Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Well, Well, Well... It pays off!

A press release on 29th December 2010 announced that Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) of the Phillipines won an Excellence Award at Asia’s premier awards program on corporate social responsibility, the 9th Asian CSR Awards, for its holistic employee wellness program, Live Smart: Healthy U, Wealthy U, Happy U.  Live Smart! promotes physical, financial, social, spiritual and community wellness of employees. Employees are given the rudiments of managing finances wisely under the Wealthy U! pillar. Through this, employees get entrepreneurship opportunities, attend seminars on managing finances, and enjoy discounts and promos. Happy U!, on the one hand, serves as employees’ outlet for fun and meaningful activities. Under Happy You! is Happy to Help, the community service program wherein employees get to choose a partner organization for their volunteer activity.

This wellness programme is fairly unique, as far as I can tell, amongst the spectrum of employee wellness activities in many companies not least because it includes the aspect of financial health and wellness, not just physical and spiritual aspects. Helping employees manage their personal finances can be a massive contribution to empowering them with far-reaching implications for the strength of local communities. Most people have never received any formal education or training in the complexities of managing household economics, in selecting insurance, in setting up savings progammes, in providing for the cost of education or possible sickness in the family,  in making significant purchases including home-buying and mortgage, in aspects of banking costs and much more. Helping employees to live within their means, provide for their own future and enjoy a life of managing money in a stress-free way is part of the triple bottom line of CSR applied to individiuals. This is an area in which corporations can do much more, I believe, and gain added value through improved employee wellbeing and engagement.

I am pleased to see the recognition for such a program at the Asia Awards.  This is of course is at the heart of a CSR for HR approach. In fact, I recently wrote an Editorial for CSRwire.com on the subject of employee wellness programmes, quoting a Harvard Business Review article  in which conclusive proof is provided to show that investment in employee wellness, beyond the minimum requirements of the law, delivers a Return on Investment beyond the reasonable expectation of most. Johnson & Johnson report a $2.71 saving for every $1 spent, saving the company $250 million in healthcare costs over the past decade. In many cases, the return is even greater, as HBR reports "The ROI on comprehensive, well-run employee wellness programs can be as high as 6 to 1."  The authors of the HBR study point out that "passes to fitness clubs and nutrition information in the cafeteria are not enough".

I believe this aspect of CSR and HR has been long underestimated. It is now an approach whose time has come. The investment in employee wellness has to be considered one of the most fundamental tenets of a CSR approach, and I have not come accross a single company that has implemented such an approach and not reaped significant benefits. There is a clear business case, with measurable financial benefits, unlike some other areas of CSR which are header to measure.

Whether your company is in it for the money, or simply because you value your employees, it seems that an employee wellness programme should be an imperative for any Company serious about sustainability in 2011.  This is why I will be repeating, also in 2011, my mantra : It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. Contact me via www.twitter.com/elainecohen  on Twitter or via my website www.b-yond.biz/en

2 comments:

Alethea said...

I spent four years with the American Heart Association as a consultant to our corporate partners via the cause campaign Start! (www.startwalkingnow.org) in New York City and Detroit. There is a wide range of engagement in both basic and innovative employee wellness programs out there. Some corporations had tied senior management pay to employee wellness program engagement over five years ago. Others had increased the price of the junk food in their cafeterias and decreased the prices on healthier choices. The difference between whether a company was truly making an impact on both their bottom line and their employee's health was primary driven by senior management buy-in and engagement. Where the CEO joined the lunchtime walking program, so too did the employees. These CEOs would get as much business benefit from this as health, having the opportunity to hear from employees who otherwise would never have direct contact with him. I was definitely seeing HR struggle to prove value though, despite copious stats that the American Heart Association and other sources could provide proving aggregate bottom line benefits, as companies want their own data, and they want immediate results. While some aspects of these programs are measurable, others are not. Gathering corporation-specific evidence of success is further complicated for small firms by employee privacy issues. It's not easy for HR to commit to this path, but it is absolutely the right thing to do for a sustainable business.

elaine said...

Thanks Alethea for reading and for your insights. Spot on! I couldn't agree more about senior manager engagement.
thanks, elaine

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