Millennials are now one quarter of the population1 and comprise an ever-growing, increasingly powerful proportion of the workforce.
Having grown up during a period of technological change and likely to have lived in a poor economic climate for most of their adult lives, these members of the workforce (aged 21-36) have a unique set of priorities and expectations that differ from previous generations.
Millennials have higher levels of debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations had at the same age2. Despite this, they spend more on food than clothing and more than half go out to eat at least once a week3. This is an age group obsessed with food, where what you eat is not just about diet, but who you are, what you care about and how others see you.
Any manager who has strolled around their workplace recently will likely find a plethora of gluten free breakfasts, non-dairy ‘milks’, high protein snacks and vitamin enriched drinks (amongst the nation’s mainstay desk treats of crisps and chocolates). This isn’t just because of confusion around fad diets – food is a new format for self-branding. “I’m a vegan paleo” is as valuable a social currency as being a fan of indie music in the ‘90s.
Meanwhile recent market research4 showed that nearly three quarters of this age group are feeling the pressures of work stress (the highest of all age groups surveyed). Work, money and health concerns are stressing millennials, with sleeplessness (65%) and anxiety (59%) being likely symptoms. Although individuals deal with stress differently, we know that unhealthy crutches and low awareness of self-management tools can increase sickness absence levels and presenteeism.
Could tapping into their food attitudes support your retention and productivity strategies?
With it costing around £30,000 to replace staff who leave and stress related sickness absence being a major cost for many organisations5, understanding what drives these job hoppers could mean happier workers and less money wasted on the everlasting recruitment cycle.
Millennials are the first generation to use the word “fun” to describe their dream job6. They really embody the sentiment that life is too short to be stuck in a dead end job. Companies focusing on retention need to ensure that from the time they start their work day to the time they finish, millennials are enjoying every minute.
Food is a potent natural reward. The gratification associated with eating is chemical because of the effects of the sensations and nutrients in the brain – but especially so if it’s done socially. An individual will repeatedly eat a particular food to experience this positive feeling.
By leveraging the high awareness of healthier eating in this population group, companies can engage them in workplace wellbeing activities which also foster their innate need for social connectedness. This could be ‘bring and share’ lunches to show off their latest recipes or group pledges like making a whole tea round de-caff.
Another upside of this approach is a chance to de-mystify some of the more harmful fads they might be trying and offer tips on eating healthily on a budget. If people are cutting out whole food groups (such as carbohydrates), skipping meals for a fasting diet or not getting the right micronutrients, there is evidence that this can impact an individual’s performance7.
Here at the BDA we see the best and worst popular diets. Our specially trained network of workplace dietitians have some great workshops, food demos and factsheets to offer fun, educational sessions with measurable impacts. Get in touch with the Work Ready team at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
1. Eurostat 2015 http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database
2. Pew Research centre 2014 http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/
3. Nielsen Global Generational Lifestyle 2017 https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/eu/docs/pdf/Global%20Generational%20Lifestyles%20Report%20FINAL.PDF
4. Perkbox ‘How to kickstart your employee wellness programme’ 2017 https://pages.perkbox.com/rs/244-RYY-693/images/Wellness_ebook.pdf
5. Department of Health, Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention: the Economic Case (2011) http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_126085.
6. KPMG Meet the Millennials 2017 https://home.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/uk/pdf/2017/04/Meet-the-Millennials-Secured.pdf
7. BDA Work Ready ‘Supporting healthier working lives through dietitian-led wellness initiatives’ 2015. www.bdaworkready.co.uk