IT company Oracle’s approach to employee wellbeing and engagement uses technology to create a unique working environment, says Andy Campbell, human capital management strategy director. The company tracks success with key metrics on enrolment, participation and staff feedback.
Few businesses take better care of their staff than the Silicon Valley success stories of the past two decades. Some technology giants have become bywords for lavish headquarters, where employees can take their pick of amenities, ranging from campus dry cleaning services and bowling alleys to on-site doctors and masseuses.
With such luxury to contend with, it is easy to think that the rest of the business world is lagging behind in the employee health and wellbeing stakes. In reality, the opposite is true.
Businesses worldwide have made enormous strides to improve the health and happiness of their employees in a remarkably short time. They might not have decked out their headquarters with gyms and free “raw food” canteens, but many enterprises – including Oracle – have undertaken initiatives that would have been deemed revolutionary only a few years ago.
More on employee wellbeing and engagement
It cannot be stressed how important workplace wellbeing has become to people today. Recent Oracle research found that 90% of employees say it is important that health and wellness technology and processes are used to transform corporate culture and create a unique working environment. The company has seen a reduction of £1 million in its absence costs as a direct result of wellbeing interventions.
It is worth remembering just how recent the concept of employee health and happiness is. Only with the technology bubble of the late-1990s did young businesses begin the shake-up – not just to markets, but also to the consensus of staff-employer relationships.
It is now quite common to see companies taking an active interest in their employees’ health and fitness at work. Consider the growing number of organisations that provide employees with wearable devices such as Fitbits and pedometers to track their activity, allow staff to use standing desks, or offer cycle-to-work schemes, gym memberships and on-site mindfulness classes or massages.
At Oracle, we encourage our employees to become more in tune with their health through regular health checks, combat sedentary behaviour with our “Walk & Talk” scheme, and promote overall wellbeing through our recently unveiled mindfulness sessions.
What’s more, many businesses now offer their employees flexible working arrangements so they can work from home when needed – a key proposition for employers looking to accommodate young employees’ preferred ways of working. This is crucial to meeting the demands of young staff, who expect more control over their working conditions than previous generations. Flexible working also accommodates the growing range of health concerns affecting our ageing workforce.
Business benefits of employee wellbeing and engagement
Of course, the reason for providing all these services is not entirely altruistic. Businesses understand that a fitter, happier employee is more productive and less likely to leave for a rival that provides better benefits. Modern health initiatives also help foster an improved spirit of collaboration and teamwork among workers – not to mention less stress in the workforce and reduced insurance premiums for the business.
Investing in employee wellbeing does not have to involve spending millions on a new campus full of juice bars and gyms. In fact, engagement often occurs at a much more personal level. For example, some firms offer each worker a free Fitbit health-tracking device and challenge them to commit to walking one million steps per year, with participation linked to qualification for the company’s premium health plan.
Initiatives like this work especially well when there is an element of “gamification” involved. This creates friendly competition among individual employees, or between departments working as teams, using the modern technologies they also use in their personal lives. They can be hugely successful in getting staff to participate in wellness schemes, provided they opt in, of course. This will also demand that businesses address any questions employees have around the sharing of their personal data.
Programmes like these also increase engagement between employer and employee and give HR a positive story to tell when trying to recruit talent, who are increasingly likely to work for a company that differentiates itself with benefits such as these.
New entrants into the workforce today have come to expect a different relationship with their colleagues and employers. The line between their work and personal lives is becoming increasingly blurred, and as such they want a work environment that allows them to pursue both their professional and personal ambitions. Today, making employee wellbeing a priority has arguably become the best way to engage and retain young recruits.
Of course, companies do not want to invest in any initiative without seeing measurable returns. It takes more than simply setting up a wellness programme to make a difference. Also, what works for one organisation may not work for another.
Before implementing any wellbeing initiative, it is important businesses have systems in place to track the success of these programmes via key metrics such as enrolment, participation, and employee feedback. Not only will this make their wellbeing initiatives more engaging, it also allows HR to measure the return on investment of their undertakings, including tenure, staff churn, and reductions in days lost to sickness, and highlight these in the boardroom.
And while for some companies this might mean employing their own medical staff or opening fitness centres in the building, what is important is that they look at the most achievable and affordable way to make a real and measurable difference to their workforce.
Andy Campbell is the HCM strategy director at Oracle.