Access to preventive healthcare has reached unprecedented heights, thanks to the paradigm-shifting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shikhar Malhotra, the Vice Chairman and CEO of HCL Healthcare, recognises this transformative change and its profound influence on our perception of preventive health. In an exclusive interview, Shikhar, also a Director and Board Member of HCL Corporation and HCLTech, a global tech firm with a vast presence in 60 countries, shares his insights on the dynamic landscape of employee wellness in India.
Here are the edited excerpts.
Having worked extensively in the employee wellness space across various industries, you bring a wealth of expertise. What are the top trends that you believe will have a significant impact on the broader employee wellness landscape in the current year and beyond?
There has been a notable surge in market awareness and organisational curiosity regarding wellness. Every organisation is at a unique stage of growth and hence, the wellness requirements are different. While some focus on initiating and raising awareness, others aim to imbue existing programmes with greater meaning. Another trend is the shift in how mental health is approached, moving from a general concept to specific categories. Our research highlights relationship management, workplace pressure, and financial pressure as the top three mental health concerns among individuals.
What are your recommended best practices for facilitating work-life integration for employees in the context of hybrid working arrangements? Do you believe that the playbook for employee wellness needs to be updated in the post-pandemic era?
We are fortunate to be living in times where access to preventive healthcare is higher than ever. COVID-19 has been a massive game changer and has helped raise the importance of preventive-health awareness. This change is good for the industry and the country. This positive shift not only raises the bar for wellness excellence but also enhances the overall healthcare landscape, leading to wider adoption of wellbeing initiatives with far-reaching effects.
At an individual level, the first step towards taking charge of your health is to do a base-level understanding of where you stand; almost all organisations do provide access to basic health check-ups. Also, making yourself more aware of various aspects of preventive health by reading about it will go a long way in making it a lifestyle adoption. As employers, we must try to understand where our people are in this journey, without imposing a standard playbook on people. We must customise wellness offerings and solutions by understanding their needs and challenges. This creates a lot of impact. Of course, some companies are far ahead of others, but everybody is moving at their own pace in this journey.
How can leadership foster a culture of psychological safety and prioritise the emotional well-being of employees? What strategies can help to ensure greater accessibility and utilisation of emotional wellness programmes?
Three key actions we can take to prioritise well-being:
Firstly, it is crucial to vocally champion the company's wellness programmes and policies, emphasising the importance of preventive health. By actively promoting these initiatives, employees are encouraged to strive for personal improvement on a daily basis. Leaders should communicate about wellness offerings through town halls and employee communications, ensuring that employees are aware of the available resources.
Secondly, leaders should lead by example. When employees see their C-suite executives or team leaders prioritising their own health through activities like early morning sports or walks, it serves as a powerful motivator for others to follow suit.
The third action is to allocate budgets consciously towards programmes and policies that align with the company's philosophy on employee wellness.
For instance, an IT services provider sought to boost the adoption of preventive services through a virtual programme. However, the uptake fell short of expectations. To remedy this, we recommended establishing a physical presence on campuses, enhancing the visibility of the programme and emphasising the digital offerings. This simple adjustment led to a significant increase in health-check uptake from 10% to 35%.
How can organisations strategically utilise data to design relevant and impactful employee wellness programmes and policies for a multigenerational workforce? What insights have we gained from the past two years of digitalisation that can inform these initiatives?
With increased access to electronic records and abundant data points, the shift towards digital solutions has prompted a transition from a spray-and-pray approach to a more precision-based mindset. The right wellness provider and the right access to tools can not only enable greater consumption but also garner targeted clinical insights. We give a real mirror image to the organisation on the health and well-being of their employees rather than limiting it to consumption patterns. Our data show a significant increase in musculoskeletal issues like neck and back pains, leading to high demand for physiotherapists working up to 10 hours a day. Using this data, we can provide employees with improved access to effective solutions.
What are the key focus areas for HCL Healthcare in the employee wellness domain, and how do you plan to differentiate yourselves from other players amidst the growing competition?
Right from the very beginning, our approach has been to have our own doctors on rolls, leverage access to clinical records, and invest in a qualitative-heavy approach. It gives us more of a longitudinal story and creates a decisive impact within organisations. We have been doing it very successfully for more than half a decade. At HCL Healthcare, we leverage this very experience and understanding to support organisations with services and strategies for employee engagement and a healthier bottom line.
I would also like to add that employee wellness success typically stems from three things. First is championing management support. Leaders need to ask, “Have you converted wellness from a mere policy into a program?” Secondly, emphasising a one-size-fits-all approach does not work, especially in India where the younger population makes up the bulk, but an ageing population co-exists too. Thirdly, allocating resources strategically and outlining more relevant healthcare goals fosters better outcomes. When these three things are addressed, wellness programs shall have a significantly high probability of success.