There’s more to employee wellbeing than just engagement: Xerox
Wellbeing is a bouquet of physical, mental and financial health, any of which can adversely impact employee productivity.
The sole objective of any wellness initiative practiced by an organisation was to bring in a spurt in its employees’ engagement and motivation level. However, such initiatives have got a new meaning as they are now directly linked to productivity. According to a study by Xerox – ‘Working Well: A Global Survey of Workforce Wellbeing Strategies’, improving productivity is the top agenda for most organisations from any employee wellness programme. This wasn’t the case two years ago, when employee engagement, and attracting and retaining employees emerged as the leading priorities.
Philia Swam, manager, health, wellness and group benefits, LafargeHolcim, a client of Xerox, states that linking wellbeing to productivity directly has been an evolution.
Swam says, “Early in our wellbeing initiative, we looked at ensuring improvement from a purely health perspective and watched participation in our preventive care programme steadily increase. Now, we’re experiencing improvements in productivity statistics. One example is our reduction in the number of days people are out on disability leave.”
Wellbeing goes beyond the health of an individual and includes physical, mental/emotional, and financial aspects, any of which can have a negative impact on an employee’s productivity.
Companies are, in turn, rounding out their wellbeing offerings and are particularly recognising the negative effects of poor financial wellbeing. Interestingly, while two-thirds see lowered productivity as a direct impact, around 50 per cent cite increased absence from work due to financial distractions.
“Healthy, productive employees are the lifeblood of a company,” says John Gentry, president, Xerox HR Services. “In the past, the thought that healthy workers meant productive workers was somewhat of a theory. Today, with aggregate data and analytics, there is a much stronger case for return on investment.”
The study collected data from 428 organisations spanning 33 countries on a broad range of global wellbeing issues, including strategy and objectives, financial wellbeing, communication and culture, and programme effectiveness.
While only 33 per cent of respondents report a strong culture of wellbeing, 83 per cent aspire to it in the future. 74 per cent of participants view their wellbeing programme as an important element of their employee value proposition, aiding in recruitment and retention.
Top-down leadership support is critical to changing the culture and this year 52 per cent cite strong support from leaders, up from 43 per cent in 2014. From the bottom up, an overwhelming 92 per cent credit their local ambassadors’ efforts in supporting a culture of wellbeing.
“We have total leadership support, beginning at the very top, for our wellbeing programme and its preventive care focus,” said Swam. “Health and safety are our overarching values and the pinnacle of everything LafargeHolcim does. Therefore, our wellbeing programme dovetails right into that. At the same time, getting leadership buy-in meant taking good data and positioning it in a way that impacted our workforce, showing direct relevance and not just recommending a blanket wellbeing programme.”
The study also displays an increased interest in the financial wellbeing of employees. It showed how developing a culture of wellbeing gets personal and includes helping employees manage their finances. The survey found nearly all of its participant companies offer retirement financial security and preparedness programmes (92 per cent) and financial literacy and skills programmes (91 per cent).
Programmes focussed on financial literacy and skills are the fastest growing, with 24 per cent having programmes in place one year or less and another 39 per cent for just the past two to five years.
“Employers are championing a culture of wellbeing, but they also recognise that there are barriers to achieving it globally, such as differing cultures, laws and practices, and a current lack of global oversight for health or financial strategy,” said Gentry. “That said, these issues appear to be less of a problem when it comes to global financial strategies, so employers are more likely to quickly get behind implementing global financial wellbeing programmes.”
About the measurement of impact of the wellness initiatives, while only 36 per cent say they have measured specific outcomes from wellbeing programmes globally, three out of four respondents say their wellbeing initiatives have produced a medium or high impact on improving employee engagement and morale, organisation image, overall employee wellbeing, ability to attract employees, and worker performance and productivity.