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Employee Wellness and Development Guide

Business leaders who are focused on improving their bottom lines often overlook one of the most significant contributors to a company’s ongoing success: the satisfaction and well-being of its employees.

Fostering employee health and providing ongoing opportunities for professional development can have a positive impact on companies of all sizes, and in every industry.

Consider the fact that when employees have lower stress levels they’re more energized, engaged and productive. A team of healthy employees also enjoys lower rates of absenteeism and delivers significant savings on healthcare costs for their company.

Providing employees with opportunities for professional development also yields numerous benefits for corporations. Organizations that invest in their employees’ skills and knowledge employ innovative teams that work at higher levels. These companies become more attractive to outside talent, improving their recruitment efforts. They also boast higher levels of satisfaction among current employees, which leads to lower turnover rates that, as a result, saves the company money.

These are just a few ways professionals working in human resources careers can improve employee welfare, health, and development. HR departments can use the following employment guide to promote healthier living, stronger performance levels, and greater satisfaction for their organization’s employees.

Assess Health and Wellness Needs

While the basic components for healthy living are the same, each company will have its own unique strengths, weaknesses and needs surrounding the health of its employees. In an office located near several fast-food restaurants, obesity might be employees’ top concern. Professionals who work long hours may have difficulty finding time to exercise, and companies in high-stress industries might have alarming rates of anxiety-related illnesses.

Before moving forward with wellness initiatives, HR professionals should survey employees and find out what health issues are most important and pertinent to their needs. Identifying their concerns will not only allow companies to target the right problem areas, but this step will likely result in strong levels of participation.

Create a Culture of Wellness

There are many effective and popular employee wellness offerings that encourage professionals to work toward healthier lifestyles. These include:

  • Discounted gym memberships
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Free health screenings
  • Online health risk assessments

​While these benefits are excellent initial steps, HR professionals should also work to establish a culture of wellness within their organizations. Building a culture of wellness involves incorporating employee well-being into an organization’s goals and creating an atmosphere that encourages wellness through multiple touch points. To foster a health-conscious environment, a business should implement some of the following initiatives:

  • On-site fitness classes
  • A shower, for employees who run or bike to work
  • A full kitchen, to promote simple meal prep instead of reliance on processed food
  • Healthy snack offerings in break rooms and during meetings
  • Posted lists of health tips
  • Daily stretch breaks
  • Maps of suggested walking/running routes in the area
  • Health advice featured in the company newsletter
  • Sponsored runs and walks
  • Walking meetings
  • Stand-up desks

Offer Incentives

The mere presence of new health initiatives is enough motivation for some employees to take full advantage of a company’s programs. Other employees, however, may be more reluctant to try these incentives.

Establish incentives to appeal to reluctant employees and encourage higher rates of participation. Some organizations create competitions that reward hours spent working out or trips to the gym, providing a prize to the frontrunner from each quarter. Other incentive programs feature financial rewards and gifts for workers who complete health-related tasks, like getting an annual physical, competing in a fun run, taking a health-risk assessment, or participating in an aerobics class.

HR professionals should regularly survey employees to determine what types of incentives they value. These ideas can be taken into consideration to determine new rewards to offer periodically to keep employees excited about reaching healthy milestones.

Communicate Initiatives from Different Angles

Even if a company establishes a number of excellent wellness programs, it won’t see significant benefits if employees fail to use these programs over the long-term. Professionals need to be educated about new programs. Not every employee gravitates to the same method of communication, so HR departments should use a variety of forums and information-sharing techniques to encourage sustained commitment to wellness initiatives.

These are a few of the communication and outreach strategies companies may implement:

  • A web-based wellness program
  • On-site presentations
  • Wellness e-newsletters
  • Health tips posted in common areas
  • Off-site events and opportunities

Request Resources from Insurance Providers

HR professionals who are at a loss for new ideas and initiatives to promote health and wellness should turn to their insurance providers for support. Just as healthy employees lower expenses for a company, they also save money for healthcare providers. Therefore, many insurance companies are more than willing to help promote employee wellness.

Company representatives should always ask whether their insurance providers can supply educational materials, online resources, fitness discounts, and even their own full-scale incentive programs to encourage good health for employees.

Professional Development

An employee wellness program shouldn’t just be about physical health and its impact on the company. Professional employee development has an even stronger direct link to a company’s overall earnings, performance and success. While most companies have some professional development opportunities in place, few organizations are maximizing the opportunities to help their employees grow and learn. On a company-wide scale, professional growth can lead to the following improvements:

  • Higher productivity
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Increased revenue
  • Improved morale
  • Fewer mistakes and/or accidents
  • Increased number of promotions from within the company
  • Lower turnover

Enhance Onboarding and Training Procedures

High quality onboarding programs encourage new employees to get excited about working for an organization, become acclimated to the company’s culture, and achieve full productivity quickly. Successful onboarding programs should:  

  • Provide a clear understanding of the structure and goals of the company and the employee’s department
  • Encourage participation and relationship-building with colleagues
  • Clarify the new employees’ roles and responsibilities
  • Increase employee confidence and encourage self-efficacy

To determine whether onboarding procedures need an update or a complete overhaul, HR professionals should ask all new employees to evaluate their onboarding experience and provide honest feedback on the process.

Focused training sessions shouldn’t stop after an employee’s first few days on the job. Company leaders should regularly identify gaps in employee knowledge so HR staff can provide training in those areas. Some important training topics may include:

  • Management
  • Diversity
  • Workplace safety
  • Ergonomics
  • Business ethics
  • Customer service

Provide Voluntary Educational Opportunities

Unlike required training, employer-supported learning opportunities allow employees to take initiative and pursue further education in certain topics. These opportunities may help an employee perform better in their current position or it might prepare them for a desired promotion or lateral move.

Companies benefit from encouraging and providing opportunities for ongoing education because these initiatives enrich employee contributions and help management identify motivated individuals. There are many ways to supply these educational opportunities, including:

  • Self-directed online learning
  • Tuition coverage for degree programs
  • Fee coverage for certification
  • Brown-bag seminars
  • In-house corporate university

Set Up Coaching and Mentoring Programs

Fostering employee coaching and mentoring relationships is a powerful way to enhance job performance, boost job satisfaction and increase employee retention rates. While many professionals assume that mentoring is a one-on-one relationship in which a more senior employee mentors a more junior professional, there are many different mentoring arrangements, including:

  • Peer mentoring
  • Reverse mentoring
  • Group mentoring
  • Online mentoring

Instead of waiting for these relationships to naturally develop, companies should set up coaching and mentoring programs that match up employees and create a structure for goal-setting, meetings, check-ins and more. Providing a structured program not only increases the number of mentoring relationships within a company, but it allows HR professionals to evaluate and continually improve the program, making it more beneficial for all participants.

Continue to Challenge Employees

Company leaders often believe their top employees are satisfied simply because they are carrying out their job duties with no visible issues. However, when highly talented employees stagnate they can become bored and dissatisfied, often leading them to look for new challenges with other companies.

To prevent a talent drain and keep top employees engaged, consider providing them with job enrichment opportunities, such as special assignments or positions on multi-department committees.

These employees may also benefit from cross training, which gives workers the opportunity to attend training and learn the responsibilities and job functions of colleagues in different roles. Job rotation programs operate in a similar fashion, empowering employees to train and work in different positions throughout the company – whether it’s for a few days or a full year.

By broadening employee skill sets and exposing them to new roles, HR professionals can help them become more nimble, confident and prepared to develop holistic solutions and innovations that will contribute to the company’s success.