What is the best way to ensure that employees buy-in to your corporate well-being programme?... Maybe you can tell them about the benefits of the programme? Or maybe you could force them to engage - making participation mandatory? Perhaps you could bribe them to attend training sessions with the best cookies and cakes your well-being budget will buy? Or perhaps, and if you get really desperate, you could even pay them to participate…

or maybe… before spending all of your well-being budget on programmes and initiatives that you think your employees would need/like/benefit from - you could ask them what they would find most useful. 

Getting buy-in to well-being and mental health programmes in busy organisations can be difficult. Why would staff attend a day-long session on the health benefits of managing their work-load effectively, if attending means that their list of tasks to complete by the end of the week just gets much longer and… they find themselves much less able to manage their work-load effectively. When employees are busy, stressed and tired – encouraging them to take time out of the day for non-compulsory, health-related programmes may be a challenge. Yet there is nothing more disappointing than spending your whole well-being budget on programmes and initiatives that nobody takes an interest in.

Deloitte recently conducted a survey of 202 UK employers and published its findings in its 2018 Global Human Capital Trends Report. The report found that 88% of UK employers offer well-being programmes to their staff (compared to 82% of employers in organisations in the rest of the world). Yet whilst most UK employers are now offering well-being programmes, a particularly interesting finding from the report was that UK employers did not seem to be offering the well-being initiatives that employees thought would be most useful.

Deloitte commented that “despite increased corporate attention and investment in well-being, our research indicates that companies must do a better job connecting well-being programmes with employee expectations… substantial gaps remain in many areas between what employees value and what companies offer to their employees.”

The report highlighted that whilst 60% of employees would value mental health counselling, only 30% of employers were offering this service. Even though 60% of employees would like to receive well-being counselling, only 35% of employers were providing this to their staff. Similarly, whilst 63% of employees would appreciate the availability of healthy snacks in the workplace, only 32% of organisations actually delivered on this... 

(...and of course that also seems to mean that bribing staff to attend training with carrot sticks may just work better than those cookies).

The question that then arises is how organisations should make decisions about their well-being and mental health strategy. Perhaps, organisations should be taking a bottom-up approach to well-being. Rather than designing a strategy and then gauging how employees respond, maybe the first best step would be to ask employees to consider what they would find most valuable.

Deloitte highlights that “expanding well-being programmes to encompass what employees want and value is now essential”. After all, we all like it when we get what we want.  An easy way to ensure employee engagement with well-being programmes would therefore be to give employees exactly what they have asked for. 

So whilst selling the benefits of health, bribing staff with cookies(/carrot sticks) or keeping a scary, mandatory-training-attendance-register might work to get staff to participate in corporate well-being programmes – it would be much easier if we just asked employees what they want and then gave it to them.