Employers refer to their employees as the company’s greatest asset, yet many of them don’t have a solid strategy to keep employees healthy and engaged.
To spark off ideas for HR leaders, Jerene Ang explores best practices from C&A, Lendlease, and Dow Chemical, as well as compiles top tips from experts at CXA and Mercer.
The phrase ‘health is wealth’ was conceived for a reason. It makes sense for organisations to invest in their employees’ health and wellbeing since healthy employees tend to be more productive and help the organisation save up on unnecessary medical costs.
Unfortunately, despite many employers referring to their people as the company’s greatest asset, not much investment is being made towards their health and productivity of employees.
According to the 2015/2016 Staying@Work survey — Asia Pacific, while 90% of APAC employers said that health and productivity is a core component of their organisation’s overall health strategy, only 33% of them had an articulated health and productivity strategy.
This feature analyses the ways in which HR can implement programmes that not only keep employees healthy, but also bring about business benefits.
Case One: C&A
Kris Lui, global head of HR, C&A explains that as long as C&A wants to be operate as a market leader, it needs to make sure that engagement is high – to be viewed as an employer of choice and continue to attract talent in addition to making staff feel proud to stay.
Hence, it spends a lot of time and effort to showing care to employees through health and wellness.
While C&A stands for the founder’s’ names – Clemens and August – in terms of framing the wellness and healthcare campaigns, it also stands for caring and amazing.
C&A’s healthcare and wellness programmes consists of two parts – mental and physical.
Among the mental aspects, C&A does charity work including the Inspiring Women Campaign, donations to NGOs, and the setting up of the C&A Foundation where charity is done out for the wellness of the employees and the society instead of for publicity.
“The mental aspect is very important because nowadays, the employees don’t only look at money, they also look at the meaning of the company, the purpose of the company and how it contributes to the society wellness and their wellness,” Lui says.
As for the physical aspects, the company actively supports sports such as badminton, bowling, tug-of-war according to employees’ suggestions. “It shows that we are listening to the employees’ need and really gels us together as a team. The team spirit is there,” she explains.
These programmes are organised by a cross functional team of 10-12 with HR as a leader and facilitator. The team comes together with the company’s purpose and organisational engagement in mind and suggests programmes for the year to balance the needs of C&A’s diverse workforce, before sharing the proposals with the global or local management team.
“The mental aspect is very important because nowadays, the employees don’t only look at money, they also look at the meaning of the company, the purpose of the company and how it contributes to the society wellness and their wellness.”
– Kris Lui, global head of HR, C&A
At this point, Lui notes it is important to remind the management team that other than endorsing the programmes, they have to be visible in participating in the programme. Thereafter, the events are announced to employees through a townhall meeting.
Lui highlights that during the communication process, it is important to highlight the intent and purpose of the event as well as to “promote and market your initiative like it is a product” using a holistic marketing campaign.
Due to the clear company mission and programme intent, a majority of employees were very supportive and the events saw high participation rates.
The one challenge C&A faced is the occasional monetary challenge when with the finance team looking to cut programme budgets.
“But when we have explained the objective of the programme, they are fine with giving us the budget,” Lui says.
“We also make the measurement – which is the employee survey – very clear.”
After the implementation of the programmes, C&A noted a 12 percentage point increase in employee satisfaction from 70% in 2015 to 82% this year.
Additionally, the company sees a lower than average turnover rate – with turnover being as low as a single digit in certain markets.
“In our Sourcing business, we have met 100% KPIs. This means that we can deliver on time, produce high quality trustworthy products which C&A is famous for among consumers,” Lui adds.
Case Two: Lendlease
Lendlease, people are at the heart of everything they do. The company recognises that in order for people to perform at their best, it must provide the support for them to feel healthy and well.
Hence, last year, the company launched the Lendlease Health & Wellbeing framework globally to promote healthier minds, bodies, places and culture using strategies specific to each country’s needs.
“A regional cross-department peer group comprising of senior management was set up to create the strategy and oversee the implementation of an integrated health & wellbeing program to support our staff to feel healthy and well,” says Agnes Tan, head of human resources, Asia, Lendlease.
To help employees have healthier minds, initiatives include a Global Mental Health First Aid certified programme, where selected staff members are trained to identify and lend a helping hand to colleagues facing personal or professional challenges.
In order to promote healthier bodies, Lendlease recently launched a unique integrated program called RENEW – an online portal and mobile app to facilitate sustained healthy lifestyles and complementary lifestyle programs – in Singapore.
The company also offers complimentary bi-annual health screenings to all staff.
“Through the health screening results, we see that health issues like high cholesterol and high blood pressure are areas of concern,” Tan says.
“Thus, we developed targeted programs to address these areas such as workouts in the office, talks about eating healthy, cooking healthy etc.”
“These offerings of fitness classes and health talks are held in the offices, providing convenience and easy access to employees to find an activity that caters to their fitness level and interests.”
RENEW encourages physical activity by rewarding staff who visit the gym or an eatery that serves healthy fare with points when they check in. These points in turn can be used to redeem rewards.
“We developed targeted programs to address these areas such as workouts in the office, talks about eating healthy, cooking healthy etc.”
– Agnes Tan, head of human resources, Asia, Lendlease.
Additionally, to make keeping fit fun, the portal has a regularly updated leaderboard to keep track of who is at the top of the list, creating friendly competition across the business.
“We are encouraged to see strong participation across age groups in RENEW, with about 75% of staff on the program,” Tan says.
To create a healthy culture in line with its values “respect” and “trust”, Lendlease introduced a flexiwork program called Flexibility last year.
