Executive Health: A healthy incentive

The ongoing effects of the global economic downturn might mean people aren’t leaving their posts at the moment – but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to.
A survey of 7100 New Zealanders and Australians, carried out by Insync Surveys and Red Balloon in July and August, revealed the startling statistic that 45 percent of those surveyed were planning to look for another job within the year. While this might be bit of wishful thinking for many, it points to worrying levels of job dissatisfaction.
The downturn may have caused some complacency amongst employers when it comes to retention. But even economic woes won’t stop your best and brightest looking at new opportunities, or being shoulder tapped. Skilled vacancies are also on the rise. The Department of Labour’s Jobs Online report in August showed that the number of skilled job vacancies advertised online had increased by 21.3 percent over the last year.
Recruiting and retaining high-performing employees (and avoiding the high costs of employee churn) requires understanding person’s key motivators, and then tailoring package to suit.
Increasingly, people are looking for employers who will help them achieve good work-life balance – stated as the number-one reason for staying with an employer by respondents in the Insync/Red Balloon survey. In the US, some employers are getting very creative in helping their teams achieve this modern-day holy grail, with benefits including in-house beauty salons, on-site car repairs and even pet-sitting.
An important factor in that balance is the maintenance of good health. 2010 survey of nearly 5000 Kiwi employees by Kelly Services found that employer-provided healthcare benefits were deemed either ‘very important’ or ‘important’ to 85 percent of workers. According to Julie Cressey of Madison Recruitment, the type of benefit sought is generally dependent on life stage.
Says Cressey: “More mature candidates or those looking for more senior roles place much higher importance on health [insurance] benefit, whereas others are attracted to gym or sports club memberships. Those in the earlier stages of their careers are generally not overly concerned about needing surgery, but at the same time they understand the value of health and wellbeing and work-life balance.”
Perhaps reflective of the influence work has in our lives, 80 percent of the Kelly survey respondents believed their employer should take some responsibility for their health and wellbeing.
The desire for health-related benefits and greater involvement is very good news for employers. Why? Aside from enhancing loyalty and morale, benefits that help to improve employee health can provide extra return on investment through their documented ability to reduce the high costs of sick leave and presenteeism (when an employee is at work, but due to illness, not fully productive).
Whether it’s weekly fruit delivery or comprehensive package, health benefits demonstrate workplace culture that values the all-important ‘balancing’ aspects of life. And for many people, you can’t put price on that. M

Peter Tynan is chief executive of Southern Cross Health Society.

Taking care of business
Ravensdown, New Zealand’s largest fertiliser supplier, provides employees with rather unique benefit – an annual allocation of free fertiliser. This is just one part of comprehensive employee benefits package that includes clothing allowance, discounted computer software and mobile phone services, and fully subsidised health insurance.
Tracey Paterson, general manager of human resources at Ravensdown, says while health insurance is regarded as ‘nice to have’ by candidates, it has much more power as retention tool. “Our people are used to being looked after. For full-time employees, [health] cover extends to partners and children – that’s benefit you don’t give up lightly,” Paterson says.

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