignored.”
Do organisations adequately see the DEI big picture?
Often, when companies focus on improving DEI they focus on attributes such as ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Generational differences in the workplace are a specific type of diversity that go largely ignored. Re-evaluating what wellness means to diverse employees that include multiple generations is essential when looking to increase feelings of equity and inclusiveness – as is the case when being sure to include several other underrepresented employee groups, some of which may be unique to an organisation.
What is age diversity in the workplace?
The term “age-diverse workplace” refers to the acceptance of different ages in the workplace. Age diversity is an important part of an inclusive environment, especially because the current workforce now may include members of at least four, maybe even five, generations. These include:
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
- Gen X (1965-1979)
- Millennials (1980-1994)
- Gen Z (1994-2012)
Each of these generations has different strengths, expectations, and work styles based on their upbringing, the stage of life they are in, and their professional experiences. For example, Gen X employees may be raising children while caring for aging parents. Often described as the sandwich generation, they tend to be hard-working. They also may well be experiencing unrelenting stress.
Here are three focus areas that leaders can pay attention to in order to align wellbeing with DEI strategies when considering the variances in multi-generational employees’ needs.
At different stages of life:
- employees have different daily experiences that affect their health and wellbeing,
- employees have different needs of an organisation’s healthcare system,
- employees prefer different modes of access to health and wellbeing resources.
How to see the multi-generational workforce through a DEI lens when building wellbeing programmes
- Understand the needs of all generations of employees
It can be difficult to know which generational differences are present in your workforce as there are by no hard and fast rules – and generational stereotypes are regularly contradicted. Rather than making any assumptions, it is best to hear directly from your employees. Include all employees, from top to bottom, in your conversations and planning as you seek to make changes within your wellbeing initiatives. Feedback is likely to include differences in work-life balance expectations, which company benefits are valued most, and different preferences when it comes to technology and communication.
- Choose variety to suit a range of age-related needs
While certain wellbeing topics apply to all ages and persuasions, different generations may have different interests and concerns based on their stage of life. So, offer a wide variety of wellness topics and programmes. These could include nutrition, physical activity, chronic disease prevention, work-life balance, stress management, and tips for increasing productivity. Be sure, also, to incorporate variety within each individual programme. For example, a nutrition-focused programme can be tailored to include nutritional needs at different stages of life.
“While certain wellbeing topics apply to all ages and persuasions, different generations may have different interests and concerns based on their stage of life.”
- Choose common ground
Just as important as incorporating variety is designing programmes that cover common ground. For example, choosing topics that will attract all generations to participate, rather than ones that may silo them, will contribute to your wellness programme’s inclusive culture. Studies show that diversity is very beneficial in a learning environment, with different perspectives and contributions enabling deeper understanding among all participants.
- Find the triggers for differences in motivation
When it comes to changing health behaviours, there are two main types of motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when someone is motivated by internal factors such as a personal goal. Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors, such as motivation to earn a reward. Generational differences can be present in both types. For example, an older employee may be more intrinsically motivated by creating more leisure time, whereas a younger employee may be working towards running a marathon.
- Cater for differences in learning style
There can sometimes be generational differences in learning style. Some enjoy the convenience of a wellness webinar or an app-based wellness challenge, whereas others might find on-site programmes or in-person interactions more valuable or easier to fit into their day. When planning your wellness programme components, make sure there is an offering to suit all employees. In addition to providing a variety of means to access wellness, it is also important to remove any barriers that could lead to a widening gap between different generations of employees.
- Photo by Thirdman