This piece is co-authored by Jordana Choucair and Christopher Hart
Organizations are increasingly recognizing that supporting individual employee well-being is strategically important for overall organizational health. Well-being investments can help ensure that all employees are empowered to thrive physically, mentally, financially, socially, and with their community; thereby, enabling employees to be well inside and outside of the company. To be successful, such investments should be grounded in an organizational change management strategy that places emphasis on people design principles and influences action. Below, we have shared several key approaches that employers should consider.
Recognize the capacity to meet employee needs
In every company, there is a certain capacity for helping employees live their best life. These capacities reflect the diverse ways that a connected network of partners can come together to sponsor benefits, services, and programs that best support their people. If organizations are at the beginning stages of implementing a well-being strategy, a great way to identify gaps in services is by conducting a needs assessment. Using tools such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and data analytics will help organizations identify trends, pain points, opportunities, and initiatives that can have the most impact. Furthermore, involving employees will ensure that their needs and perspectives are considered. Organizations should gather feedback from employees and stakeholders regularly and use it to refine and improve the program over time.
Support three key connections
One of the hidden dangers when designing well-being benefits and programs for employees and their loved ones is to place sole focus in the beginning on system and process improvements that program planners believe will drive high participation rates. Overemphasis of systems thinking as a leading cultural change tactic runs the risk of limited attention on building the supports necessary for behavioral change at the individual level. This is particularly relevant when the change being sought aims to influence specific aspects of an individual’s lifestyle.
At Third Horizon Strategies, we believe that an individual needs three key connections to be well. These connections are rooted in the Transtheoretical – or Stages of Change – Model, which posits that an individual moves through six stages as they seek to change their behavior: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and relapse.
- Connection to themself. People need to disconnect from external distractions (even healthy distractions) and check-in with themselves regularly to gauge how they are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is during this reflection time that individuals are able to contemplate what changes they may need to initiate, or how they are doing with forming healthy habits.
- Connection to others. Having healthy relationships with others – friends, colleagues, families, etc. – is an essential component to helping individuals implement and sustain behavior change. These relationships not only provide a support network, but contribute to social well-being and help employers promote engagement and maximize behavioral economics of change.
- Connect to resources. Employer-sponsored benefits and programs help individuals navigate and access the tools they need to cultivate and continue healthy habits.
Collectively, these three connections help ensure that employees are in-tune with their own needs, know where to turn for help, and have the tools they need and feel empowered to manage their personal well-being.
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A valuable lesson learned over the years is that any well-being approach should first and foremost start with an invitation to participate and engage. Not only should organizations educate their employees on their benefits and programs, but also involve them at all levels in the design process to understand where and how people are currently accessing and utilizing benefits. From there, organizations can study actual points of entry – those places where people naturally gravitate to start and extend their personal well-being journeys. With such an approach, behavioral patterns illuminate where change efforts can best be applied and where gaps in services need to be addressed. By observing how people are accessing and using benefits, organizations can identify initiatives that can have the most impact and appropriately refine the program over time.
Build awareness and structure support
Transparent and consistent communication about the well-being initiative is essential. Employees should not only understand how to access programs and resources, but also understand the goals, benefits, and expectations. Simply chartering internal design teams and then cascading information through hierarchical networks is insufficient when it comes to influencing an individual to make lasting lifestyle changes. Transformative change in this area depends on raising awareness of and access to available company benefits in combination with the motivational influence that comes from social and connected networks.
Organizations can leverage existing communication channels, such as town hall meetings, emails, and internal publications, to clearly communicate the organization’s commitment to well-being. Additionally, organizations can provide training to leaders and managers on how to support employee well-being; recognize signs of stress, burnout, and other well-being issues; and integrate well-being strategies into their management style.
Organizations can ensure the program’s sustainability by integrating it into the organization’s long-term strategy and making it a fundamental aspect of the company’s culture, rather than a one-time fad. Once organizations have developed a long-term strategy, they can treat it as an ongoing initiative by establishing clear key performance indicators, observing trends and how employees are accessing well-being programs, and regularly Gathering feedback from employees to refine and improve the program over time. Doing so will support employee engagement and help implement changes as the organization and employees’ needs evolve.
Employers will continue to demonstrate their commitment to holistic well-being by enhancing programs and introducing personalized approaches that support diverse personal pathways to well-being and ultimately help individuals identify the resources and behavioral activities that will help them. Third Horizon Strategies helps employers design benefits and programs that equip their employees with the skills they need to thrive and take ownership of their well-being. By grounding well-being initiatives in an organizational change management strategy and behavioral health models, the firm helps organizations create an environment where employees feel supported, valued, and empowered to thrive both personally and professionally.