Engaging staff in wellbeing lies in making them feel involved from the start, but not all employees will want to participate
The most comprehensive health and wellbeing strategy in the world won’t work unless employees know about it and are willing to actively engage with it. This may seem obvious, but employers may be nonplused to find all their hard work seemingly going to waste because employees ignore what is on offer. Promoting the strategy and available benefits is essential for staff to understand just what the employer has been working to provide.
Of course, not all employees will be interested in improving their health and wellbeing, and some may even think that it is not their employer’s role to start dictating how they can improve their lifestyles.
Kate Bawden, an associate at Mercer Human Resource Consulting, says: "There will always be people who aren’t interested and are very difficult to engage. Maybe the only way they will engage is when they see other people benefiting and enjoying whatever is on offer."
Employers are also likely to find it easier to engage those employees who have always been concerned about their health and wellbeing, rather than those whose lifestyles put them at risk of illness. Colin Grange, chair of Employee Assistance Programmes Association UK, points out: "The mistake a lot of organisations make is that they provide a lot of health-related services, classically gym membership as an employee benefit. [This] is fine, but one of the problems is [that] it tends to be the employee who goes to the gym anyway that joins the company scheme."
Getting employees involved in a health and wellness programme can be greatly assisted where the right provider is in place. "Very much a part of this whole strategy is getting a provider that fits the needs of your organisation. All providers have different strengths and weaknesses," explains Grange.
Most good providers will be on hand with suggestions for how to drive take-up of their services. When it comes to services like an employee assistance programme, for example, things like providing handy credit card-sized cards with the helpline number or stickers to attach to employees’ work phones can act as a prompt to get them to use the service.
Getting staff input at the planning stages for the strategy is also vital to ensure that what is on offer meets their needs. It also means that staff are far more likely to engage with any benefits introduced. "[Employers] need to understand the culture of their own company so they are not offering things that won’t be of interest. They need to offer things people are going to engage with," adds Bawden.
Organisations then need to find the right ways to promote the benefits to their workforce.
Peter Blencowe, senior marketing services manager at Nuffield Proactive Health, says there are a variety of mediums and tactics employers can use. "We can create innovative online solutions in delivery, including giving staff access to an extranet, which they can log-on to either at work or at home, to download relevant healthand fitness-related information."
He also suggests using internal emails, posters and events, such as health fairs, to promote the importance of looking after health and wellbeing to staff.
Health fairs can help drive employee engagement because staff are likely to go along, perhaps during a lunchbreak, to find out what is on offer.
At health fairs, employers usually get a representative from each of their healthcare providers to take a stand in a company common area and introduce the benefits to employees. A company’s occupational health service might also be on hand to do simple health checks, while stop smoking or weight management programmes might also be promoted.
Competitions, like giving employees pedometers and setting a challenge for whoever can walk the most steps in a week, are another way to drive interest in health and wellbeing.
And remember, while there will always be some staff who do not want to get involved, many will feel sufficiently supported to take steps to protect their future health.
Make healthcare perks part of a wider strategy
Suzanne Clarkson, head of corporate marketing, group sales and marketing at HSA, says: "There is a full range of healthcare benefits out there, but health and wellbeing is not just about putting perks in place. This is a great start, but in order to gain maximum effectiveness, a programme should be part and parcel of HR policy and practice, which could include flexible working, chill-out zones, healthy eating promotions, non-smoking classes, weight-loss classes, for example."