Employers have a choice.
Offer some wellbeing-based stuff for employees, or don’t.
At the moment, it’s a choice that isn’t a calculated one. Just a bunch of pros and cons for the business to debate.
The case for it is a strong and compelling one; to court the best talent, be good corporate citizens, help with things like stress and build employee pride & motivation. No one can argue with the purity or the logic.
But what you can argue is there is just a strong a case not to do something. Because the uncomfortable truth is that, within individual companies, hard evidence as to the effectiveness of initiatives is a damn sight harder to find than the office bowl of fruit.
Some HR directors can point to sickness days and churn figures however many default to news-y soundbytes; how many collective steps were counted by the new subsidised pedometers, how many folk attending the last smoking cessation workshop and how many shiny new bikes were bought through the bike2work scheme.
These are nice things, sure. But do they swing the debate in favour of investment?
We sometimes forget that boards have shareholders who demand that investment decisions net a yield. Managing Directors feel the constant chill of the competition breathing down their necks. HR Directors have a million things fighting for a line on the P&L – all of which are deemed culturally crucial and some which have a proven return.
None of these stakeholders above are going to bother with things that are nice, only with things that will make the company more successful.
As an industry that provides vitality services, we traditionally haven’t helped these companies make their decisions more objective. Instead, we’re content in pushing new fangled services onto clients without any true accountability while simultaneously congratulating ourselves on riding the crest and being part of the new corporate zeitgeist.
Businesses are businesses.
They must only make decisions when armed with a business case. Which means providers have an obligation to help clients build the commercial case for any investment in employee vitality and then provide ongoing governance to report the positive financial results. If we can’t demonstrably do this, we should take a long hard look in the mirror.
The difference between being seen as integral to a company or someone with a keen hobby lies in their ability to prove their worth. Not just anecdotal evidence, but commercial.
Reducing stress, eating healthier, living more active lifestyles are all admirable objectives for society as a whole. That’s without doubt. For companies, however, these remain simply a means to an end. And that end is a more successful & profitable operation in the eyes of it’s customers, shareholders and employees.