|More to Life|
Encourage Employee Wellness
Use rewards and remuneration as a leverage for better integrated EWP outcomes. By Dr Fundile Nyati
The 15 year old, rapidly growing, unregulated and still fragmented integrated employee health and wellness ‘niche’ industry has in many ways demonstrated the previously ‘unrecognised’ strategic value of these human capital interventions to employers and employees alike. Year on year, we are seeing many useful innovations within the four recognised pillars of this emerging ‘niche’ industry – in Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Disease Management Programmes, and in Absenteeism, Incapacity and Disability Management Programmes.
In spite of these innovations, when one looks at best practice elsewhere in the globe, especially in the USA, Canada, Europe and Australasia, the South African employee wellness industry has not as yet embraced some key practices, which are actually key success factors for more sustainable EHWP solutions. One of these key practices is the concept of using EWP ‘reward programmes’ as both pull and retention factors for employees to adhere to their side of the bargain, in ensuring that the wide ranging EWP interventions that are employer-funded have better chances of sustainable success.
Currently in South Africa, employers who understand the value of EWP programmes are investing huge sums of money in these programmes. However, the level of utilisation by employees often falls short of expectations. Despite high levels of awareness about issues that predispose employees to various health risks such as chronic lifestyle diseases, this awareness is not necessarily translated into lifestyle and behavioral change that would reduce either the prevalence of these diseases or at least slow down their progression.
It is in recognition of the age-old fact that when one deals with human beings, it is sometimes necessary to address the, ‘What’s in it for me?’ question beyond the biomedical benefits that health promotions and disease prevention people will provide. This is where ‘reward or incentive’ programmes come into the picture. They address that ‘selfish’ part of the human psyche, and it works wonders in the success of EWP programmes once tapped appropriately. This is also why there is such a pull and retention factor for enrolment to similar reward or incentive programmes like Discovery’s Medical Schemes Vitality Wellness programme.
The concept of reward and incentive programmes has been used successfully to ensure positive outcomes at the workplace, with resultant tangible benefits for both the employer and the employees.
The practice of a reward or incentive programme has been used by a manufacturing industry employer to ensure optimal uptake by employees during their annual on-site HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) campaigns. This medium sized employer with a staff complement of about 750 employees has, during the last three years, managed to attain 100% HCT participation because each participant was entitled to receive an entry level ‘cellphone handset’ from the employer. I have also seen other employers giving ‘food’ vouchers for participants, and so the investment need not cost the employer an ‘arm and a leg’. It must simply be appropriate to induce the desired behavior without breaking the bank.
There are no hard and fast rules or one-size-fits-all approaches to how rewards or incentives can be used to induce the desired behavior and ensure attainment of desired outcomes.
Also, these rewards or incentives need not be monetary. They can involve something like retention of a significant percentage of unused sick leave days at the end of the sick leave cycle for employees with excellent sick leave profiles or a lunch or dinner with a member of the company executive or CEO for those who have demonstrated the desired EWP conduct.
Dr Fundile Nyati is a medical doctor and the CEO of Proactive Health Solutions (PHS), www.phs-world.co.za.