Communicating wellbeing programmes: engagement, advocacy and employee experience

7 November 2022

At its heart, a company wellbeing programme seeks to help employees flourish and reach their potential. Healthy people – employees – enjoy a better quality of life. They benefit from a lower risk of disease, illness and injury. And they perform better at work, too. But as many employees as possible must engage with your wellness programme to benefit from it and for you to reap the rewards. Here, we take a look at the role of communications and some key considerations. 

Every employee is unique

'One size doesn’t fit all' when it comes to employee wellbeing. Your employees will each have their own set of health concerns; some known and some not. They’ll have different work and life priorities. And they’ll have their own set of motivational triggers and varying levels of wellbeing comprehension. Just like we all do. Wellbeing can’t be 'done' to an individual. So our role as communicators is to make it relevant, creating interest and opportunity for employees to seize ownership of their health and take control. 

Understand your people and their needs 

You only have the budget and resource to do so much. It makes sense therefore to tackle the health and lifestyle risks where you can make biggest improvements and invest your time in communications that are both timely and which resonate. These goals require a deep understanding of the wellbeing challenges your people face, and of the channels and formats they are likely to most engage with. Habituation is defined as the diminishing impact of doing the same thing over and again. So understand what works for whom by: 

  1. varying communication types
  2. integrating multiple channels and formats
  3. using local vs central communications
  4. understanding where interactivity can be supported and when to use it
  5. and adapting messages by demographics, employee roles, etc.

Be clear about goals and communicate them 

Being open and honest fosters trust and removes barriers. Be clear to your employees about what wellbeing means, why your business supports it, why you're adopting certain initiatives, and what a good outcome looks like. Understanding this latter point is essential so that you know where to focus your time and communications and can rely on support from senior leaders. A strategic narrative gives them a purpose they too can invest their time in. It's also worth giving a branded identity to your wellbeing ambitions to cement them as an essential part of your company culture. 

Make the intangible tangible 

By making wellbeing more salient and tangible, so that wellbeing status and change can be seen, individuals are more likely to feel positive wellbeing is attainable and achievable. An example is telling the positive change stories of individuals who resonate. Think about the varying role profiles and demographics of your organisations and how your strategy is evolving to make messaging more emotional and personal.  

Keep it relevant and accessible

Rarely does an internal comms campaign roll out in a business where employees aren’t stretched for time. Our own internal communications manager Verity Lines cited this as the biggest barrier to effectiveness. Her guidance? Keep it bitesize, integrate and demonstrate the benefit to them in their role. A sales team appreciating improvement to their sales or renewals targets, or a care worker able to take a positive wellbeing step as part of their patient care, helps individuals better connect and participate. 

Iterate and experiment

'Once and done' won’t cut it. But you can equally feel overwhelmed by the wellbeing task in front of you and achieve programme paralysis. Start small. Build up. And then be cautious to avoid the pitfalls of an annual programme that becomes cyclical and partly process driven. Be sure to set goals, test messaging, seek feedback, ascertain what works for whom and scale for impact. 

Your communications, or those of your providers, are part and parcel of your employee’s experience. Seek to continually optimise. Analyse. Learn. Evolve.

Trust and empower rather than parent  

It is important for your staff to feel supported, happy and part of a team. By offering opportunities for a cross section of your workforce to become wellbeing advocates – both voices and influencers of your programme – you can develop two-way communications that help keep wellbeing initiatives alive and relevant, both at a local and central level. 

Leadership can’t be invisible. And communicating and demonstrating participation alongside a clear strategic narrative can show endorsement for all to engage with. 

Your line managers are pivotal to the success of your broader programme. Consider them as a key communication channel in themselves. It's worth educating them about and building their familiarity with each campaign and your broader strategy so they too can be a voice of wellbeing advocacy.

Measure and listen

Employee surveys. Exit surveys. Workplace forums. Watercooler moments.  Digital methods. There are so many ways to measure your communications and analyse the effectiveness of what you publish. Success relies on close alliances with other departments, particularly around insight and evaluation. Be sure to reach out widely and engage teams such as HR, occupational health, unions and frontline clinical staff. You may discover that a badly utilised employee benefit might simply be the result of poor communications rather than because the benefit itself is lacking. Set benchmarks and use everything at your disposal to gauge success and areas for future improvement.   

Like your wellbeing strategy as a whole, the communications you send out about it should be subject to the same scrutiny and optimisation. Be sure to:

  1. Design and analyse
  2. Implement effectively
  3. Evaluate success. 

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