By Andrea Goodkin and Wendy King

We hear it all the time.

HR worries over what they see in the workplace. Managers complain that they can’t find good people, or keep them either. Turnover rates are high. Engagement is low.  

On top of that, upper management is making suggestions or even providing directives like, “Maybe we should launch a new wellness program to boost employee morale.” 

But red flags like high turnover and low performance signal a deeper issue than a wellness program alone can fix. An unhealthy corporate culture and poor employee morale point to a foundation that’s not stable. Repairing your company’s employee culture requires an ongoing strategy to enhance the many touchpoints that drive employee engagement. It’s what differentiates a company that’s thriving from one that’s just getting by.

There’s an abundance of evidence that shows employers can be doing a better job. Gallup started measuring job engagement among Americans in 2000 and the findings have been consistent ever since: Less than one-third of us are engaged in our jobs. Small wonder then, that 51 percent of all U.S. workers (and a whopping 60 percent of Millennials) are looking for new jobs at any given point in time.

Wellness Programs are Only Part of the Solution

When the employee culture is one where trust and commitment are in short supply, rolling out a wellness program is likely to be greeted with eye-rolls. Disengaged workers will be skeptical of HR-led initiatives that may be perceived as their employer’s self-serving effort to boost company profits, or shift healthcare costs, rather than focusing on employee well-being.  

A new wellness program with a high financial incentive might garner great participation at first, but it may not be a true indicator of success over the long term.  Wellness programs launched in a silo, without connection to strong and pervasive “people first culture” will wane over time.  

What matters more is a caring employee culture that promotes job satisfaction, a collaborative environment, recognition for doing the job well and reinforcement of individual contributions. That’s how you create an emotional connection with workers.  And that connection is what helps attract the type of talent you want to employ going forward. 

That kind of connection is not built through HR alone. HR may be responsible for setting the agenda and creating the tools for programs to support a positive working environment, but it’s up to your leaders to drive and execute the cultural agenda. They must set the example and walk the talk. 

Together, management and HR need to improve their insights and set the stage for a stronger cultural foundation where engagement is fostered and everyone thrives. Then initiatives that focus on personal well-being will be better received from a population that trusts its employer and cares about both organizational and personal success. Here’s how to get started.

  • Undertake an employee culture assessment and gauge employee engagement through surveys, focus groups and other methods of gathering feedback. Once you have a clear understanding of your strengths and opportunities, take action by making changes or implementing programs that help foster an environment marked by high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction. 
  • Evaluate your Total Rewards inventory. Does it effectively reflect tangible and intangible benefits? Employees often have high appreciation for things that don’t have a dollar value, like an inclusionary environment, having a sense of purpose in their work, and workplace values in which they are invested and proud.
  • Develop or refine your employee value proposition. The intangible benefits in your Total Rewards program are a manifestation of this, but how well is it articulated? How relevant is it to your organization, your people and your culture today? Most important, how well do you uphold its principles every day?

A soundly conceived, well-rounded wellness program isn’t a fix for poor morale and employees who aren’t engaged. But it’s a great and worthwhile investment in your people – after you strengthen the foundations of your employee culture.

HUB International’s consultants can work with you on ways to understand and help improve your workplace environment and employee engagement so your wellness initiatives will be sustainable, impactful and build the healthy workforce you desire.