By Tracey Ward, Head of Business Development & Marketing, Generali Employee Benefits UK
It might have worked for Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams but generally in life it isn’t a given that “if you build it, he will come”: he/she/they it really doesn’t matter: we’re all different and we’re all equally unpredictable. The point here is that, in the global employee benefits world, there are now countless digital apps and platforms, all promising that your workforce will ‘engage’ with the service at hand. And, in the process, they will automatically become more informed, more educated, ultimately healthier, happier and more productive individuals. Alas, if it were only that simple.
“Engagement is generally very poor in a lot of platforms and apps,” says Nick McClelland, Partner and UK Growth Leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits. “The expectation is that people will just use them and get well but that’s not borne out in reality.”
Of course, a number of multinationals also have Pooling, Captives or Global Underwriting Programmes (GUPs) in place too, all of which come with rich sources of data based on the claim profiles of organisations. This can be used to help pinpoint problem areas and better target solutions on a global and local level.
“You need to combine the rich data from pooling or captive programmes – information that tells you what’s already wrong – with regular employee sentiment and insights from Pulse surveys and health risk assessments, to give you a rounded picture of an individual so you can signpost early and head off small issues before they become a big problem,” adds McClelland.
So, how do you unlock the preventative power of digital apps and platforms (whether you have pooling, captives or GUPs in place or not)? And, from there, how do you seamlessly ensure that the kind of benefits, services, policies and practices you have in place to help with prevention – and intervention where needed – are top of HR and employees’ minds in the right place and at the right time?
‘One size’ rarely fits all
There’s now a growing realisation that mental health and wellbeing support will only make a tangible difference to people and business if it’s better targeted to individual needs. One-size-fits-all simply doesn’t work.
In centralised organisations, it could be argued that a good starting point is to communicate wellbeing strategic direction and best practice to local HR, Risk and Line Managers. However, in order to ensure genuine ‘buy in’, that strategic direction needs to also speak to their local people and business priorities, including compliance with local Health & Safety guidelines.
It’s easy to see then, why the traditional route of communicating strategic direction and best practice via a generic email or policy document ‘to all’ from Head Office will only ensure that the message goes unheard.
Don’t get distracted
First things first, don’t invest in an app or platform without considering a number of key questions.
On a macro level, start by being clear on your wellbeing strategic direction: Does the company have a clearly articulated ‘purpose’? And how does the wellbeing strategy support that purpose? Is it also aligned with overall business goals? And how can it be articulated in a way that resonates on a local level? Does the wellbeing app / platform you have in mind support all of this?
Next, on a micro level, gain insights from your employees – what are their stressors and motivators? What kind of support would they value? Only then can you assess whether the benefits, services and programmes you already have in place will genuinely support your wellbeing strategy. Importantly, look at how you can better align everything, with a view to taking a more integrated approach to mental health and wellbeing.
It has long been the case that benefits and services exist in silos and don’t ‘talk’ to each other, whereas with more joined-up thinking some really valuable care pathways could be established. The wellbeing app / platform shouldn’t form an ‘add-on’ to what you already have. It’s only going to be valuable to you if it helps you get more integrated.
For example, seamlessly linking line manager practice and wellbeing champions around the business with the embedded services offered by your group income protection provider: everything from facilitated mental health training to expert mental health assessments and action plans from a cross functional team of psychologists, psychiatrists and clinicians – a service that also provides signposting to relevant help and resources, such as your Employee Assistance Programme. In doing so, this reduces pressure on Line Managers and Mental Health First Aiders, while helping to improve outcomes for individuals and for business.
Identify problem areas
Of course, assessing where the problem areas lie and being proactive, rather than waiting for employees to state a problem, is also key: especially where work-related stress and burnout are concerned. Does the wellbeing app / platform help in this regard?
Putting holistic health into ‘health & safety’
We’ve taken a look at three global platforms, all of which could bring much in the way of proactivity to an organisation’s wellbeing strategy, and all of which would also complement pooling, captives or GUPs.
