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9 steps to creating an effective health and wellness benefits strategy

By Damien Walsh - April 08, 2021

In the business world today, employee health and well-being is a key focus of some of the world’s most successful and innovative organisations.

They invest great time, energy and resources into creating workplaces that embrace wellness and consider it a vital part of business strategy.


Because time and time again, scientific studies have shown that the cost of not having a workplace wellness programme is greater than the cost of implementing one.

But, there is still work to be done...

By the time you factor in high turnover rates, employee absenteeism and presenteeism, and general employee morale and energy levels, not having a workplace wellness programme can be very costly.

But how does an organisation go about implementing a successful wellness programme? 

And what exactly do employees want and expect from one?

This blog will detail nine ways in which organisations can develop a meaningful and effective corporate wellness strategy for 2021 and beyond.

Hat tip to Aetna.

1. Listen

Listen to your employees and be prepared to reshape what you offer in accordance with that. 

Once you listen to their needs and recognise that one size won’t fit all...

Be prepared to develop a more modular, personalised approach that promotes the right thing to the right people at the right time.

A few key factors that help senior leaders practise effective listening are:

  • Internal surveys — aggregated and anonymised
  • Internal discussions and forums
  • One-to-one conversations

2. Use data

Use as many data sources as you can to inform what to include in your well-being package.

For example, have a conversation with your health benefits partner to understand your outpatient and primary care demands as well as other trends.

Using data is helpful because:

  • It monitors health claims data
  • It makes it easier to find ways to provide occupational health support. Analysing data of existing benefits, within your employee assistance programme (EAP) offering, can help guide your choices

3. Take a holistic approach

To ensure you are building the right well-being package, take a holistic approach.

Look at aspects of personal and home life as much as work life and environment to really understand and support people.

You can practise this by:

  • Bringing together solutions for the physical, mental and emotional
  • Considering the impact of social and economic influences on emotional well-being
  • Catering to employees’ sense of purpose and professional motivation

4. Focus on user experience

The elements of the package are important, but it is also essential to make it easy to use.

Too often benefits go unused because the process is confusing or convoluted.

Make sure it’s easy to access and navigate so people use it to help make a meaningful difference to their lives.

Here are a few ways you can ensure this:

  • Collate your suite of benefits into a single user-friendly experience
  • Focus on the processes people need to follow to achieve their goals
  • Carefully plan the route in and ensure services and solutions are clearly signposted
  • Dovetail your well-being strategy with your communication strategy to increase engagement

5. Fully understand what you’re providing

As a business owner or HR manager, it is easy to get distracted by ‘shiny things’ in health and wellness.

There will always be new and exciting initiatives...

Particularly in digital and health technology.

But often the best approach is to leverage what is already available to you by your current providers.

Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Ensure you fully understand what you’re already paying for through your health insurer, life insurer or other protection providers.
  • Audit what you have and what is available to augment it
  • Compare your resource audit with the results of your needs investigation
  • Don’t assume you need to increase your budget. You may just need to better present and communicate your existing benefits.

6. Personalise your marketing to market your benefits

Use intelligent, personalised, targeted communications as part of an overall communications strategy to understand and meet the unique needs of your employees.

Personalised promotion of well-being activities is essential.

Have you got the right communication strategy in your organisation?

Is a third party doing that?

Whether it’s you, your health insurer or well-being provider, can the communications effectively reach your workforce in a personalised and meaningful way?

For instance, they might not be interested in weekly emails about mental well-being...

But might need support with their diet or managing neck pain instead.

Here's how you can implement a personalised communication strategy:

  • Pay close attention to the frequency and relevance of your email strategy
  • Invest in a platform that helps you understand your employees’ needs
  • Conduct a 360-degree health assessment to capture data that dovetails into your communications
  • Measure the levels of engagement and be ready to flex and adapt

7. Build a culture of well-being

Well-being is moving from something that companies provide, to becoming a part of its culture.

But how does a company move from one to the other?

A culture of well-being comes from the top down and it starts with business strategy.

What are your company’s values?

What’s your vision and mission?

Put people at the centre of that.

Shareholders and customers are important, of course, but your people should also be a focus.

Here's how to implement this at your organisation:

  • Define and describe how you will make your organisation a good place to work: how you will look after them at work and even beyond — as the lines between work and home life can become blurred.
  • Consider the degree to which social responsibility activity feeds into your mission statement: purpose, cause and role in the community.
  • Getting the DNA of your corporate culture right will help drive a culture of well-being: benefits are the icing on the cake.

Lead by example: senior leaders have been more open about their own personal struggles and coping mechanisms during the pandemic.

It’s okay to have good days and bad days.

By opening up to your employees, you're letting them all know that it’s not a weakness.

When that comes from the top down, it changes the conversations you can have at line management level and in one-to-ones.

8. Measurement

Like most aspects of business investment, results need to be measured.

This has always been a challenge for health benefits and wellness programmes.

A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are your benefits hitting the mark?
  • Are they being understood?
  • Are they being used?
  • And what’s different as a result of that?

Utilisation data also is essential to judging the success of your benefits...

  • Are 80% of the benefits being used by 20% of the workforce? In which case, what are you missing out on? 
  • How could you drive that figure up?
  • How can this figure inform decisions about your benefits as a whole?

9. Look beyond the workplace

One survey found 66% of employers think COVID-19 has increased employee expectations of employer-provided support...

And 63% believe responsibility for employee well-being goes beyond the workplace now.

What are the limits to an employer’s duty of care?

And what are the benefits of looking beyond work hours and workplaces when addressing employee well-being?

Think about what you’re trying to achieve as a business.

You’re trying to enable somebody to be the best they can be...

To come to work and be present, energised, productive and feel a sense of purpose.

Assuming these are your aims, you need to address anything that might impact a person’s ability to achieve that.

Organisations who invest time and resources into their wellness programs now, will be better positioned for future success. 

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