Market conditions such as global demand and commodity prices are putting pressure on the balance sheet top line across the Australian mining landscape.
As a result, boards and executive teams are looking for additional ways to manage their bottom line. There is a very practical and profitable way to achieve this by leveraging your most flexible and valuable asset – your human asset.
Previous initiatives in human resources focus on boosting productivity and performance through external factors. Remuneration and incentives such as flexible work conditions, on the job perks, professional development have been the traditional levers used. However, research shows that these are less effective than internal, or intrinsic factors. In 2015, progressive companies are boosting productivity and performance across the workforce by supporting each individual to make better decisions in order to be at their best.
Staff who make better decisions regarding their wellness@work have greater mental alertness, less fatigue, better memory, greater focus and concentration and are able to take on a higher workload with less stress. Not surprisingly, these employers perform better, are more productive, have less workplace accidents, make less mistakes and take less time off.
A 2014 study showed that the cost to Australian businesses of mental health conditions alone is $11 billion and the return on investment for promoting a mentally healthy workplace is $2.30 for every $1 invested. (PWC, Beyond Blue, National Mental Health Commission).
Think about all of the costs that hold your business back and how many of these would be avoidable with the right people doing the right things? . When it comes to the business case, if a wellness program can help to avoid one major accident or shut down, then it’s a great investment in time and resource.
The weight of evidence supporting these outcomes is driving CEOs to look at how they can boost the wellness profile of their workforce and as a result, their bottom line. Successful execution of this approach relies on four stages.
STAGE 1 - DIAGNOSTIC
A survey of the workforce is needed to understand the specific factors that are facilitating and inhibiting performance from a wellness perspective. A wellness check survey can be easily deployed on a national scale online and the data identifies the critical the ‘red flags’ that should be the top business priority. There may be specific sites or job families that represent a clear a present risk so inaction is not an option.
STAGE 2 – GUIDANCE & ADVICE [THE 6 CYLINDERS OF WELLNESS]
Staff need information, guidance and sound advice. Whether this is delivered via workshops, online or in printed information packs, the 6 cylinders of wellness is a good place to start. These there are the 6 areas of our work and life where the evidence shows that we need to be making good decisions and they include ACTIVITY, SLEEP, TIME OUT, SOCIAL CONNECTIONS, OUTLETS and NUTRITION.
As an example, the latest neurological studies show that poor sleep patterns, while very common are responsible for effected workers in the Australian workforce operating on the job with a cognitive capacity equivalent to 0.1% blood alcohol level – that’s twice the driving limit, even if they are drug and alcohol free on your site test.
There is nothing in the 6 cylinder advice which is inherently difficult, it’s simply giving staff the right guidance so that they can make the changes required themselves and their role.
STAGE 3 – SUPPORT
While it is the individual’s responsibility to take action for themselves, the company can play a role to make sustained change as easy as possible and there are two ways to do this.
1) A formal Corporate Wellness Program – These are initiatives that the company can offer to support staff. Examples include, annual health checks, vaccinations, health insurance subsidies, onsite skin checks, employee assistance programs (EAP), healthy eating choices and onsite exercise facilities.
2) Informal Support – From our experience, we observe that team leaders and managers are the front line in driving behaviour change across the company. The best outcomes are achieved by those who are encouraged to prioritise the wellness of their staff as a benchmark of good leadership.
We have found that it’s not about ‘rah rah’ wellness messages, it’s about managers building the conversation into their everyday business as usual way of managing.
STAGE 4 – MEASURE THE OUTCOMES
Using the same indicators as in the diagnostic survey in stage 1, you’ll have a point to point comparison of the impact of your program. Our study in 2014 showed that staff attending the 6 cylinder workshop experienced a 16% drop in workload pressure; 8% drop in stress levels; 5% boost in focus and concentration as well as an 80% reduction in smoking; all in 6 weeks.
Over a 3, 6 or 12 month period, you’ll not only be able to track the wellness outcomes, you’ll be able to measure the shift in business outcomes such as absenteeism, productivity, workplace accidents and the operational costs attributed to human error.
As you can see, this is not just about supporting your people, it’s an integral part of your risk mitigation strategy and the outcome of healthier, more productive staff is a healthier and more profitable bottom line.
*Christopher Paterson is the managing director of ALCHEMY Career Management, a firm which supports individuals to transition their career