New research provides a blueprint for executing well-being programs.
By Ruth A. Hunt
Well-being seems to be one of the latest HR buzzwords among employers. And it’s no longer just physical wellness. Organizations today need to consider how to support their employees’ mental, emotional, financial, and professional well-being. Conduent HR Services’ 2016 HR services survey, Working Well: A Global Survey of Workforce Well-being Strategies, explores current approaches and practices of employers in supporting employee well-being in this scope.
Enhancing employees’ total well-being has become a business imperative for almost 60 percent of organizations globally, even when quantifying the hard-dollar return on investment can be challenging. Improving performance is a top objective globally as employers seek to help reduce barriers to employee productivity and retention such as employee absenteeism. In fact, 75 percent of respondents see their health promotion programs as an important element in their employee value proposition.
Promoting a Culture of Well-being The aspiration of creating a strong culture of well-being is increasing across all regions. Although just 33 percent report currently having a strong culture of well-being, 83 percent of respondents aspire to achieve it in the future. When comparing regional results, Australia/New Zealand and the United States/Canada cite the most aggressive goals in driving cultural change, followed by Europe.
What are some key enablers to promote a culture of wellbeing?
• 74 percent view a culture of well-being as a key element of their employee value proposition
• 52 percent of leaders support well-being efforts (up from 43 percent in the 2014 survey)
• 92 percent see a correlation between local ambassador network efforts and engagement in well-being
While U.S. employers still prioritize reducing healthcare costs, many organizations are adopting practices to increase the overall well-being of their staff. Physical well-being, as exemplified by healthy lifestyle activities, remains the primary focus globally; 70 percent of respondents indicate that physical activity and exercise are top influences on well-being strategies and programs, and 65 percent cite nutrition and healthy eating.
But organizations also realize today’s greater competition for talent requires sensitivity to more qualitative drivers of well-being. Improving employee engagement and morale ranks second, and attracting and retaining employees is third. A greater global emphasis on furthering organizational values and missions implies a higher perceived alignment between investing in well-being and supporting the fundamental goals of the organization.
Current program offerings continue to vary in popularity by geography; this is primarily based on cultural influences and geographic differences among regions. A tobacco-free workplace (72 percent), employee assistance programs (EAPs) (70 percent), and flexible work policies (70 percent) are the most popular well-being program components around the globe.
Additional new well-being options reported in the 2016 survey—including items not yet in the top 20—expanded beyond physical health to the emotional and psychosocial: stress management or resilience-building (46 percent); yoga, meditation, relaxation, and mindfulness programs (40 percent); and assessment and management of psychosocial risks (40 percent). Although these elements relate to long-offered EAP services, they suggest a strong employer understanding that well-being goes beyond physical health and lack of disease to mental and emotional well-being.
So what does this mean for the bottom line? Where can well-being programs can have the most impact?
• Engagement (86 percent)
• Organizational image (82 percent)
• Recruitment and retention (76 percent)
• Productivity (76 percent)
The use of incentives to encourage participation in wellbeing programs seems to be decreasing worldwide. Studies indicate that communication, organizational commitment, and leadership involvement may have more influence on well-being participation rates. The U.S. and Canada continue to lead in incentive use, but instituting penalties is declining.
When reviewing respondents’ approaches to financial well-being, the biggest monetary incentives are for saving for retirement in the company-sponsored plan with an average incentive of $3,696.
What are some of the top incentivized behaviors?
• Completing a health risk appraisal (67 percent)
• Completing a biometric screening (63 percent)
• Participating in workplace health challenges or competitions (61 percent)
• Refraining from tobacco use (51 percent)
• Obtaining regular preventive care (47 percent) What are some of the top incentives and rewards?
• Cash or gift cards (68 percent, up from 47 percent in 2014)
• Raffles and drawings (62 percent) • Gifts/merchandise (62 percent)
• Health insurance premium reductions or discounts (51 percent)
• Employer-subsidized gym membership (49 percent)
There are still barriers to participation even when incentives are in place. But there’s good news: The report finds that common challenges are affecting a smaller percentage of participants. Insufficient time to anticipate and change health habits is still significant but declined from 66 percent in the 2014 survey to 54 percent in 2016. Difficulty in finding personal motivation declined from 55 percent to 49 percent. In other positive news, mistrust of the employer’s intentions declined from 24 percent to 14 percent, and privacy concerns declined from 36 percent to 21 percent. These findings are key because perceived sincerity of employers’ intentions and support for wellbeing is vital.
Most organizations implement well-being strategies with objectives in mind. Australia and New Zealand lead the world in reporting they measure outcomes, and Asia and Europe are least likely to emphasize measurement. This year’s survey saw a big decline in the overall totals of those having measured specific outcomes: just 36 percent have done so.
Although some elements can be measured against financial impacts on the bottom line, or return on investment (ROI), others are qualitative and may be perceived as value on investment (VOI). VOI is still important to employee attraction and retention, as well as to productivity in contributing to business results.
By aligning employees’ career, health, and wealth needs with the goals of the business, individuals can achieve their full potential and organizations can achieve greater results. There are challenges, but once employers understand the source of the problem, putting the solutions in place is far easier. Employees with stronger well-being in terms of health, wealth, and career are often less distracted, more productive and committed, and better able to drive greater business results.
Ruth A. Hunt is a principal in Conduent HR Services’ engagement practice. She be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SIDEBAR: Ready, Set, Go!
Here are some best practices to follow when executing a well-being program.
1. Know the organization’s people, needs and data: Conduct diagnostic reviews – both organizational and individual.
2. Define the business case and aspirations.
3. Inventory current resources for what’s already available and what’s missing.
4. Clarify the organization’s value proposition, message, and motivational identity.
5. Design and invest in targeted levers: resources and culturally aligned incentives.
6. Organize for success: align leaders and local champions.
7. Measure success; track via dashboards (again, organizational and individual). 8. Refine and update
SIDEBAR: A Closer Look: Financial Well-being
Thriving in today’s world requires not only financial literacy, but also a mind-shift among employees to take control of their financial health in the same way that they take care of their physical health. Financial stress and distraction, which also affect emotional and mental well-being, emerged as problems. More than two-thirds of respondents say that productivity declines due to financial concerns—this is even more troublesome in light of the fact that 59 percent of respondents cite performance and productivity as the top well-being objectives.
Financial literacy and skill-building are the fastest growing well-being initiatives with just 24 percent of respondents having programs in place for a year or less and another 39 percent, for just the past two to five years.
Organizations need to recognize the risks and implications that come with a lack of financial wellbeing. Bottom-line costs to their business can be impacted when employees’ focus, energies, mental/ emotional, and physical health are debilitated. Introducing a financial well-being program can help employees to save for retirement or other future needs; increase their ability to manage day-to-day finances; reduce debt and improve credit score; address legal needs; and ensure adequate insurance protection.
Organizations that understand these issues can benefits by enlisting a program. The top tools and services for financial well-being programs include retirement planning tools and calculators; voluntary benefits; financial health assessments; personal financial advisor; and interactive retirement/ investment games.