Researching the Path to Employee Well-Being

A primary research study was conducted by sr4 Partners LLC from May through August, 2012 with the goal of gaining a better understanding of what works when it comes to influencing well-being habits, and creating supportive social connections within the cultural landscape of a major corporation in the United States.

During the 4-month study data was collected on: the relationship between well-being and work; general awareness of health management and general wellness resources; and behaviors associated with well-being engage­ment. The research involved studying four pilot groups (“learning groups”) of 5-9 members each: (Group 1) individuals that work at the same corporate center; (Group 2) individuals who work in the same department or function; (Group 3) individuals who participate in a common physical activity; and, (Group 4) individuals who participate in a common social, non-physical activity. For each group, a “connector” was initially identified, who then recruited the rest of the group.

All four groups were given the same goal - to maximize the impact of their well-being efforts. It was suggested that this might be done in two ways: by helping group members make progress on personal well-being goals; and by inviting others to do something life changing.

The research study resulted in a number of key observations and findings that were drawn from collected survey data and observations during group check-ins. These findings have been used to inform a set of “engagement strategies” that have been built into the plan­ning for the expansion of corporate well-being efforts.

Encouraging people to create and pursue personal well-being goals and behaviors is best supported by peers and connected social networks. As such, efforts to promote well-being should take a “grassroots approach”, versus a top-down directive approach, through the recruitment of advocates who are willing to promote the benefits of well-being to the depths of their personal networks.

  • The social “peer” group is where people will look for support on well-being goals, and form extended relationships for accountability when there is alignment on a common activity.
  • The functional “work” group can be leveraged to help people get started. Information presented to work groups can help people better understand and access the breadth of well-being benefits and offerings available within the company; provide instructions for using health management and fitness related tools and resources; and, gives the manager/supervisor the opportunity to signal permission for working on personal well-being goals.
  • To support the grassroots effort, advocates (“Ambassadors”) can be recruit­ed and equipped with tools and information to disseminate in “local areas.” Additionally, Ambassadors can be invited to create and champion activities that best support well-be­ing in their work areas.

Belonging to a small group that periodically convenes to discuss and support each other’s personal well-being goals is an invaluable technique in helping people move from having a “well-being intention” to making a “well-being commitment.”

  • Ambassadors should have a primary objective of encouraging “small groups” to form in their work areas. This can be done through the recruitment of “connectors”—friends who are motivated to pursue a personal well-being goal and are willing to convene 4-6 others who will meet periodically to support each other. Small groups are viewed as an important step to identifying accountability partners who provide daily support and encouragement
  • It is recommended that group members make a 12-16 week commitment to estab­lish personal goals, hold periodic face-to-face check-ins on progress, and celebrate achievements.

Helping people understand and utilize the tools and resources available through the company’s health management services, fitness facilities and health and wellness programs is a known path to individuals paying attention to other dimensions of well-being.

Promoting habits known to contribute to sustained focus on personal well-being should be the platform for an invitational pledge for all employees to initiate or enhance their well-being journey.

Making visible what people are doing to be well should be a priority for communications, and Ambassadors can be encouraged to find ways to demonstrate and celebrate activities.

  • Cultural and behavioral change is known to follow what people see others doing—in “their neighborhoods” and among those in perceived leadership positions.

Continuing education should be provided to Ambassadors and stakeholders to equip a broad group with the ability to share the business and health case for continuing company invest­ment in employee well-being.

To learn more about the research behind sr4’s consultation services for enhancing the well-being efforts of your employees, contact us.

Chris @ sr4