Ravi Krishnan, the co-founder and CEO of Stepathlon Lifestyle - a global wellness company which promotes health and fitness through the Stepathlon event - talks about the importance of driving employee wellness and understanding the health needs of staff.What was the driving force behind creating Stepathlon?
The format was created by my partner. He’s a health and wellness expert, and when he would be presenting to companies they would often come up to him and ask if there was something for the athletes and marathon runners – people who were already on a journey to fitness. And that’s how we came up with the format, which is something for the everyday athlete.
Health has always been high on the HR agenda. Do you think it’s gaining more importance?
In developing markets, there has been a historical focus on illness, not wellness. Developed markets moved towards prevention about 10 to 20 years ago, but it comes down to what you’re doing.
Some companies just tick the boxes. Many companies offer gym privileges but not many employees use it. Just having it doesn’t mean it gets utilised. In a lot of markets, I’ve found the activity-based stuff is skewed towards males. So at the end of the day, it’s more than just being about ticking boxes. It’s about asking how we can get more people to do it, and looking at how we’re changing lives.
How do healthy employees benefit a company?
They come to work more often, they’re more active and they cost less in terms of insurance. Companies want to have healthy employees, and if companies make a contribution to that, employees become more aligned with the organisation.
Employee health is a business investment, and good companies see that. You could be a high tech industry, but it’s still run by people. So the more you can get out of your people, the better off you are.
What advice would you give an HR leader who is struggling to maintain employees’ interest in wellness programmes?
You have to understand the people you are talking to. The first thing you need to start with is awareness, and you also need to recalibrate your expectations of outcomes. The images that propagate fitness, such a six-packs and muscles, are meant to be aspirational, but they may not be aspirational to someone sitting behind a desk 10 hours a day.
Half an hour of frequent activity a day can reduce your risk of heart disease by 44%, anxiety and depression by 48% and reduce the risk of arthritis by 47%. Sure, you won’t get a six-pack but if the average person focused on those outcomes and less about how they looked, they will be significantly better off.
As a leader, you must encourage your own staff to lead healthier lives?
I need people who are professional, but also those who embrace the life. If you come into our office, it’s not an office filled with Olympians. We’ve got people are a sports people, and then we have people who aren’t. So in that sense, we definitely represent the environment we work in.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I certainly lead from the front. In every company I’ve worked in, I’ve done everything, so I understand the business that I’m in. I’m very demanding but I’m also not the sort who would micromanage. Everyone knows their job and what they’re meant to do, and as long as they do it, it’s okay. But I do believe in systems and processes, but it comes down to the people you hire.
To grow an organisation, you need good people. No matter how good your company is, you can’t do it on your own.
How important do you think the role of HR is?
It’s a much underestimated role. To me, it’s the most critical role in some ways. It’s more than just hiring and firing people. Having been someone who has made some bad hires, I realise how costly that can be to the business. You need to have a partnership with HR.