Seven signs to test for wellbeing readiness

There are seven signs that show whether or not an organisation is ready to implement an employee wellbeing programme. Ben Moss, managing director of Robertson Cooper, and Professor Sir Cary Cooper, co-founder of Robertson Cooper and president of the CIPD, explain the idea of “readiness”.

Employee wellbeing has gone well and truly mainstream. It used to be niche, a luxury that was secondary to health and safety, and certainly not a strategic priority for most businesses. Quite a contrast to current HR practice – where the trend is towards integrating the overall employee health and wellbeing offering into a dedicated strategy that aims to make having a good day at work “cultural”.

Robertson Cooper supports organisations in this process by hosting a conversation around what we call the “seven signs of readiness”’ – aspects of wellbeing that, if clearly defined and understood, will help rather than hinder the design and implementation of your wellbeing strategy.

In order to explore the idea of readiness more, look at these “seven signs” and think about what they mean for HR practitioners who are considering designing, refining or implementing business-wide approaches to wellbeing.

  1. Meaning. Does your entire workforce view organisation wellbeing in the same light? Views will vary across job levels and will be affected by a range of other factors – but, as a starting point, your business must eventually settle on something that is accessible, universal and upon which you can build an internal brand that will resonate with all aspects of working life. It will also be the basis of any measurement you later undertake.
  2. Your purpose. A general consensus on why the business invests in wellbeing is essential. When asking yourself and the wider organisation why you need one or the purpose it serves, it is important to strike a balance between outcomes that benefit both the business and the employee.
  3. Ambition. What is the scope of what you are trying to do by embedding wellbeing? Your purpose is your purpose, but it is underpinned by the scale of your ambition in terms of what you believe wellbeing can do for your business and your employees. There are lots of different views to this, all of which are valid, but it’s important to acknowledge the position before plans are made and budgets built.
  4. Owning it. It is important to assign owners for specific aspects of your wellbeing strategy and do not set out to do it all on your own. Identify the support needed from senior leaders, how line managers can support the roll-out and what skills/resources each need in order do so. What is the role of your internal communications and engagement team? How can you use your network of HR business partners to maximise the impact and effectiveness of the implementation? These are just some of the questions we use to map the ownership structure across the business.
  5. Personal responsibility. In recent years, responsibilities for health and wellbeing have shifted: while employers still have a duty to provide a healthy environment, employees also have a critical role to play, taking responsibility for their health and having a greater say. The rise of health movements, such as Robertson Cooper’s Good Day at Work community and the one that our partners at the Movember Foundation run, are all pushing away from top-down, management driven approaches to wellbeing, and moving towards employee and technology-driven approaches and an ongoing wellbeing conversation.
  6. Language and communication. Live, meaningful conversation about wellbeing across the whole organisation will help employees to talk about this subject without fear. To do this you must first establish if you have the basis for that inside the business? If so, is this conversation shared and understood across your workforce? It’s important that your definition of wellbeing is consistent and tools such as our “six essentials of workplace wellbeing” can help to identify the things that block and enable “a good day at work” and allow you to come to a conclusive definition.
  7. Leading the change. Key people at the top level are in a position to create organisational reality for the majority of employees, so their role isn’t just about “permission”; it is also about buy-in, involvement and role modelling. It is important that they understand (and accept) their role, and are encouraged to help create a culture that values and drives wellbeing. This may take some influencing or coaching to understand the personal impact that they have on the mental and physical wellbeing of those around them.

These “seven signs” act as an invaluable checklist for defining the current state of readiness for wellbeing.

In most cases, businesses tick some of the boxes with ease, but usually there are at least a couple that need discussion and decision making. If you hold the overall responsibility for wellbeing on behalf of your organisation, you can use these seven areas to develop firm foundations for your long-term approach to getting it right.

Finally, it is worth saying that covering these areas and putting it all together in an integrated way that stands the test of time is not easy – it takes effort and commitment from you and from across the business. But if you get it right, the results can be transformative: for you, for your employees, for the business.


About Ben Moss and Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Ben Moss is managing director of Robertson Cooper, and Professor Sir Cary Cooper is co-founder of Robertson Cooper and president of the CIPD.
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