How to nurture employee buy-in for health and wellbeing

The age-old adage a business is only as good as its people certainly rings true today – it is undeniable that productivity, morale and talent retention is directly dependent upon effective employee engagement.

It is only when a workforce is engaged that it can fully appreciate and utilise health benefits made available to it by its employer.

Conversely, health and wellness helps to drive employee engagement through access to valuable support, thus creating a stronger culture of health and enhancing the employee value proposition.

But it is only with high participation levels that employers see the Value on Investment of such schemes.

WTW’s Global Benefits Attitude survey found that the majority (56 per cent) of employees believe their employer now has a role to play in helping them live healthier lifestyles and three in five employees view managing their health as a top priority in their life.

Couple this with the fact that 97 per cent of employers are committed to health and productivity in the years ahead* and you have a strong springboard for positive interaction and engagement in wellness.

Here, we look at six ways to promote employee engagement in health and wellness.

1. Cultivate a culture of wellbeing

Building a culture of health and wellbeing within the workplace will, in the long-term, help with retention of key talent, boost productivity and cement their reputation as a leading employer in their field.

Willis Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study showed that workers who consider their employer to have a strong culture of health, regard them as also having a good reputation and are better able to attract and retain high-quality employees.

Senior leadership is key in shaping this culture in the workplace – so early buy-in should be encouraged.

Leading by example and embracing health and well-being strategies will inevitably filter down through the ranks, raising awareness of what health initiatives and benefits are on offer and motivate employees to follow suit.

2. Invite employee feedback

Securing the co-operation of the leadership team is crucial when it comes to creating health and wellbeing strategies but it is important to have grassroots involvement too.

Considering that less than half (44 per cent) of employees are satisfied with the range of benefits they receive from their employer** and two-fifths claim that initiatives offered by their employer do not meet their needs*, there is an evident disconnect between what employers think employees need and what they really value.

In order to overcome this, businesses should aim to be transparent with the workforce and listen to their feedback.

By promoting interconnectivity, businesses are more likely to develop an effective strategy, which sees higher employee benefit uptake.

3. Bring in the professionals

After identifying the issues that are of most concern to employees, businesses can work on a proactive approach to tackling them.

Some of the issues raised can be sensitive in nature, such as mental health, alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking.

Many staff might see employer intervention in these areas as an unnecessary incursion into their private lives, so a careful approach is important.

Workshops are an ideal way of educating the workforce, without fear of being singled out.  These can be conducted by health professionals, who can offer valuable expert advice.

Regular health checks, through biometric testing, Health Risk Assessments and coaching, can also facilitate employees taking ownership of their own health and wellbeing, with support from their employer.

Whatever action is taken, the approach should be a multi-faceted one that combines education with analysis and support.

4. Communication is vital

Opening up the channels of communication between employee and employer is key to effective delivery and encouraging programme uptake.

If employees are unaware of the programmes available to them or fail to engage with health initiatives, businesses will not see the benefit and their investment will be wasted.

It is important to be consistent with messaging and businesses can help achieve this through health-centric internal marketing campaigns.

Regular email bulletins, briefings, seminars or newsletters might be used to raise awareness of a series of topics, covering everything from stress management to diet.

Seasonal and lifestyle-targeted campaigns will be more engaging for employees, for example, advice on how to avoid colds in winter or exercise tips for summer.

Whilst promotional communication material serves a purpose, employers should create a communication strategy that raises awareness, educates and drives behavioural change.

5. Embrace technology

Wearables and health apps can help further increase engagement in health and wellness by tapping into employees’ lifestyle habits and providing the tools for change.

Furthermore, data on things such as heart rate, fitness routines and daily habits could be very useful when tackling sickness absence, designing wellbeing schemes or, in the future, negotiating the cost of health benefits.

Where wearable data highlights negative trends, action should be taken to provide support and address contributory factors.

To reinforce the benefits offered to employees by wearable technology, companies may look to subsidise devices as part of health and wellbeing programmes.

6. Encourage healthy competition

Adding the element of competition through ‘gamification’ can help assist in the quest for better health standards.

By tapping into the modern and popular ‘gaming’ concept, businesses can encourage employees to compete against each other to reach agreed health goals and make positive behavioural changes in the process.

It could be individuals competing against each other or departments, boosting morale on the office floor.

This could be further incentivised with workplace rewards for those who hit health targets or achieve their long-term goal; be it a bonus leave day, a bicycle, or health retreat.

*Willis Towers Watson Staying@Work Survery 2015/16

**Willis Towers Watson Health and Benefits Barometer 2017

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