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  • Lee Calver
  • 12 August 2014
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How important is the wellbeing of your employees?

A new survey of employers across the globe has found that 78% of the world’s bosses are strongly committed to creating a workplace culture of health, to boost individual engagement and organisational performance.

The research by Buck Consultants at Xerox, which looked at responses of more than 1,000 employers across 37 countries, also revealed that 65% of respondents believe that wellbeing programmes are extremely or very important to attract and retain employees.

Furthermore, 52% of respondents to its ‘Working well: a global survey of health promotion and workplace wellness strategies’ research stated that they now measure the outcomes of their wellbeing programmes – a substantial rise from 36% in 2012.

Commenting on the findings, Dave Ratcliffe, Principal, Buck Consultants at Xerox, said:

“When we began this survey in 2007, employers were focused on basic health promotion activities.

“Today, our sixth survey shows an evolution in employer thinking to a much more holistic and measurable approach. Workers’ wellness is now viewed as a state of well-being across the spectrum of health, wealth, and career. Wellness is part of the employee value proposition. Social media, gamification, mobile technology, automated coaching, and personalised communication are all part of the mix.”

The survey also discovered that HR policies related to flexible work arrangements and paid time off were voted as the number one component of wellness programmes globally. Generally, too much stress, not enough exercise and a poor diet remain the top wellness-related areas of focus for employers, while in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, worker safety is the top concern.

While employers in the US note healthcare costs as their main reason for sponsoring wellness programmes, outside of America, bosses say they use the programmes to improve employee morale and also to help reduce sickness absence and presenteeism. The results certainly suggest that employers across the world are continuing to, or at least starting to, make the connection between health and productivity.

Improving employee engagement

As organisations look to improve the wellbeing of their staff, are employers also focusing on broadening their employee engagement programmes?

According to a recent survey by Right Management, the career and talent management experts within ManpowerGroup, 53% of UK firms are planning to expand on their employee engagement programmes in order to maximise their investment in talent initiatives.

The global survey questioned more than 2,200 HR professionals and senior leaders and the subsequent report states that now is a critical time for organisations not just to identify what drives engagement, but to find ways to actively solicit, and take action on employee suggestions.

Commenting, General Manager for Right Management UK & Ireland, Ian Symes, said:

“Whilst many organisations are finally recognising the value of employee engagement strategies, there’s still a temptation to treat them as a temporary fix.

“Organisations need to embrace employee engagement as an ongoing mind-set, not a programme that starts and stops when morale is low. They need to be thinking of a holistic approach that sees them listen to their workforce, engage with them on a regular basis, actively take on board employee feedback, and ultimately measure the results that these efforts have on business objectives and the bottom-line.”

Despite the fairly positive findings of the Right Management research, a similar study conducted by global management consulting firm, Hay Group, shows somewhat conflicting results, with over three-quarters of engagement leaders (84%) believing that companies must engage their workforces differently if they are to succeed in the future.

In its report, ‘The New Rules of Engagement’, Hay Group interviewed 300 heads of employee engagement from FTSE 250 and Fortune 500 companies about the implications of six major trends it believes are transforming the global business environment.

The report described these new trends as being:

  • Individualism: Growing freedom of choice eroding loyalty and transforming workplace motivation.
  • Digitisation: Work and the workplace going remote, and the boundaries between professional and personal life blurring, as people are increasingly operating online.
  • Technological convergence: Powerful shifts in technology transforming everyday life and creating new product markets.
  • Demographic change: Ageing populations reshaping the global workforce and exacerbating the war for talent
  • Globalisation 2.0: Economic power shifting from West to East, giving rise to a new global middle class
  • The environmental crisis: The environment becoming more and more important to people, as climate change gathers pace and natural resources grow scarce.

Looking at the results further, it also showed that 67% of respondents had not personally changed the way they operated in light of a number of key trends affecting the workplace. In addition, only 30% of HR professionals believe their organisations are doing enough to adapt sufficiently to the changes that await, with employee engagement listed as the top issue keeping them awake at night.

Speaking about the outcomes of the survey and offering advice for engagement professionals, Monick Evans, Head of UK Client Advisory, Hay Group, said:

"The megatrends transforming economies and societies also come with profound implications for how staff expect to be managed and led. If companies don't adjust their approaches to employee engagement now, they will be unable to attract and retain talent through these major shifts."

Evans went onto say:

"Engagement approaches will need to be more personalised in response, tapping into employees' particular preferences and expectations.

"The megatrends are converging to fundamentally change the way people work, what they value in a career, and what they want from their employers.”

She concluded:

“Engagement professionals face a critical opportunity to rethink their strategies in response to, and anticipation of, these shifts. The role of the engagement professional has become both increasingly critical and increasingly complex in fighting the global war for talent."

Employee engagement and employee wellbeing are both topics that spark debate amongst the masses. Whether you are directly involved or not, it seems that everyone has an opinion on the matter, which is why they are both currently such interesting talking points.

We would like to hear from HR professionals, engagement experts, and any employer who is currently looking at improving the wellbeing of their staff to share their views and stories in our latest forum discussion group.

Please comment in the box below to post your thoughts, or click here to join in the discussion.