Investing in Employee Wellbeing

Hedley Lawson
Hedley Lawson

During the early 1980s, while I headed the North American Human Resources team for SOLA International (presently Carl Zeiss Vision), we implemented an employee Health and Wellness program called Healthways.
Our goals in creating the program were simple, yet profound:
  • To focus our initiatives on all employees and all of their family members.
  • To reduce the prevalent use of hospital emergency rooms in favor of using one’s personal physician.
  • To provide on-site inoculations for employees and their families, reducing the risk of contracting a medical issue or quite simply, the seasonal flu.
  • To encourage physical fitness programs from daily walks or jogging to sponsorship of recreational activities.
  • To provide frequent information on healthy eating and healthy living.
  • To support the formation of teams that competed against one another in programs, one of which was called “Waist Reduction,” similarly named to our manufacturing best practice “Waste Reduction” program.
  • To improve employee attendance and to reduce our health insurance premiums.
We were in time and in commitment light years ahead of other companies in the establishment of this type of program. A few of the following results were profoundly significant:
• Our attendance patterns were significantly improved.
• Our employee’s families were healthier, improving employee’s work attendance and their children’s school attendance.
• Our employees had even more fun at work.
• And we reduced our annual medical insurance premium to a rate 25 percent below all other employers in the U.S.

After a few years, we introduced semi-annual, at work physical screenings and blood testing. From this, several employees found they were diabetic or may have other medical issues that required immediate attention. Other initiatives followed, all met with gratitude by employees and the greatly improved recruitment of new employees who saw our initiatives as leading edge and personally valuable. Our annual turnover was unmatched by other companies in our region, and our employees became our recruiting ambassadors.

Decades later, other employers have been exposed to the growing evidence that the benefits of employee mental and physical health and wellness programs can dramatically increase employee wellbeing. Yet few companies today have reported broad and meaningful investment in employee health and wellness programs other than larger corporations.

Implementing an employee health and wellness, or employee wellbeing programs, requires close collaboration between company leadership, human resources, finance, benefit providers, insurance brokers and local health providers. Equally important, it requires a commitment from company leadership and ownership.

The evidence then and now is overwhelmingly in favor of taking the leap and implementing such a new program. If your company or your client companies do not have such a program today, take the time to contact your insurance carrier or broker, and work directly with employees to gain their insights in terms of personal and family needs, for assistance to develop and launch your program. Whoever you choose to assist you, get started now: the benefits to your company, your employees, and your client companies will be greatly valued.

Hedley Lawson
Global Managing Partner and IERG Global Business Leader
Aligned Growth Partners, LLC
(707) 217-0979
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