Employee well-being benefits are more important than ever before. As organisations introduce benefits aimed at retaining employees and making them feel more valued, the HR industry has reached a stage where it is imperative to focus on the efficacy of these programs. And while companies across the board are ramping up their efforts to create wellness programs, companies must pay close attention to how these programs are inclusive, accessible, and lead to higher engagement.
To deliberate further on how companies can create more engaging wellness programs, a recent People Matters and MediBuddy webcast spoke with Rachna Kumar, HR head, Whirlpool Asia, Sharada Ravi, Director HR, IQVIA, and Manoj Balaji, CBO and business head, Medibuddy on Decoding Adoption of Wellness Benefits: HR Leader's Perspective.
The discussion covered everything from employee trends and preferences determining the adoption of wellness programs and digital healthcare tools to creating future-ready HR leaders.
Top ingredient for engaging wellness programs
"It is difficult to name one ingredient but I would say it is the commitment to the cause," Kumar said. "Wellness programs are not an employer's baby or any employee's baby - it is everyone's baby. So, joint accountability when it comes to organisations matters," she added.
The panellists noted that creating engaging wellness programs is the mix of having the right interventions supported by the right strategies.
For Ravi, personalisation went a long way in creating engaging wellness programs. "With the post pandemic changes, trends like the Great Resignation and the shift in the work culture, employees now feel that they can ask for more. So they feel when something is designed for them, it needs to be more personalised and flexible and only then will they adopt it," she said.
Agreeing with the other two panellists, Balaji added a "structured program" into the mix. "Historically a lot of employee benefit programs have been ad-hoc or even standalone in nature" "Sometimes people think that giving health benefits to the employee means giving more options to the employees. But it is more important to have a structured program that is driven from the organisation's point of view," he said. "Adoption will come through a hand-down, structured, though-through approach," he added.
Hybrid world of work: Key workforce trends that affect employee behaviour
The post-pandemic world of work is increasingly hybrid. For the panellist, this was an essential factor in determining engagement.
Referring to the constant flux the business ecosystem is in right now and the various trends that are constantly emerging, Ravi said, "As we progress, there is going to be an increasing percentage of the workforce that is going to be a part of the gig economy. That means they are looking for a different type of flexibility and that the arrangement between employees and organisation will change."
"Trends such as having multiple jobs, 4-day work weeks have accentuated post the pandemic. The biggest change is the wfh and the hybrid work culture. Now that employees have tasted the flexibility, they are demanding it. The other trend is that you are no longer looking at Tier-1 or Tier-2 cities – your workforce is now spread across," she added.
"Technology is key behind how you make a wellness program inclusive, effective and flexible," she added.
The well-being 'perspective'
For Kumar, creating a wellness-first culture is necessary to facilitate engagement and adoption.
"I think creating a culture of wellness is an organisational agenda and not an HR agenda," Kumar said. "When you change the conversation, the culture changes. If you start talking about well-being, and slowly make it a part of conversations, it becomes woven into the fabric of the organisation. And the moment it becomes a part of the fabric, it becomes a part of the organisation's culture."
Yet while efforts to make Wellness a part of the culture are necessary, Ravi added how it also needs to be contextualised to individual needs for better efficacy. "At the end of the day, wellness is a personal agenda," Ravi said. "The threshold and definition vary for each of us.
"At IQVIA we did a lot of engagement activities and we brought the flavor of Wellness into it. Even today, as we are trying to bring the people back into the office, we are touching upon how people can come together and spend some quality time together face to face and the social aspect of Wellness is taken care of. So all of these perspectives existed but got "highlighted" post the pandemic," she said.
Mindset and HR priority shifts that are necessary today
"It is important for every organisation to define their goals and objectives. What do you want them to adopt? How you define success - in terms of adopting wellness benefits among employees - defines how you want to progress with it," Balaji said, citing numerous real-world examples. For him, finding answers to these critical questions laid the foundation for a successful employee wellness program. Only then can a digital technology solution help create the necessary change.
"Digitising the entire wellness offering has made a big difference. EAP has come in a much bigger way and more and more people are willing to reach out to their EAP for themselves and their families. That is a very positive shift that has come in, especially when you think of mental health being such a taboo topic," said Sharada Ravi.
Summing up the extensive and thought-provoking discussion, Balaji added that "Wellness and employee health/well-being is a long-term strategy. It is something that you cannot achieve by implementing something overnight or even over say a year. While consistency is key, flexibility to change as per your organisation's developing needs is also crucial."