UPFRONT : Taking the company pulse

When the average age of your workforce is 42 and their skills are in short supply, issues of retention loom large – and employee health assumes strategic interest.
Auckland-based Energex perhaps typifies trend increasingly evident in developed economies worldwide (see our health feature on page 46 of this issue). Its employee profile is older, fatter, more ‘at risk’ of contracting potentially killer conditions such as diabetes or heart disease – and more prone to health-related absenteeism.
That realisation prompted Energex to get proactive, first by providing subsidised health insurance for all its 345 employees and their families. It was case of tackling skills retention in more strategic way, says the company’s commercial manager David Williams.
“There’s shortage of qualified electrical workers and we wanted to offer something that would not only attract skilled staff but build ongoing loyalty. We also wanted to do something for the families of employees because we believe wellbeing in the home is reflected in the workplace.”
All employees were also offered full health check on company time. The resulting enterprise-wide health profile compiled by Health and Human Performance highlights some salutary risk factors that would not be uncommon to many local worksites.
Of the 84 percent who completed the check, more than third presented with four or more cardiovascular risk factors; levels of both smoking and obesity were substantially higher than the national average.
The company is delighted by employee reaction to its initiatives – Williams says the announcement about Southern Cross health insurance was unexpected and prompted spontaneous applause while its ‘wellness’ day attracted 100 percent participation at most company sites. Follow-ups will include nutrition and quit-smoking seminars and Williams says there’s ongoing commitment to encourage healthy behaviour.
“We want to do all we can to ensure our employees stick around. The average age here is 42.2 and we have some staff over 60 who add lot of value to our industry. We want to ensure they can continue to contribute.”

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