FlourishDx is a provider of digital mental health and wellbeing tools focused on the continuum of mental health, sleep health and fatigue risk management.
The platform and app include secure online surveys to help employers identify common psychological risks. Also, intelligent reporting allowing employers to prioritise and take action. It encourages individuals to practice regular, positive habits using tools such as animated content to increase knowledge, plus tailored coaching using a mental fitness chat bot, also guided meditation to help turn off the stress response and improve sleep.
FlourishDx also provides organisations with tools to support the new global standard, currently under consultation, namely ISO 45003 Psychological Health and Safety at Work.1
With the final standard expected to be published in summer 2021, ISO 45003 aims to put psychosocial risk on a par with physical health risks in organisations of all shapes and sizes, and on a consistent basis around the globe.
Jason van Schie, Founder and Managing Director at FlourishDx, comments: “Employee mental health has long been in the HR portfolio. However, as ISO 45003 falls under the parent standard ISO 45001: Occupational Health and Safety Management, health and safety professionals will now be encouraged to also participate.
“Health and safety professionals have significant expertise in hazard identification and risk assessment in relation to physical hazards (e.g. working at height, manual handling), but to adopt the new standard, would be asked to apply these skills to psychosocial hazards (e.g. workload, role clarity, support).”
Ondo is a new wellbeing app from Mercer that aims to help employees make and maintain positive behavioural changes to achieve their wellbeing goals. It effectively recreates consumer experiences of social media, encouraging ongoing wellbeing-focused dialogue via social newsfeeds within communities. These communities can be created for UK and / or local country populations, also sub-communities by job role – say HR or line managers.
McClelland comments: “The users create the content. They share with each other how a wellbeing problem was solved. This is much more powerful than the traditional top-down communication approach. It’s fun and playful, using gamification, leaderboards, kudos and recognition, also likes and shares, with a view to bringing people back on a regular basis.
“Through personalisation and regular engagement, dialogue is created and from this you have sentiment data building up on the newsfeed. This supports a preventative focus. Organisations can also send out Pulse surveys via the app to find out how employees are feeling at any given time. We use bite-sized, gamified health risk assessments, to help pick up problems early. We also focus on ‘habit loops’ – this is all about creating a trigger, prompting an action, receiving a reward, which brings about further investment by the individual in their wellbeing.”
To help link to existing benefits and services, where a problem is identified, awareness of generic support mechanisms will be created by surfacing related content in the newsfeed. Then, where support specific to the benefits, services, policies and initiatives of that employer are identified, the individual will be directed out of the app.
LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell is a provider of total wellbeing services, including an Employee Assistance Programme.
It allows global organisations to centrally manage their communications. For employees, it features: a personalised newsfeed of wellbeing content; a community news hub with targeted posts and push notifications; 24/7 employee work life support services, from legal, financial, childcare and eldercare, to special needs and education; also, counselling and coaching services.
For employers, the app affords: the sharing of personal and team news via the community news hub; the distribution of business communications and information on benefits directly to employee’s phones; manager consultations, allowing managers to discuss for example an employee who may be struggling; plus, a leaderboard which acts as a gamification tool for company-led initiatives.
With regards to encouraging integration across benefits and services, the LifeWorks app is included as part of Generali’s group income protection proposition and forms part of various care pathways, with other providers. For example, Best Doctors’ Mental Health Navigator from Teladoc Health provides expert mental health assessments and action plans. It also signposts to resources, including the LifeWorks EAP, or Generali claims team, where relevant.
In short, better usage of existing benefits and services represents a top HR priority right now, as leaders prioritise wellbeing during business recovery and beyond. This will only come from taking a much more joined-up approach. Wellbeing platforms and apps must facilitate that, helping you cut through the complexity as opposed to adding to the noise.
1 HSE Network, ISO 45003 and the need for psychological health and safety, Oct 2020 https://www.hse-network.com/news-articles/iso-45003-and-the-need-for-psychological-health-and-safety/