Health and wellbeing programmes: Engagement is key

Product Director
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Many organisations are beginning to understand that employee wellbeing plays an important role in personal happiness and productivity which, in turn, has a positive impact on corporate performance.

But one of the biggest challenges is simply engaging staff sufficiently to actually take part in the wellbeing programmes intended for their benefit. High levels of such engagement can make the difference between an initiative playing a pivotal role in corporate performance and a perk that just keeps a few workers happy.
But high levels of engagement don’t happen by themselves. Instead they require HR directors to go through a number of steps ranging from the thoughtful planning and designing of the scheme to providing staff with the right incentives to participate.
Having a good plan is vital to ensure that your health and well-being programme gets off to a great start, but it should also include metrics to enable you to measure whether or not it has been a success.
This means that it is important to understand why the company is investing in the initiative in the first place, what the desired outcome is and how you intend to measure its progress.
Once a clear set of objectives has been defined, the next step is to assess what resources are available in terms of both budget and personnel. Other key factors to consider are the likely time required to set up the project, the timing of its launch and how long it will last for.
To design an engaging initiative, it is crucial to understand your target audience. This can be done by researching what employees find interesting and important and by gaining an understanding of what would fit in with the more general workplace environment.
For example, while an office might lend itself to an online scheme that was launched at a physical event on site, a manufacturing plant providing workers with little computer access would stand most to gain from a predominantly offline programme based on printed materials alongside on-site activities.
Communication channels
To generate interest in the initiative and encourage engagement on an on-going basis, it is vital to think through the different communication media available to you. Don’t just use posters and email - if you really want to get people’s attention use as many channels as possible and try to be a bit different to the norm.
Whether the programme becomes a seamless part of your corporate brand or is delivered by a partner organisation, you will need to ensure that its look-and-feel and that of accompanying materials is appealing to the target audience in order to secure that initial engagement.
You will also have to address confidentiality issues as people will want to know who has access to their private information and how it will be used.
Cultural relevance
Making sure that the programme is culturally relevant is particularly important to those employers rolling out health and well-being programmes on a global basis.
Ensuring that the look-and-feel is right for each location is essential to getting engagement right. For example, outdoor activities can prove popular in the UK in the summer, but may be less appealing in the Middle East where temperatures rise to more than 40° C.
Make it easy for people to access and take part in the initiative. If it’s too much effort, they won’t bother. Online assessments or questionnaires should be easy to get hold of using existing communication channels, promotional materials should be highly visible and activities should be easy to join and tailored to individual needs.
Incentives can be a great method of encouraging participation. If high levels of such participation are one of your key criteria for success, these measures are certainly worth considering.
The type of incentive chosen will depend on your organisation and location. There is no right or wrong answer here, but they will need to be attractive to the target audience do their job. Change can be introduced over time as more data is collected about people’s wellbeing priorities and what motivates them.
Championing the cause
It is important to provide support for the scheme at all levels of the organisation. Directors and managers need to get workers to champion the cause.
To this end, identify natural leaders and opinion-formers from across the business to drive the project forward and encourage others to get involved. Recognising the work done by these ‘champions’ and providing them with new incentives are actions also likely to further boost motivation and input.
Varied content
Ensuring that programmes are varied will help to ensure that they reach as many people as possible. Today’s technology also means that it is easy to provide numerous versions of the same scheme to different individuals.
A useful first step when going down this route is as to supply employees with assessment or questionnaire documents so that you can identify which areas need most attention. It also makes sense to drip-feed content rather than release it all in one go in order to keep the initiative fresh and encourage people to participate on an on-going basis.
Simply providing wellbeing benefits and schemes will simply not be enough to generate the enthusiasm required to make the investment worthwhile. Instead the secret to success lies in that elusive concept - engagement.

Jessica Colling is product director at corporate wellbeing consultancy, Vielife. This article is based on Chapter 12 of her book entitled 'Well-being: Productivity and Happiness at Work'.


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