Ingredients for a successful well-being initiative

Ingredients for a successful well-being initiative
Ingredients for a successful well-being initiative

Jamie True

Jamie True


One of the main challenges when improving and maintaining employee well-being as a human resources professional is working with inconvenient tools and systems.

With a workforce spread across geographically disparate locations and multiple shifts and an environment that makes sharing and collaboration between employees difficult, this challenge can be amplified.

Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Uber, Deliveroo – all darling brands of the tech sector, are focused on connecting consumers with suppliers, wherever and whenever. As we seek out convenience, this same phenomenon is changing the way we work, driven further by information intensity and the desire to share and collaborate.

Many of these tech-driven services learn from our interactions and deliver a more relevant and appropriate experience as a result, and this is something we're coming to expect. According to Accenture, 75 percent of business buyers expect companies to be able to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions by 2020.

Itsu, the 'Asian inspired fast food' chain, is pretty far from being a tech business, but it is a business with an employee community enabled by technology. Its proposition is built around convenience – just because you need to grab food on the go doesn't mean it can't be healthy. Yet managing a workforce of 1,300 staff across 70 locations is anything but convenient.

Around 70 percent of Itsu’s restaurant employees come from outside of the UK and English might not be their first language. Some of the employees, such as those based in 24/7/365 locations such as airports, may also work unsociable hours and miss out on team meetings and other face-to-face activities. In this environment, the company was struggling to establish a sense of community among its workers and a connection back to the organisation's leadership and brand.

LifeWorks believes that persistent participation is a key part of the recipe for a successful employee engagement and total well-being strategy. The platform itself is founded on a holistic approach, covering physical, emotional, personal, social, financial and professional wellness, because all these elements are interlinked. But they can’t be addressed at all if people don’t sign up, or download and use the application, then keep coming back and using it.

This is why many organisations will claim to have a well-being strategy. But it is often one that has evolved piecemeal, with benefits sourced from multiple providers, internal communications and an Employee Assistance Platform (EAP) existing in separate silos. Not only does it make participation challenging, it makes it very difficult to assess the impact of the strategy.

The HR professional tasked with qualifying such initiatives then has to follow the trail of information breadcrumbs to try and work out the full story. It’s like receiving an itemised phone bill and having to get a measure of how healthy, happy and engaged your employees are, with no context as to what each number relates too.

The World Health Organization defines health as "the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity." The attributes of total well-being cannot be assessed in isolation because of their interdependency. For Itsu, this meant giving employees a platform to communicate with each other in the palm of their hand and on their own timeframe.

The programme provided Itsu staff with 24/7/365 clinical and professional support, plus preventative initiatives to support physical, mental and emotional well-being in the form of snackable content, risk assessments and challenges. The LifeWorks implementation also includes recognition and a private social network for rewards and peer-to-peer engagement, enabling employees to communicate directly with each other, share news and stories, celebrate achievements, ask for help, build mini communities and organise social activities. Ultimately, people have more and more reasons to come back, creating perpetual engagement.

“Persistent participation is a key part of the recipe for a successful employee engagement and total well-being strategy”

Itsu staff also get access to discounts and cashback at over 9,000 retailers, restaurants and leisure venues, fuelling their financial well-being with easy ways to save money. With a largely millennial work force, having the ability to communicate with each and every person in a way they will respond to is fundamental because team members feel more valued and can build relationships within the company beyond the immediate people they work with on a day-to-day basis.

Enabling this community is an inherent part of the Itsu brand – convenient, healthy and futuristic. As the company claims: "Welcome to the fast food of the future; it's Asian-inspired, good for you and delicious, power packed with zen goodness to help keep you on the ball."

Technology is changing the way that companies communicate and engage their employees when it comes to their benefits, enabling a personalised experience that fits individual team members' needs. Employees don’t necessarily want to open up to communications about nutrition when they are depressed; they want to be educated about depression. And they’re also used to getting a personalised user experience which is slick and intuitive, whereas traditional HR platforms are structured.

Times have changed and organisations need to realise that employees want to be connected with their colleagues and employer at a time and on a device that suits them. Workers expect enterprise tools for searching, sharing and consuming information to be as 'smart' and compelling as those they use in their personal lives, served up in a convenient and accessible format. Personalisation and ease of use are key not just to engagement, but to persistent engagement, and that’s the key to a total well-being success.

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