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Why being prepared and protected is the new ‘cool’ benefit



Human Resources Online is heading to Bangkok with the Accelerate HR conference on November 26-27.
HR leaders from Agoda, DKSH, Fonterra, FWD, Kasikornbank, Minor Food, Nissan Motor and more have already confirmed to speak.
Bring your team for additional group discounts.

This article is brought to you by AIA Group.

In May this year, Shah Rouf, Chief Executive Officer, Group Corporate Solutions, AIA Group, spoke on the topic of incorporating financial wellbeing into an all-encompassing wellness strategy to a captivated audience across Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong at Employee Benefits Asia.

On the sidelines of the annual C&B conference, Human Resources Online caught up with him to further understand the trends and challenges in this space. Interview excerpts below:

Q As wellness and wellbeing pick up pace in the priority list of HR leaders across Asia, how do you define these concepts?

Beyond physical health, the concept of wellness or wellbeing is defined by the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are prepared, and protected, for the unknown and unpredictable. It’s a holistic sense of security that encompasses physical, mental and financial wellbeing.

Q Among the key findings of AIA’s Healthiest Workplace Survey was just how many employees do not eat a healthy diet or the amount of physical activity they’re doing. Could you highlight why some of the results are such a big concern for employers?

The 2018 Healthiest Workplace Survey by AIA Vitality found that 38% of employees get less than 2.5 hours of exercise per week and that an astounding 84% of employees do not eat a healthy diet. This is a very high number and a major concern that needs to be addressed.

Poor nutrition, in the short-term, can cause low engagement and productivity. In the long-term, it can lead to chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular and often results in poor immunity, causing frequent absenteeism.

Employers are keen to tackle these issues as they have a clear impact on their workforce’s productivity and ultimately the company’s profitability.

Q Acting on these findings, what are the steps to be undertaken?

The key is to understand the organisation’s health profile and stratify the employee population based on their health levels (healthy, at-risk, chronic and complex). The HR team would have access to a wealth of data to understand the population health baseline – for example, claims, biometrics (health checks), results from Healthiest Workplace Survey, etc. Based on this, the top areas should be identified for offering targeted programmes which can generate maximum impact and engagement. Combined with engaging communication and an incentive strategy, the programmes should be delivered throughout the year.

Q You spoke about the four key wellness interventions for employers, i.e. health coaching and chronic disease management, musculoskeletal management, mental health, and financial wellbeing. What are the leading/lagging indicators to intervene in each of these cases?

Lagging indicators for such interventions would include measurement of the health outcomes before and after the intervention. For example, for a health coaching programme, a potential lagging indicator can be change in weight or BMI.

On the other hand, leading indicators would include the behaviours leading to different health issues. For example, for health coaching, poor nutrition habits and lack of exercise could be some examples. From AIA’s context, one source of leading indicators is the Healthiest Workplace Survey which provides a clear fact base of employees’ behaviours leading to chronic disease incidence, high levels of stress or musculoskeletal problems.

Q Accordingly, what campaigns does each one of these entail? Feel free to cite at the individual level, organisational level, as well as HR policies/work environment.

The campaigns or programmes would be a combination of raising awareness and education, as well as providing tools to manage one’s health or content. This would depend on the evolution of each organisation in terms of their health & wellness journey. The solutions can be delivered digitally or in-person/on-site depending on the programme design.

Here are a few examples to quote:

  • Health coaching – For example, nutrition awareness health talks, cooking classes, label reading/supermarket tours, group coaching or 1:1 coaching, and more.
  • Mental health – For example, awareness on the importance of sleep, assessments, mindfulness workshops or training, access to self-help mental health management solutions, and more.
  • Financial wellbeing – For example, awareness of different financial wellbeing aspects, financial health assessment, assistance with financial planning, and more.

Q What challenges or hurdles do employers need to overcome to action these items?

Top down management support is key, without it programmes do not get the support and engagement needed to achieve the desired results.

Another challenge is awareness of the programme and its benefits. There needs to be clear communication and engagement as well constant evaluation to adjust what doesn’t work while amplifying what does.

Q Finally, how do we measure ROI – what is your take on the ROI dilemma, can it be measured at all, and if so, what means can we use?

Wellness programmes can help address and even prevent underlying employee health concerns and potentially reduce absenteeism and presenteeism at work and this perhaps provides the best route to calculating a hard ROI.

In our regional survey, absenteeism and presenteeism cause an average 70 days loss of productivity per employee per year, resulting in a total of approximately USD two million profit loss per organisation. However, the real value of investment would be much greater, as in terms of the benefits from greater employee engagement as well as a shallower health risk curve over time.


This feature appeared in the Q2 (Malaysia) edition of Human Resources magazine. Read it in the special Learning & Development edition out now!

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Human Resources Online is heading to Bangkok with the Accelerate HR conference on November 26-27.
HR leaders from Agoda, DKSH, Fonterra, FWD, Kasikornbank, Minor Food, Nissan Motor and more have already confirmed to speak.
Bring your team for additional group discounts.

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