Magazine article New Zealand Management

HEALTHY EXECUTIVES : Keeping Workers Healthy - More Than Just Work-Life Balance; in a Day and Age When Absenteeism, Low Morale, and Poor Work Performance Potentially Slash Company Profits, Many New Zealand Corporates Are Getting Smart about Ensuring the Health and Well-Being of Their Staff Is as Good as It Can Be

Magazine article New Zealand Management

HEALTHY EXECUTIVES : Keeping Workers Healthy - More Than Just Work-Life Balance; in a Day and Age When Absenteeism, Low Morale, and Poor Work Performance Potentially Slash Company Profits, Many New Zealand Corporates Are Getting Smart about Ensuring the Health and Well-Being of Their Staff Is as Good as It Can Be

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Peart

The physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of our people is really critical to us," says Michael Stanley, human resources director for Vodafone NZ.

"We make a commitment to all of our people around their well-being - it's an important part of our strategy to attract talented people," he says.

Vodafone in New Zealand has taken a three-pronged approach to the health and well-being of its employees by including health and life insurance as part of remuneration packages; offering various activities which employees can join or choose to be part of, like a Weight Watchers programme or dragon boat racing; and providing a work environment that enhances productivity, builds morale and strengthens customer service.

A key component is Vodafone's WAVE programme (well-being, attitude, vitality and energy), which is designed to enhance the health and well-being strategies that employees may already utilise, expand the scope of activities and benefits to employees' families, and create a positive work culture that reduces sickness and stress.

This programme allows employees to choose what they need to reach their own personal health and wellness goals. It has been taken up by most of Vodafone's 1500 New Zealand employees. The WAVE online well-being service can be accessed through a central portal and contains a monthly feature article by an expert in a specific field, a success story of an employee achieving personal well-being goals, and a medical or sporting advice section.

It also posts special deals and discounts, information on WAVE activities, health assessments and expos, and offers a bulletin board where employees can let others know their training regimes and invite them to join.

Vodafone employees at the Auckland head office are heavily involved in local dragon boat racing competitions. On average they enter six teams every year, backed by company sponsorship. They can access information about the racing in the first instance through the web portal and use this as a conduit for getting other colleagues involved.

Stanley says watching people take part in Weight Watchers programmes is rewarding because of the "great individual results".

"We can demonstrate on an individual, case-by-case basis that people benefit from heart screening, blood pressure testing, and cholesterol testing. There are specific tangible results like improving people's morale and motivation.

"Our people work really hard. To support that, we take a genuine interest in their well-being, backing that up with information and activity help and support."

Stanley says well-being offers are a "key component" of the remuneration packages Vodafone NZ offers prospective employees.

Word of mouth means it's an important recruitment tool. At interview time, Vodafone managers explain that an annual health check, the full cost of which is covered by the company, is available to all employees. Programmes like Weight Watchers are subsidised and the company handles all the logistical issues associated with enrolment and registration.

Terry Shubkin, account and service delivery manager for Unisys NZ, the information services company, says 2008 risks being the year of the "revolving door" if employers continue to focus on simply attracting new staff, rather than developing and retaining current employees.

Resulting staff turnover is expected to cost New Zealand businesses dearly over the coming 12 months, Shubkin says.

"At a time when the skills shortage is squeezing the New Zealand economy, staff turnover is turning into a major problem that is already costing the country's businesses 1.5 times the annual salary of the replaced worker.

"It costs more to continually replace staff, and in a tight labour market each new hire drives up wage levels for the same job role without a corresponding increase in productivity. …

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