Additionally, a new leave type was introduced in line with promoting health & wellbeing called Wellbeing Leave, giving staff time to focus on their health without using their annual leave.
“In Singapore, staff members have three days of wellbeing leave a year,” Tan says.
“As of June 2016, more than 64% of our employees have either utilised or booked in an application for their 2016 Wellbeing Leave.”
“We believe that this helps to reduce sick days by giving them time to alleviate stress and take part in a wellbeing activity, and return to work feeling more engaged, healthy and productive.”
Lendlease’s initiatives to create a healthier workplace include an option for standing work stations to reduce prolonged sitting – which is associated with health problems like cardiovascular disease, providing healthier options in the pantry, and a wellness room.
Awareness for these initiatives were raised through engagement roadshows at each of the Lendlease offices in Singapore.
“Updates on fitness activities and health talks were communicated regularly via email, newsletters, staff intranet and at employee townhall sessions to continuously engage employees,” Tan adds.
Additionally, to incentivise the creation of a RENEW account, Fitbit Flex activity wristband trackers were given out to staff who signed up.
As a result of these initiatives, Lendlease has seen consistently low attrition rates – lower than the industry average.
Also, according to a survey conducted independently on behalf of Lendlease by Towers Watson, the company has seen engagement scores around health and well-being related dimensions that are above the norm for global high performance companies.
Case Three: Dow Chemical
In order to be a great place to work for employees, Dow supports initiatives and activities – such as ActiveSG’s Active Enabler program – that promote healthy work-life balance and wellness.
“We believe that a healthy body and mind will lead to improved productivity and hence it is important to us to focus on initiatives that will make employees happy at work,” Butch Clas, HR director for SEA and ANZ, Dow Chemical, says.
“We believed that happy, healthy employees is key to a company’s overall productivity. Keeping fit through walking is an achievable goal for everyone.”
In line with Dow’s Great Place to Work culture – to achieve a good work-life balance through promotion of sports and wellness activities – the company has a wide variety of programs allowing employees to choose their preferred sports, wellness activities and healthcare-related activities that best fit their lifestyles.
Programmes include weekly sports such as badminton, tennis, walking/running, dragon boat, futsal, and lunch yoga, a monthly fruits day, and a flexi-time policy which allows employees to take time off work for activities promoting work-life balance.
Dow also has a flexi-benefits program that allocates flexi dollars to staff annually for them to claim healthcare and wellness programs for themselves and their family.
Activities can be claimed include gym/exercise membership, purchase of exercise equipment, holidays, additional health checks, out-patient medical claims, insurance coverage and more.
Additionally, in June, Dow introduced the monthly fruits day where employees receive a pack of fruits in different varieties to encourage healthy eating habits.
“These programs have proven to be popular among our employees,” Clas says.
“We believe that a healthy body and mind will lead to improved productivity and hence it is important to us to focus on initiatives that will make employees happy at work.”
– Butch Clas, HR director for SEA and ANZ, Dow Chemical
The company also launched a five-month company-wide Walking Challenge among employees on 31 July.
Endorsed by ActiveSG and with co-sponsorship from Under Armour, the challenge aims to develop a sustainable fitness habit overtime.
Commenting on the programme, Clas says, “It is easy – anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime. Employees also stand to win attractive prizes.”
Every programme comes with its set of challenges, especially when it comes to changing employees’ behaviours.
Speaking on the challenge Dow faced when implementing the programme, Clas says: “Incorporating a Great Place to Work culture requires our leaders/supervisors to have a change of mindset.”
“For example, they must feel comfortable allowing their employees to leave office earlier than usual from time to time because when their employees are refreshed, there are returns in the form of productivity gains, trust, and overall wellbeing.”
Thankfully, Dow had strong support and understanding from its leadership team in this aspect as well as a dedicated employee-committee who volunteer to organise activities for everyone.
At the same time, the wide variety of activities employees can choose from helped to ensure their participation.
As a result of these initiatives, Dow experienced improvements in various employee satisfaction dimension surveys over the past years.
“Our yearly internal employee attitude survey has shown an improvement in the stress reduction by 7%,” Clas explains.
“We like to attribute part of these improvements from our healthcare and wellness initiatives.
“If our employees are more satisfied, the more likely they are to reciprocate in terms of the company’s results and their happiness.”
Top tips when implementing employee healthcare and wellness programmes
After looking at these best practices, should you still need help in implementing a healthcare and wellness programmes for your organisaiton, here are some quick tips from HR experts, Rosaline Koo, founder and CEO of CXA, and Liana Attard, principal, AMEA employee health and benefits consulting leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits.
- Planning is key
When setting up a new benefit plan – perhaps as a result of moving into a new market or setting up a new entity – it’s important to plan to understand the local market landscape (costs, delivery options, financing, competitor benchmarking) and to consider if you intend to scale.
- Make sure the benefit plan you have in place is scalable from a relevance point of view and cost wise.
- What you may set up in terms of a benefit plan at the outset when you have a small handful of employees will be very different as you scale and then become 100 or more employees.
- Use biometric screening, health risk assessment and other data
This helps you to identify top employee health risks and interests and to prioritise your wellness program
- Involve employees in the development of wellness programs by forming an oversight committee and conducting employee focus groups.
This will help to design an effective program which removes primary barriers to employee participation/engagement through a review of workplace environment and culture. Employees can also help to design programs that are highly accessible and convenient for employee participation.
- Define your short- and long-term goals and objectives with the wellness program
This will guide how you measure and evaluate your program
Apart from the above tips, some success factors in programmes with high participation rates include visible senior leadership participation, weaving all the different initiatives into the firm’s culture of healthy living and team challenges with rewards to incentivise participation and health outcomes.