The Importance of Strategy

Too many times do I meet with organisations that are offering a suite of health and wellbeing initiatives, activities and benefits to staff, and spending a great deal of money on them, without a clearly defined strategy. Organisations that do formulate a strategy then deliver an effective program can expect a high ROI. Recent research shows the return on an effective health program to be in the order of 6:1. (1).

Whether you’re an organisation that is keen to implement a health and wellbeing program for the first time, or an organisation with a program in place, the start of a new year is the perfect time to design, or revise, your organisations health and wellbeing strategy.

Below are 5 important things to consider when formulating a health and wellbeing strategy.


1.Understand your strategic intent

When formulating a health and wellbeing strategy the first questions to ask is ‘Why are we doing this?’ and ‘What are we looking to achieve?’ This sounds simple, and it is, however so many businesses forget to ask these questions before launching program initiatives. The answers to these questions differ greatly, as do the solutions. For example, an organisation looking to improve employee engagement as its strategic intent would have a different strategy to the organisation looking to reduce the number of Injuries and Work Cover claims.

It is important that these questions are asked of not only the program owners (typically HR), but business leaders, because the health and wellbeing strategy must be supported from the top of the organisation. Without buy-in and support from the top it is less likely the program will be given the resources and ongoing support it needs to be successful. There is also a greater chance that the program may be cut from the budget during difficult times (we’ve seen lots of this in the past few years).

At Elevate, we find the most efficient and effective way to establish strategic intent is to facilitate a workshop with all relevant stakeholders present. In just an hour or two you’ll have everyone on the same page and answers to these very important questions.

2.Establish links to company values & people strategy

Many organisations still view the health and wellbeing program as an ‘employee benefit’, implying that the only benefit of an effective wellbeing program is to the employee. Of course this is not the case, with countless studies highlighting the clear links between employee health and organisational productivity. A study by Medibank showed that healthy employees are up to 3 times more productive than their unhealthy peers (2).

To ensure your wellbeing strategy does not sit on the peripheral and achieves the strategic intent links between the strategy and the company values and people strategy must be established. A simple way of doing this is to create a two column table, with the organisational values or core drivers in the people strategy in the first column and then the links to the wellbeing strategy in the other column.

3.Establish the health risk profile

You may have heard the old saying ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’. Well, this couldn’t be more true when it comes to health and wellbeing. It is highly likely that one objective of your strategy will be to improve the health and wellbeing of employees and therefore reduce the health risk profile of the organisation.

Before you can reduce your organisations health risk profile you need to establish baseline data to understand which areas of health need to addressing as part of your strategy. The most common way to establish the health risk profile is to have employees participate in a health check. Health checks are typically carried out onsite in 15-30 minutes. While individual employee health check results are confidential, organisations typically receive an aggregated report outlining their health risk profile.

At Elevate as well as establishing the health risk profile we are also able to use the data to establish the unproductive labour cost of the organisation as well as the potential cost savings, if the health risk profile improves. Being able to link the health risk profile to business performance is an important step in measuring the ROI of the program.

4.Learn from your people

It is important that your program is targeted to the health needs of staff. While the target areas (eg. Nutrition, Stress, Sleep) are easily identified through your health risk profile the types of activities and interventions must appeal to employees to ensure a high level of engagement and participation. Without high participation from high risk employees (not just the healthy ones) the chance of reducing the health risk profile is unlikely.

And what better way to learn what your people want than to ask them! Below are a few questions you may ask;

  • Do you currently participate in the wellbeing program and why?
  • What do you like/dislike about the existing program?
  • What would you like to see as part of our wellbeing program moving forward?
  • What is your preferred learning style (face to face, individual/group, online)?
  • Which times would you most likely attend wellbeing initiatives (before 9am, 9am-12pm, lunch, 2pm-5pm, after hours)

So how do you gather this information from staff? Well, there are a couple of ways. While these questions can be asked via a survey I find that face-to-face interviews are a much better way to go. Interviews can be done internally or by using a partner like Elevate. The added benefit of using an external partner is that staff are more likely to be more open with their answers.

5.Establish objectives, KPI’s and reporting

No strategy would be complete without clear objectives and KPI’s. Your objectives should fall out of your strategic intent and insights from stakeholders and staff. I’d recommend in your first year of your strategy aim for no more than 3-5 key objectives. When setting your KPI’s keep them simple, appropriate to your organisation and your strategic objectives and challenging yet realistic. Once you’ve established your objectives and KPI’s establish a schedule of when reporting will take place. For most organisations a quarterly report is sufficient.


There you have it, 5 important things to consider when formulating or reviewing your wellbeing strategy for 2014. I hope you found this first post useful.

Until next time,

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