“The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!”
This is the cry that has been reverberating around human resources departments for the past decade. Currently, the workforce is predominantly composed of three groups:
- The Baby Boom Generation (born between 1946 and 1964)
- Generation X (born between 1966 and 1980)
- The Millennial Generation (born after 1980)
For the past several decades, Baby Boomers and Generation-Xers have dominated the workforce. But in 2015, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, Millennials surpassed both Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers in the workforce for the first time. This is a trend that will only increase as more Millennials enter the workforce and more Gen-Xers and Boomers leave it.
The implications of Millennials’ rise are significant and widespread, from healthcare to management to foodservice choices. This blog has already discussed Millennials’ preference for fresh foods, as well as some more general HR trends for Millennials. As USConnect keeps tabs on the most up-to-date trends among Millennials and other workers, we share them here. Some current trends include these:
- Office and workplace design that allows for flexibility encourages collaboration. Break rooms, in particular, should reflect the fact that work is rarely a 9-to-5 endeavor and that employees may use these spaces for important “water-cooler” discussion that improves productivity.
- Food perks. Some think that free food is less important than a collaborative environment or opportunity for improvement. Others, however, point to a study that found that 67 percent of Millennials would feel more valued at work if food perks were increased.
- Social responsibility. Millennials value working at an organization that makes a positive difference in the world, and that value extends to the food brands they buy. A study by the National Marketing Institute found that Millennials are more likely to buy brands that are transparent about their sustainability and charitable giving, with 65 percent recognizing the Fair Trade Certified label.
Micro markets are all the rage in the vending industry. They take up an increasing share of vending revenue and are responsible for much of the vending industry’s success in 2019. But have you ever wondered what, exactly, a micro market is?
Industry group Vending How describes a micro market as “a small, self-contained store in a location without an employee to monitor it.” It’s comprised of freestanding storage, such as shelves, that hold a product and a checkout system installed nearby. Micro markets offer more choice than traditional vending machines, particularly in the realm of fresh food. However, unlike an actual convenience store, they don’t need to be staffed, and they have a much smaller footprint, making them very cost-efficient.
The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) cautions that while it’s fine to emphasize the convenience of micro markets, operators should refrain from comparing them to convenience stores. Full-service convenience stores tend to offer a larger variety of choices, but they are often limited in terms of offering local choices. Micro markets can capitalize on their small size by buying from local and regional food producers.
As we’ve discussed, three of the biggest trends in foodservice are fresh, local, and convenient. Micro markets can respond to all three of these trends with more agility than any fast-food restaurant or convenience store. USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® micro markets and The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ program combine convenience, freshness, and health all in one place.
The Importance of Break Rooms for Employee Satisfaction, Productivity, and Wellness
Since the rise of the modern office building, the water cooler has been the place where colleagues congregate to discuss the topics of the day: the big game, the latest television twist, or weekend plans. Over time, the simple water cooler has evolved, and most workplaces contain some sort of break room/kitchen area where employees can refresh themselves, at least with food and drink.
Employers may have once decried the time that employees spent away from their desks or workspaces, chatting with co-workers instead of “working.” However, several studies have shown that water cooler chats actually improve productivity—by as much as 15 percent! Rather than discouraging water cooler chat, employers should encourage it with break rooms that attract employees. To maximize the benefits from your break room, consider these tips:
- Make it pleasant. In the past, break rooms were created from leftover space with leftover furniture and appliances. However, it pays to invest a little to make your break room more attractive: paint the walls with cheery colors, provide artwork, and encourage employee participation by making it a place they will enjoy.
- Make it collaborative. Some of the most important skills in today’s world are communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Design your break room to encourage these skills by providing tables and groupings of comfortable chairs and couches.
- Make it healthy. Provide a range of food options (without excessive sugar or fat) to help satisfy employees’ hunger. USConnect’s The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ program helps workers stay healthy by providing accessible nutritional information and an easy-to-find logo.
- Make it sustainable. If feasible, provide non-disposable dishes and cutlery and a sink for washing-up. At a minimum, provide recycling options. Sustainability is increasing important, especially among millennial workers.
Job stress is a drain on worker productivity, not to mention happiness. Lessen the load with a break room, and reap the rewards!
Increasing the Physical Activity of Your Employees
How can organizations help keep their employees healthy? This is a question that has dogged company executives for decades, particularly since the 1980s when researchers first started tying workplace wellness programs to lower healthcare costs and higher employee productivity.
Most wellness programs consist of some or all of the following:
- Biometric screening
- Nutrition counseling
- Weight management assistance
- Stress reduction programs
- Step challenges, either self-reported or using a pedometer
- Awareness-raising campaigns, including posters, newsletters, and wellness events
That wellness programs have the potential to make employees healthier is undeniable. However, just having the program is not enough; employees need to participate, and they need to change their behaviors in order for the program to work. This is where the rubber meets the road, and it’s where many wellness programs fail to provide the hoped-for outcomes.
A recent Rand Health and Gallup study found that in companies that provide wellness programs, only 24 percent of employees choose to participate. This can severely reduce the ROI of the program, no matter how well-designed it is! And a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (ERBI) found that late adopters of wellness programs were likely to be less healthy than their early-adoption counterparts, with more people at risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, as well as worse biometric readings and more expensive medical insurance usage.
So, with a wellness program in place, how do human resources departments encourage participation, especially from those who need it most? Several recent studies indicate that financial incentives might hold the key: but with a caveat. A 2016 study from the University of Pennsylvania called “Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults” found that offering a positive financial incentive—i.e., giving additional money for participation—did not increase activity. However, offering a negative financial incentive—taking away money for lack of participation—resulted in a 50 percent increase in participation.
The ERBI study cited above offers hope as well; although unhealthy and overweight people were less likely to join wellness programs without incentives, financial incentives did increase participation and encourage a favorable response. It’s important to note that wellness programs cannot be mandatory, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) forbids discriminating against employees based on their health or genetic makeup.