‘This is how we’ve always done it.’
If ever there was a sentence more likely to sound an organisation’s death knell, that is it. Not only when it comes to paying attention to technology, disruption and all those other important things ending in ‘ion’, but also when it comes to paying attention to the employee. The old ways of wellness are not the same as the new – employees and their expectations have changed, a lot. Organisations which want to attract the attention of the right people, retain the best skills and encourage maximum productivity need to relook their wellness offering and, well, get with the programme…
Here are five ways your business can reboot an ageing wellness programme.
1. Differences are key
“Needs differ from generation to generation and the youth crave a more tailored experience, especially with regards to feedback and assistance in creating a defined career path. In the old days, employee wellness involved health talks, clinics and perhaps therapy, but today they are more interested in engaging work features like breakaway zones and team building activities,” explains Ronen Aires, CEO, Student Village.
Update the wellness programme to recognise the needs of the younger generation by developing work spaces that meet their needs. A coffee area for a change of work pace, a rest area to relax and a social area to engage with others. It’s also a good idea to gamify some of the programmes, giving people rewards as they achieve certain goals or tick off certain activities. This allows for a more entertaining approach to the balance between work and play, letting people feel as if the time they put in and the hours they work are recognised and go towards something of value.
Aires adds: “Wellness programmes also differ from company to company, for example a call centre’s needs will differ widely from those of a small marketing agency. Tailor the programme to the organisation’s purpose to ensure sustainability.”
2. Pay attention to money
Money may make the world go around, but it can also make a person’s head spin. Research from Alexander Forbes found that 53.9% of employees use their work time to address personal financial problems. Not only does this impact on productivity, but financial battles and stresses about money can affect a person’s health, focus and productivity.
“Many companies now recognise the correlation between financial distress and health problems, and the lines of distinction between health and financial wellness are fading,” says Linda Sherlock, Head of Advisory Services, Alexander Forbes.
Reboot the old attitudes around employees and money by taking an interest in the personal financial concerns of your workforce. Help create workable solutions to assist employees in overcoming financial difficulties and give people access to financial advice and support. Some organisations, like Liberty, include financial wellness training and advice as part of their reward programmes.
“Studies have shown an employer’s efforts to improve the overall well-being of employees can lead to better employer-employee relations, higher morale, increased retention rates and increased output. This rise in productivity is precisely what should motivate employers to take a more active role in the finances of their employees,” says Sherlock.
3. Recognise your age
“A strong wellness programme is one which is continuously relevant to the employees it serves, and addresses the correct health risks,” says Myrna Sachs, Head: Management Solutions, Alexander Forbes Health. “Wellness programmes age when they don’t keep up with the changing needs of their workforce. They tend to plateau and employees feel wellness fatigue.”
The first step to reviving your wellness programme is to recognise that it needs to be revived. If you see it as something that must be done to keep those hippies and their precious tree hugging at bay, then you’re doing it wrong. Make your employee’s lives easier instead of adding on more admin and recognise how a functioning wellness programme will deliver a better functioning human being who will be happy to work for you.
“Though there are many organisations that succeed in achieving ROI on their wellness initiatives (DOW Chemical immediately comes to mind), there are many that are bogged down with an ageing wellness programme that is simply archaic and unattractive to their employees,” says Dr Alexia Cox of Merging Minds.
4. Keep it simple
This particular point ties in neatly with the last one and the acres of paperwork that South African organisations (and government) seem so terribly fond of filling in. Keep the wellness programme simple, make it easy to understand and try to keep the fine print to a minimum.
“Organisations need to keep the information simple and easy to understand, it must be quick to find and exceptions clearly articulated,” says Cox. “The issue with many wellness programmes is that it is simply too confusing to navigate through all the wades of fine print, there are too many exceptions to the rules and often no one knows where to start looking.”
5. Communication remains essential
“Get feedback from staff continuously on what they want to see and what they enjoy – this shapes and improves engagement,” says Sachs. “Also monitor the outcomes of your programmes to see their impact.”
This point ties in with all the others in that it allows for employee and employer to openly discover what programmes work, what programmes don’t and how to adapt them so they remain relevant. Also, try to keep communication friendly and welcoming.
“Currently, many organisations are trying to motivate people to participate in their programmes by instilling fear into their employees about their well-being,” concludes Cox. “This type of communication is demotivating and uninspiring and though the programme is designed for success it will ultimately fail as people begin to stray.”