Helen Smith: Creating a wellbeing strategy that gets positive business results

Helen-Smith benenden

Encouraging employees to lead healthy and fulfilling lives, both in and outside of work, can be hugely beneficial to a business and its people.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the most common reasons organisations focus on employee wellbeing are to become a great place to work, which helps them to attract and retain the best talent, and to boost business performance. For the public sector, a key driver is also the need to lower absence figures.

Wellbeing initiatives are among the main ways an organisation can demonstrate how much it values its people. So, it is no wonder many employers today are looking for ways they can keep their staff fit and healthy at work.

A case study from Benenden Health

At Benenden Health, we are no different; our organisation is all about health and wellbeing, and it is really important that we practice what we preach.

So, when we partnered with wellbeing specialist Jane Abraham to create our Guide to developing a health and wellbeing strategy, we were inspired to investigate our own offering, and to make sure we were walking the walk.

We realised we had been introducing plenty of wellness initiatives over the years that were valuable and popular among our employees, such as free access to an on-site gym, a cycle-to-work scheme and flexible working.

However, what we had not done was pull everything together into one clear and cohesive strategy. We needed something measurable that aligned with our objectives, to maximise positive business results.

We were not alone in this ad-hoc approach. Many organisations decide to implement wellbeing initiatives in this less than joined-up way, without considering what their employees really need and what might be the most effective for their business. In fact, according to Absence management: Annual survey report, published by the CIPD in 2016, only one in 10 UK organisations have a specific wellbeing strategy in place; many others rely on one-off initiatives instead.

So, many well-intentioned employers have yet to devise a cohesive plan that can be measured, evaluated, and tweaked to fit their specific workforce’s needs.

Our five-stage approach

To help others plan their own health and wellbeing strategies, just like we did at Benenden Health, we developed a guide detailing the five key stages.

The first stage is to plan the approach. Before diving right in and thinking of initiatives, it is important to plan; employers should consider the main drivers behind implementing a wellbeing strategy, taking into account employees’ specific needs, what is currently on offer, and what competitors are doing.

Second is to gain management buy-in, considering the tangible data and costs in order to build a compelling business case. It is vital for the senior leadership team to understand the value of the strategy, and the budget being requested. 

The third stage is developing the strategy itself. This is the point at which to set out a vision, and the objectives that will help get there, basing this on the core metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) the strategy’s success will be measured by. 

The fourth step is to launch this strategy. Once it has been signed off, it is time to implement and communicate the strategy across the business, being careful to consider what methods to use and any events that need to be organised.

Finally, stage five is to review and refresh. It is important to regularly review the data and KPIs to check that a strategy is on track. If something is not working, do not be afraid to change it.

Helen Smith is chief commercial officer and business sponsor for wellbeing strategy at Benenden Health