Creating a Culture of Health
By Andy Crighton
A culture of health is one of, if not the most important driver of improving the health of a workforce. John Harris touched on this in the February issue of Hero On Health, which focused on incentives when he stated, “In fact, studies have shown the better the culture and communications effort, the smaller the incentive required to drive
higher participation rates.”
higher participation rates.”
Developing a true culture of health is not easy, and implementation can be even more challenging. In order to create a culture of health, organizations have to deliver on three distinct strategies:· Trust
· Long-term commitment/consistency
· Shared goals
If employees don’t see sincerity in all three areas, any results that are tied to an organization’s culture can be fleeting, or lost altogether.
Trust is a major component in building culture. But it’s hard to win and easy to lose. In part, because employees and management both have to understand that health is a shared responsibility and be willing to spend the time and energy to make improvements. Whether your organization uses internal staff or relies heavily on vendors for services, employees need to see consistency in messages and actions if you want to establish trust. At Prudential, we take the time and energy to gather feedback from our employees through regular surveys and through focus groups to understand what concerns they have regarding privacy and intrusiveness. We then use that information to develop our strategy, which demonstrates to employees that we’re listening.
Securing long-term leadership commitment
A long-term commitment from senior leaders and management is required to show employees that this is not an effort that will be here today and gone tomorrow. A company has to invest in making programs and services work, while ensuring conflicts in both the message and the delivery are avoided. For example, if your company advocates the importance of physical activity and nutrition but your onsite cafeteria doesn’t price healthy food options reasonably, or doesn’t provide a safe, well-marked place for activities like walking, employees will notice this conflict. Companies with a true commitment will critically assess this through measurement tools and take action to manage it. Regularly seeking feedback from employees on whether your company and supervisors support efforts to improve employee health is one way to ensure that leadership commitment remains a top priority for your company.
How many of us have aspirations of reducing the health risks of our workforce, but only share those goals and results with a small group in our department and maybe with senior leaders while other initiatives are shared openly with employees in order to gain support and monitor progress. Establishing a culture of health should be the responsibility of every employee and manager, not just one department. To achieve buy-in among Prudential employees, we share our goals and results with every employee through a biennial State of the Company Health Summit. This not only allows us to highlight our success, but also to engage business leaders in discussing why the health of their organization is important for them to be successful.
Building and sustaining a culture of health in an organization isn’t easy. For starters, your health culture can’t be in conflict with other initiatives in the company, and it needs to be ingrained in the overall culture so it remains intact during leadership changes.
If you keep factors like this in mind and stay focused on establishing trust, securing long-term leadership commitment and creating a sense of shared responsibilities and shared goals throughout your company, you can find success in building a healthy workplace culture. And in the long run, this can produce great results