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Wellbeing Programs - 10 tips to keeping employees engaged and boardrooms happy

Maintaining employee interest and participation in a health and wellbeing program is one of the HR manager’s greatest challenges, and key to ensuring not only the success of the individual program but the viability – in the board’s eyes – of similar future initiatives.

Shivaun Conn of Corporate Bodies International (CBI), which has assisted companies including Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, Boral and BHP Billiton with their programs, says the success of wellbeing initiatives hinges on strategies that keep employees engaged.

In implementing programs, Conn says, managers should consider:

  • marketing – internal promotion of programs should be bright, exciting, engaging and timely.Posters and leaflets should be distributed throughout the workplace and placed where they are constantly seen.Intranet or email facilities should be used to remind workers of approaching consultations and sessions;

  • an equal playing field – management must lead by example and attend all meetings, and regularly participate in group sessions, fitness classes, diet consultations and other events.Employees should be “prodded” to participate in events but feel that all aspects of the health program are voluntary and that they are free to make decisions regarding their own wellbeing;

  • a champion on site – an individual member of the OHS committee can effectively “filter the message down” to the broader workforce through regular toolbox meetings and other initiatives.This “champion on site” is particularly important in blue-collar industries in which there are noticeable divisions between staff and operational crews, and where workers might dismiss such programs as intrusive or patronising.OHS committee members are generally employee representatives, and can act as a conduit between the HR division and employees;

  • location – all aspects of the program should be accessible or easy to get to;

  • time – program components should not demand “too much time investment”, Conn says.Any more than six to eight weekly sessions in a row are too many. Short programs can be reinforced by regular catch-up sessions, telephone consultations and health checks; and

  • competitions – workers respond positively to individual or team competitions in, for example, a pedometer or blood-pressure challenge.

Additional strategies

HR managers could also consider the following strategies, as recently examined in HR Daily and our associate publication, OHS Alert:

  • honesty – a psychological wellbeing program at NAB Bank’s technology operations department was developed around the “triple bottom line” – people, planet and profit – with the candid goal to improve workers’ lives so that they could contribute more to work.Workers perceived the program as sincere and were eager to participate, former development manager, Cameron Strathdee, said. Over a two-year period stress-related injuries fell by 70 per cent;

  • incentives – more than 50,000 IBM Corporation employees participated in its “virtual fitness centre” after being offered a $150 cash incentive to complete an hour of physical activity a week, a US study found;

  • cultural tailoring – ANZ Bank has a global workforce and developed itshealth and wellbeing program around five core issues, in addition to culturally specific programs aimed at individual regions.In Australia, for instance, it concentrated on skin-cancer awareness and mental health, and in south-east Asia bicycle safety and malaria. ANZ expected to reap three dollars in benefits for every one dollar invested in the program, according to its global head of health, safety and wellbeing, Judy Smith; and

  • a cheap gym – a modern gym with a personal trainer, up-to-date equipment and circuit classes at BMW Group Australia’s Melbourne base was funded by nominal membership fees and by overcharging for junk food in the company bistro. The gym also acted as a “cash cow” for other wellbeing initiatives.Some 80 per cent of BMW employees engaged in at least one component of its wellbeing program, and its HR director, Adrian Dolling, committed to participating in all of the program’s activities.


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