While wellness programs have been pivotal in improving employee well-being, their efficacy greatly depends on qualified and interested managers. The ones who can successfully drive wellness conversations and ensure that their team goals align with the need for their team members' well-being are poised to have more successful wellness programs.
Employee adoption and engagement remain a problem central to the success of wellness programs. For example, the Aon Global Well-being report notes that over 42% of employers said employee engagement/ interest was a challenge when expanding or starting well-being initiatives. A similar trend was recounted in India, where the People Matters and MediBuddy Wellness 360 Research study found that over 56% of companies said engagement was a big challenge.
Managers must be brought into the fold to design and implement wellness initiatives successfully. They need to be upskilled and equipped to hold the right conversations and be invested in their team's well-being. This was a key message shared in a recent webcast by People Matters and MediBuddy on "Creating wellness-conscious managers."
Managers need to be equipped
For the panellists in the webcast discussion, the agreement that managers are crucial stakeholders in the wellness journey of an employee was unanimous. For Dr Sunil Chandy, Chief Medical Officer, ITC India, the first step to making managers aware of the nuances of the wellness program. "For many managers, this is an entirely new focus being pushed, and many are yet to be completely aware of the ambit of changes around wellness that companies plan to bring in," he said.
While managers play an essential role, their success, according to Dr Sunil, depends significantly on how effectively they are made aware of the changes. "Wellness is a cultural change that cannot just be prescribed. Managers have to be aware of the changes that they need to make and then implement those changes by working closely with their teams," he noted. "To do this successfully, companies have to decide their wellness philosophy. Managers should know how to boil that down into a practical way and make it a part of their culture. Otherwise, wellness remains a list of things you do and measure and often is not successful in bringing about the required change, "he added.
Then comes the step of equipping them with the right tools to engage their employees and bring cultural change. According to Dr Sunil, the approach to wellness today remains prescriptive and top-down driven. "How managers can drive conversations with their employees, make their work better, create strong relationships with team members to avoid work-related stress, all go into how effectively they can contribute to their well-being," he added.
HR professionals have to be a catalyst
While the managers played an essential role in ensuring employee well-being was a priority among their teams, HR plays an indispensable role in enabling them. For Ritu Saxena, Senior Vice President, Rewards, SBI Card, it begins by ensuring HR doesn't try to drive a wellness initiative in isolation. Instead, finding the right ways to create buy-in with leaders and managers is necessary. "This," she noted, "begins with the first step of calling your employee wellness programs organisational wellness programs. This means that we are looking at the overall wellness of everyone in the organisation and ensure buy-in from managers and top leaders".
As a culture of change for an organisation is often kickstarted in a top-to-bottom manner, it becomes important for HR leaders to find the right way of creating buy-in with managers and leaders for success. "I will do what my manager does to me, and my manager will do what their manager does to them," Ritu added, "so if I have to bring in a change in how we address employee wellness, I need to begin at the top."
To better understand the role of HR professionals in delivering results for their wellness programs, Ritu presented the role as that of a catalyst. "It is to convince your top leaders by setting achievable vectors and showing them deliverable results. "This helps convince managers too and helps bring them on board," she added. The role of the catalyst was also amplified when she noted that HR has to pay close attention to upskill managers and train them to hold the right conversations with their employees.
Digital tools as an enabler
To help managers be impactful in driving goals around employee wellness and engagement, digital tools have proven to be incredibly beneficial. With the ability to scale, personalise solutions, be flexible in their approach, and provide managers with helpful insights into prevalent well-being challenges, digital tools are poised to improve the efficacy of wellness efforts.
Rohit Chohan, Head of Business, Corporate Labs & Consultations, MediBuddy, added that "adoption and the scale of reach in the world of remote working have greatly improved by the presence of digital wellness tools. But where they truly make a difference is allowing managers to understand employee behaviour and address fall in engagement by providing wellness benefits that make sense to the individual."
"Analytics is a powerful tool that allows managers to examine larger trends in some of the ailments that their teams are experiencing," he added, explaining how, with the right digital wellness tools, managers can better manage wellness challenges.