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How a safety and wellbeing culture in the workplace can help to manage people risks

This year’s UK Business Risk Report once again found people-related risks dominating the thinking among business leaders.

Four of the top five risks businesses cited related to people, wellbeing and culture. Wellbeing (30.8%), talent retention, attraction and succession planning (22.4%), and health and safety of the public and employees (20.9%) took second, fourth and fifth place respectively. Workplace culture and employee engagement risks were cited by a fifth of businesses (20.2%).

The level of concern around these risks was clearly higher among larger firms with more complex people risks. However responses from businesses of all shapes and sizes pointed to an evolving approach to addressing these risks.

Over the last 12 months, 51% and 47% of businesses respectively have reviewed health and safety policies and procedures, and employee mental health and wellbeing offerings. But now a more joined up approach is gathering pace, with almost a third (29%) adding efforts to strengthen workplace culture and leadership to their people risk action plans.

This is significant because workplace culture and supportive leadership has been shown to have a big impact on employee wellbeing.1 These efforts can help to amplify and culturally embed wider people risk management efforts – from health and safety to employee wellbeing. This could create a snowball effect that ripples into areas like talent retention and attraction, productivity and reputation.

Businesses that haven’t yet started to adopt this holistic approach to people risk management can take simple steps to get the ball rolling. They include:

Create a wellbeing culture: Assess employee wellness and needs

The first step is to gather a better understanding of your people - their health status, risks, and interests – and your company’s health culture. There are a number of techniques here, but among the most commonly employed are:

  • Health Risk Appraisals (HRAs), which use surveys to collect information about your employees’ health behaviours and potential risk factors. This provides each employee with a report detailing his or her personal health status.
  • Health culture audits – used to determine how your company’s culture relates to your employees’ health and productivity. It assesses items such as health norms and your employees’ attitudes to health and wellbeing at work. You can use this to help identify how your employees can stay healthy while working in your existing health culture or determine what changes need to be made.
  • Personal interest surveys, which are designed to uncover the interests and health desires of your employees. These help to determine whether your current health and wellbeing offerings are relevant and valued.

The insight you can gather from these low-cost techniques will help you to understand how well your health and wellbeing efforts are currently working. They can also show you how well your wider company culture promotes health and wellbeing, where gaps exist in your people risk management efforts, as well as useful pointers on how to address them.

Wellbeing in the workplace: Create a safety culture

Most businesses these days take steps to protect employee health and safety through risk assessments, health and safety plans and policies. However, these efforts can only be effective if employees follow them and stick to safe working practices.

This is where developing a safety culture among all employees can be valuable, by embedding health and safety considerations in the day to day of working life. Overall, building such a culture is a matter of training, vigilance, engagement, and constant reinforcement, but it all starts with an assessment of your current culture and behaviours.

Two approaches that can be useful here are:

  • Safety culture surveys, which provide quantitative benchmarks and candid insight into how employees really feel about your current safety management – whether it’s within the traditional ‘workplace’, or relating to driving at work activities.
  • Behaviour surveys, which recognise that safe behaviours are crucial to preventing accidents at work. These surveys ask employees specific questions as to their behaviours in particular circumstances, such as driving or operating machinery. This can be very useful in helping to identify and address potentially unsafe behaviours.

These surveys are cost effective to run and are a great way to better understand employees’ normal behaviours when at work. They also help to further promote what works well and aids improvement where necessary.1  Find out more about safety culture surveys and behaviour surveys and the other steps you can take to address health and safety in your workplace in our safety and health at work guide.

Employee wellbeing: How employee mental health benefits aid hiring and retention

Many businesses are concerned about attracting and retaining employees, according to the UK Business Risk Report. So it’s no great surprise to see a significant proportion of businesses actively looking at the role of employee benefits in promoting employee wellbeing.

That’s because, more than ever, employees value employers that prioritise their wellbeing. In fact, almost two-thirds (62%) of employees now see wellbeing as a key factor when applying for a new job, while only half feel their current employer prioritises their wellbeing.2

What’s more, employees are increasingly turning to their employers for help managing health and wellbeing issues at work. Two-thirds actively sought help from their employer in 2021. Quite simply, employees now want and expect their employers to care about their wellbeing, and they’ll stay with employers that meet those demands.3

That said, every employee will have slightly different needs and preferences when it comes to the benefits they value. Gen Z for example, have much different needs to the generations that have come before. So it’ll likely be more effective to adopt a flexible approach that prioritises the benefits you identified in personal interest surveys, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Some of the benefits that employees typically value include:

  • Benefits to promote health, such as dental or vision coverage, health assessments, extended medical insurance, access to mental health resources and counselling services.
  • Financial benefits such as discount schemes and rewards, financial planning resources, pension contributions, or bonuses.
  • Engagement benefits like personal development, training, mentorship programmes, and company-wide socials.
  • Work-life balance benefits, for example hybrid working, flexible hours, extra time off around holiday periods, birthday days off, or early finishes on a Friday.

Benefits can be crucial to creating a wellbeing culture in the workplace

Every aspect of people risk management – from health and safety to supportive leadership – can play a vital role in creating a wellbeing culture in the workplace. However, a well-designed programme of benefits can have a disproportionate impact.

In fact, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), investing in the right people benefits as part of a robust wellbeing strategy can have a hugely positive impact. It can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced absence, higher performance and enhanced productivity. All of which can, in turn, have positive impacts on business performance.3

We’re here to help

People are the beating heart of any business. So the first priorities for the majority are to protect employee wellbeing, retain and attract more people, and develop a positive workplace culture with supportive leadership. This is where businesses can benefit from expert advice and support from industry associations, professional advisers and their insurance brokers.

If you need help and support, get in touch with a Marsh Commercial advisor, who will be able to assist with everything from risk management and insurance to employee benefits*.

*Employee health and benefits solutions are provided by Mercer Marsh Benefits. Mercer Marsh Benefits is a trading name used by Mercer Limited (No. 984275), authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office in England and Wales: 1 Tower Place West, Tower Place, London, EC3R 5BU