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Part 3: Your health and wellbeing strategy is about business culture, if you want it to be…

In part two of this blog series on corporate health and wellbeing strategy I looked at the difference between a strategy and a plan, including the factors to consider when deciding which is right for your business. In this third instalment, I’ll be considering the opportunity presented by developing a wellbeing strategy for influencing the overall culture of the business.

Having established that employers have a choice to focus either on a plan- or strategy-driven approach to organisational wellbeing, it follows that the former is more attuned to creating specific short-term business outcomes while the latter offers an opportunity to influence culture.

So if culture change is your main priority a more operational (and therefore narrower) approach to workplace wellbeing introduces the risk that you end up doing lots of ‘wellbeing stuff’. By which I mean well-intended (and often well-presented) interventions, services and activities that either don’t get used or don’t add up to much for the business: often not nearly enough to justify the combined cost and time associated with the investment.

Create cultural change that is sustainable

The highest risk scenario here is when there is no central plan to guide these short-term efforts, meaning that different people use different budgets to create different types of wellbeing interventions and support across the business. Of course, if there’s a solid short-to-medium term wellbeing plan to guide these investments things start to look better, but it’s still unlikely that the investment is going to create cultural change that is substantive and sustainable. To reprise a key point from Part Two of this blog series, it all depends on your ultimate goals for wellbeing.

Understand the base readiness of your business and its leaders for workplace health and wellbeing

Another important aspect of wellbeing strategy build when it comes to achieving cultural change is testing readiness: without that conversation about what the business and its employees are ready for in relation to wellbeing untold amounts of money can be wasted – on surveys, on training, on tech and much more besides. If you dive straight into the intervention piece you lose the opportunity to understand the base readiness of the business and its leaders, to ask the all-important question about why wellbeing is important in the first place, how it fits with your core values and what investing in it will deliver. What wellbeing actually means to your workforce, your Board and to you as the internal owner is at the heart of the health and wellbeing strategy discussion.

Your employees may not be as motivated by a ball pool and table tennis as you initially think!

Through your efforts to gauge readiness you will naturally engage with your employees and the insights you generate then start to become really valuable. They will enable you to calibrate your spending, not just directing it to the right areas, but also ensuring that spend is proportionate to readiness and likely impact. At the same time, you mitigate the risk of blowing your whole budget upfront, only to find later that you’re struggling to keep the momentum going with wellbeing.

A culture change model to support health and wellbeing strategy development

I’ve just highlighted two of the four important aspects of driving cultural change around health and wellbeing; namely creating readiness and making change stick. These form part of a wellbeing-orientated change model that I and my colleagues at Robertson Cooper, including Professor Sir Cary Cooper, have developed to help clients to see the biggest possible picture when it comes to embedding health and wellbeing into everyday working life.

The model is based around the ultimate aim of delivering more good days at work. Accordingly, the final two elements are ‘create the good day at work mindset’ (i.e. developing employees appropriately) and ‘create permission and opportunity to change’ (which is about the employer consciously creating the environment in which employees can thrive). In the fourth and final part of this blog series I’ll be looking at these two ‘engine room’ aspects of the change model and providing some practical tips, techniques and takeaways to help you apply the thinking inside your own organisation.

In the meantime, if you take one thing away from this post it should be this: it’s always better to build something that sticks and leads to real cultural change over time, as opposed to creating a big bang that lasts for a couple of months but makes no real difference. Your time and financial resources are too precious to waste on just doing ‘stuff’ that doesn’t add up to anything.


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