How to bring a culture of health, well-being and performance to life

Runner and wellbeing

Employee engagement is all the rage these days. It should be, considering that only 13% of employees feel engaged by the work they do and that low engagement leads to high turnover, which can cost companies up to 150% of an employee’s salary. But with so many factors involved in employee engagement – job satisfaction, stress, work/life balance, purpose, relationships, physical and emotional well-being – it can be tough to achieve. CEOs and HR leaders at leading organizations are learning a focus on employee well-being impacts most factors critical for employee engagement.

Don’t want to lose your best people? You can’t just preach on posters, you have to actually create a culture of well-being prominently throughout your HR and business strategies. Once your strategy has been communicated in words that will resonate with your people, you can move to tactics. Start with the job purpose, satisfaction and teamwork angles – as those are most closely related to the traditional management strategies you probably have in place today. Then think real food options in the cafeteria, walking trails around your offices, flexible work schedules so people can seamlessly integrate personal and work lives. Add in some generous vacation time – and make it expire so people use it. Lastly, CEOs and all leaders at all levels should model well-being.

Well-being – including but not limited to physical health – is a business and financial strategy. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that companies who build a culture of health yield greater value for their investors. Our original concept at Limeade was to expose the statistical links between employee well-being, health and job performance – and to give HR and business leaders an easy way to build high-performing workforces. Your culture of health should include the following strategies:

  1. Bosses lead: When executives get behind something, people get on board. Your leaders (I’m talking the C-Suite) need to be accessible to employees and visibly show their support in order to enforce the rationale and commitment to the program. In doing so, they need to show that they care about health – both their own AND that of their team. The emotional impact of a leader who’s passionate about well-being is far more motivating than a leader whose primary concern is costs. Your executives can convey this by sharing personal stories, and by sponsoring and participating in events and challenges. Our client Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, creates well-being initiatives backed by executive leadership, like “Zoo Walks with the CEO” and a “Healthy Eating Challenge” championed by the SVP of Patient Services.
  2. Use all of your communication tools: Everyone feels the agony of email overload, so look for fun alternatives. Communications about your program should be simple, engaging and quickly answer the question “What’s in it for me?” Make sure to use at least two additional channels – like social media or direct mail – to reach your population, and add some emotion by sharing success stories that show how your program is making a difference. This summer, Kindred Healthcare challenged its national workforce to “Move Across America” as a group or individually. The key message was, “Start wherever you are.  You can walk, garden, bike, run, swim…as long as you get up and move.” To reach employees at more than 2,000 locations, Kindred launched the program with a home mailer, distribution of branded wristbands, banner ads on its intranet, email communications, newsletter articles and a themed screen saver that appeared on employee computers. The result? Employees racked up enough miles to take 10 laps around the United States!
  3. Know what’s working, and change what’s not: No program can succeed without consistent evaluation. The lifeblood of your program is setting measurable, relevant objectives and tracking metrics regularly – preferably with real-time engagement dashboards and strategic consultants to read them. When Limeade saw that customers with 17 simultaneous employee challenges showed higher engagement, several of our clients shifted strategy to provide more ways for employees to participate. Real-time win!
  4. Play up local pride: Your employees chose to work at your company for a reason, so your program needs to feel like it comes from within. Keep activities fresh, fun, and relevant to your company and community and you’ll see engagement ride a steady incline week over week. To re-energize its program among its regional population, the University of Pennsylvania Health System launched ‘Fit Around Philly,’ challenging local employees to explore their city, including jogging to the famous “Rocky” statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  5. Pay today: A valuable reward varies from one workforce to another, but spreading the wealth in the right ways is your ticket to a solid strategy. Reach out to employees to find out what motivates them – PTO? Cash? Prizes? Cheaper insurance? The right to dump ice water on your CEOs head? Know what will work for your people. Get people on board with escalating rewards to match escalating engagement. Focus on quality over quantity: Recent Limeade research revealed that instant cash beat out raffles and social recognition in motivating certain behaviors, so we’ve advised certain clients to pay smaller amounts faster.

Do you agree a culture of health contributes to positive engagement and results? What strategies have you used to support a culture of health? Please comment below.

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Henry Albrecht is CEO and co-founder of Limeade, an enterprise wellness platform, and has led the company from an idea in his basement to a leading national engagement, wellness and incentive management company. He previously spent several years in the financial well-being business with leading financial management company Intuit.

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