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How to maintain employees’ engagement with wellbeing strategies over time

“Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.” Bruce Lee.

Wise words from the legendary Bruce Lee, and excellent advice for any person or business wanting to make meaningful, lasting improvements. Although, for employers looking to make the most from their employee benefits and wellbeing programmes, I would suggest that long-term consistency coupled with bouts of short-term intensity is really the key to achieving optimum results.

The big bang

We are all familiar with the ardour and positivity that often accompany ‘the new’. The excitement in the honeymoon period of a new relationship. The enthusiasm and energy when we start a new job. Our determination to turn over a new leaf in at least one area of our life at the start of each year…

Yes, positivity and enthusiasm are relatively easy when dealing with something that’s shiny and new. And in all these examples – from huge, potentially life-changing events like a new relationship or job, through to minor resolutions – we typically begin with the very best of intentions; ‘to start as we mean to go on’. But that can be easier said than done. New year’s resolutions are a classic example – a 2012 study by CouponCabin showed that 80% of gym members who join in January quit within five months. As the saying goes ‘falling in love is easy, staying in love is rare’.

Employers can also easily fall into this trap. When launching or making significant changes to a workplace pension, benefits or wellbeing scheme, you know that you need to shout about it in order to maximise employee participation and engagement. Savvy employers will also ensure that their wellbeing initiatives are given suitable prominence as part of their induction programme for new employees. But what about the rest of the time?

Keeping the love alive

You launched with a bang and your new joiners are enthusiastically informed about the benefits and wellbeing support you offer. Marvellous. Launch and induction are both excellent examples of where short-term intensity has its place. Having sparked the initial interest, now it’s time to consider the long-term strategy needed for long-term engagement and ongoing improvements – both in your employees’ wellbeing and your return on investment as an employer.

Here are my top tips for maintaining engagement over the long term:

1. Make sure employee wellbeing remains a business priority, with buy-in from your senior team

If, as an employer, you ‘set and forget’ your wellbeing initiatives, don’t be surprised if your employees do the same thing!

2. Create a wellbeing calendar – with an accompanying communications plan

This doesn’t need to be long-winded, or complex, or expensive – and in today’s social-media-centric world, there are loads of public campaigns, initiatives and ‘#hashtag events’ you can piggy back on. Focusing on one key area each quarter can be a great starting point. For example, your financial wellbeing calendar might cover:

Q1. End of tax-year planning – reviewing pensions, making use of all available/appropriate allowances such as individual savings accounts (ISAs) etc

Q2. Learning at Work week – this can actually span all aspects of your wellbeing (as well as learning and development) programmes, and can be great time for additional financial education initiatives

Q3. Pension Awareness Day – this campaign gets bigger each year and helps dispel the myth that pensions have to be boring (or are too complicated to understand!) – use the broader momentum to run pension refresher campaigns and/or workshops and help get your employees excited about long-term saving (with generous tax benefits and employer contributions, no less!!)

Q4. Talk Money Week (previously known as Financial Capability Week) – similar to Pension Awareness Day, but on broader financial issues – so a perfect time to highlight your other financial benefits, or provide education and guidance in relation to e.g. budgeting, debt management or general financial planning

3. Include information on your pension, benefits and wellbeing programme in your broader employee communications

Make wellbeing an integral part of your company culture – rather than a standalone offering. Of course, provide updates that are specific to your benefits and wellbeing – but also include highlight them in your broader employee communications – your employee newsletter, intranets, posters up in the office/staff rooms/cafeteria etc.

4. Use personalisation and timely ‘nudges’ where possible

If you don’t have the technology in place for full personalisation with bespoke, individual nudges then don’t fear. Often just some basic segmentation is enough to help you ensure your communications remain relevant.

5. Don’t forget the human touch

Websites, online tools and guides, emails, social alerts, nudges etc can take you a long way – but every now and then people want to be able to discuss things with a real person. This is particularly true when it comes to more complex issues, like financial matters. This doesn’t mean you need to be offering all employees individual financial advice; support and guidance is enough for the vast majority. A 20-minute one-to-one session where an employee can ask questions about their financial plans and challenges typically delivers significant value. And if face-to-face is difficult for practical or budgetary reasons then these can be done over the phone or online.

As well as providing your employees with access to ‘expert’ humans to help with their wellbeing, internal ‘champions’ can help raise awareness of your programme and drive engagement. 

6. Meaningful governance drives meaningful action

When we say that governance shouldn’t be a tick box exercise, we mean it! And who said governance was just for pensions? The data and metrics available to you across all aspects of your reward, benefits and wellbeing schemes can provide invaluable insights and show you where further attention or action might be needed.

This article was first published with REBA on 22 October 2019

Further reading


Salary sacrifice is still going strong for pensions – are you and your employees making the most of it?

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