In the past two years, I met quite a number of IT companies that have a large presence in India. All of them are faced with growth challenges in the very fluid work market of Tier 1 cities of India. These challenges existed at every stage of the good virtuous HR cycle: from hiring, training, empowering and enabling to retaining the employees in the sector already plagued with high attrition rates.
However, I came across a few organizations which had a very innovative way of managing their competitiveness in this fast-paced HR environment. These organizations had initially made the effort to be attractive in the work market, to be an employer of choice, the best place to work, to pay the right price to attract talents, to train efficiently to ease the employee ramp-up, to provide the adequate benefits and career paths to retain etc. However, they soon realized that this was no longer a differentiating factor, as other players soon caught up on the same concepts.
When you hire smart people, pay them well, train them and retain them properly in the same way as your competitors do, how can you then make a difference?
Though we all have seen a progression in the talent management methodology, some organizations have been able to resolve the situation partially by tackling this at the preliminary stage by offering rich material rewards, the right culture, and management by objective etc. On the other hand, some organizations have evolved this to the next level of engagement by managing employees not only from the neck up, connecting high performance with cognitive capacity, but also identifying and attributing other dimensions like emotional, intellectual and spiritual (not religious, but wisdom and clarity of vision, combined with empathy and compassion) intelligence that results in better performance.
But very few organizations are paying attention to the role played by physical capabilities. And these few organizations clearly understand that narrow interventions used to address the cognitive capacities of employees simply are not sufficient and they can no longer ignore their employee’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
These very organizations have adopted the concept of nurturing “Corporate Athletes” for building a high-performance workforce to win over their competitors through productivity gains.
Here is the analogy: all professional athletes have outstanding bodies dedicated to their sport and they practice 10+ hours per day to be at their best in competition. So how do champions emerge from that pool? Actually, champions are those athletes that can use the full extent of their training time to be at 100% and not 70% or 80% because they are not concerned by non-sport related issues, they have a better mind and may exercise a little more every day without injuring themselves. Also, successful athletes are agile and are able to adapt to the change in environment efficiently.
When you translate the sports athlete into the corporate environment, you get a “Corporate Athlete”: an employee who is 100% on the job during work time – full productivity, not distracted by either absenteeism or presentism issue. He is able to adapt to the ever-changing and challenging work environment and move forward in a positive manner. And this is by itself a big difference, the employee wins, his family wins and the organizations that employ him wins.
One of the ways these companies chose to achieve this maximum productivity was through health and well-being. Just like for the sportsman, employee have access to the workplace to an excellent doctor, a nutritionist and a coach to make sure that he delivers at maximum capacity.
The benefits are very tangible and measurable:
- Reduce absenteeism by having efficient health services on a worksite, adequately skilled and sized to avoid any medical referrals outside of the company during work hours. This will give benefits in terms of immediate productivity impact, employer gains work hours and reduce business disruption.
- Reducing the impact of lifestyle diseases through preventative measures from canteen menus review to nutritionists on site, individualized support to employees to change behaviors, gamification & team challenges. This will give benefits in terms of mid/long-term productivity impact as well as financial gains on medical expenses/insurance costs control.
- Reduce the impact of stress and presentism through various support measures, from psychologists on site (or coach/advisor, whatever the acceptable terminology depending on company culture), to legal and/or financial advisors. This is important because of some companies identifying that the main source of anxiety for their employees is personal financial planning.
In the end, competitive advantage is achieved on additional thinner lines like productivity optimization through efficient Corporate Health and this is particularly true in India where the impact of Non-Communicable Diseases is huge on employer productivity … and growing; and where any marginal increments of productivity rates have a big bottom-line impact given the number of employees involved.
There is a lot of makeshift or purely tick-box “Wellness” on the Indian corporate market but, in the end, only tangible results count. Are you able to consistently measure the ROI of your corporate health & wellness activities? If you can, it means you are already living by the “Corporate Athlete” concept; if not, you can be sure that you have productivity gains just under your feet!