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Health and wellbeing to help boost your employer brand

Simon Shepard, CEO of Optima-life

Building a good employer brand is critical to attracting and retaining staff, especially in the current competitive recruitment market, and a company’s approach to health and wellbeing can have a significant impact on achieving this. An employer that clearly shows a commitment to looking after its employees, and supporting them to look after themselves, will stand out as a great organisation to work for as well as benefitting from a more engaged and energised workforce.

How can a health and wellbeing strategy improve employer brand?

Companies spend considerable budget on the inanimate aspects of their brand such as logos and corporate identity, but often don’t invest in the animate aspect – their people. Millennials and Gen Z are highly interested in looking after their physical and mental health and they want their employer   not just to share the same values, but equally to deliver actions that will support both their physical and, increasingly, mental health. The 2018 Global Talent Trends survey by Mercer found that one in two employees would like to see a greater focus on wellbeing at their company. For many this strategy is more influential than some of the more monetary based incentives, such as company cars and phones, that might have appealed to previous generations. Attracting the best people to work for you can only be good for brand.

Aside from meeting the expectations of current and future employees, there are significant business advantages to caring for your people. Organisations who look after staff can see reduced absence and attrition, and increased engagement, energy and retention. In addition to internal benefits such as decreased absence, it is also likely to enhance external perception of the brand among both customers and local community and if companies take this seriously, they are likely to become not just an employer of choice but a brand of choice.

How can business put an effective strategy in place?  

As with any element of workplace culture, a successful wellbeing strategy must be authentic. Wellbeing is not addressed by supplying a fruit basket once a month, and employees will quickly see through a ‘tick box’ exercise simply created to quickly cover health and wellbeing ‘obligations’. It must run deeper and be firmly placed within an organisation as an extension of the main corporate and management agendas. It is about having a vision for your people, an understanding of why this is important and a coherent strategy around how this will be implemented.

Too many organisations try to do everything in one go and, while this may create some short-term excitement, it rarely provides long-term impact. The most effective strategies tend to have a long-term plan (say three to five years) which comprises specific short-term campaigns. For example, discrete six week campaigns that focus on a particular topic, such as advice on how to sleep better, on increasing mental health awareness or encouraging healthier eating, are likely to be more effective than trying to conquer all elements at the same time.

A successful strategy will also need to be tailored to the organisation, rather than a one size fits all approach. While programmes may have similar content, an individual organisation must consider how the content is best delivered to their people. For example, the approach for shift workers, or those who are frequently working alone or out on the road, might be different to a large team all working together in one building.

One of the changes I am currently seeing is a shift from the employer being the teacher to the employer being the catalyst. In the same way that we celebrate diversity in so many different ways, we need to recognise differences in the wellbeing topic too. Generic messages that tell people what to do may be effective for some but not others – ‘an apple a day’ does not keep the doctor away if you are allergic to apples! Healthy eating is good for all, but we should recognise that healthy eating, in detail, can come in different shapes and sizes. The secret is for an organisation to be a catalyst that creates desire in their people rather than an agent that tells them what to do.

Why measure health factors outside of work?

Many wellbeing aspects such sleep, nutrition, relationships and hobbies take place outside of working hours, but they have a real impact on an employee’s day-to-day performance. Creating a holistic view on life is essential – especially in times where flexible working is increasing in popularity and technological advances are diminishing the barriers between life at work and home. Over the past decade, Optima-life has been using physiological monitors to help people understand their lives both at and away from work. Energy is a continuum and the more energised people are in one aspect of their life, the more energised they will be in another.

What is the return on investment?

Measuring a financial ROI is challenging so whilst there are papers that will show a 1:6 return or greater, we focus more on data changes in our Optima-life programmes. Sometimes we correlate our data with measures relating to engagement, attrition and absence. However, with an increasing acceptance that healthy, energised, focused and purposeful people can only be good for business and brand, it is encouraging to see a recent shift away from ROI and a focus on value of investment. If people are valuable to your brand, the value in looking after them may be invaluable to you!

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