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Health and Well-Being: the CIPD Systems Approach

I encourage you to read the CIPD’s January 2016 report, “Growing the health and well-being agenda: From first steps to full potential” Full Report Here. Don’t expect a toolbox of practical steps to take, but do hope to be reminded of something that I trust is close to the reasoning behind many of us in HR for starting out to do what we do.

Here I make some brief comments from the perspective of someone working almost exclusively with HR in respect of technology these days and with a continuing note to self of the dangers of either career or departmental silo and a forgetfulness of what matters in the round. So I applaud the CIPD that we should look “aside from the hard, cold facts of economics and money” in the context of all that we can do to promote well-being in working life.

If you’ve not time to read the full report, know that conclusions don’t surprise. It is the minority of workplaces where well-being finds itself high on the radar in active strategy. Yet stats are pretty shocking when it comes to, in particular, stress and mental health, which now accounts for 40% of incapacity benefit claims (up from 25% in the 1990’s). I do find it rather self-aggrandising that the first report conclusion from the CIPD is that the HR profession are the “key to unlocking the potential” for better integrated and “a key enabler” of well-being at work. It is clear from the substance of the research that it is with line managers where the most leverage really lies.

The CIPD describe a “systems approach”, meaning that health is considered in all aspects of how an organisation works. But here is a thought for those whose day-job consists of a heavy weighting towards HR technologies – and indeed to HR leaders who feel themselves shift in mentality when it comes to addressing their HR system project, as if it were another inbox:

If it were true that HR technologies were a part of that integrated solution to well-being at work, what part would they play?

For sure, technology can enable HR to get some free time to get out there and do other stuff and let’s go for that as a given. But….

  • What if metrics were used more imaginatively and in clever combination to analyse the effectiveness of health initiatives, of role profiles, of development spend to create the business case for investment?
  • What if newly-emerging potential to link and sync personal health devices (some now can!) to self-service systems increased the power to engage not only in well-being strategy, but with those same systems where compliance is hard to achieve?
  • What if at the same time though we needed to be mindful of risks associated with SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technologies to threaten key messages about taking work-life balance seriously and switching off when you get home?
  • Or what if self-service was in fact the key to demonstrating transparency (personal data, total reward etc) and control of job roles, as well as the tool which managers were able to use, with the information and control available to them, to make a difference?
  • What if employee engagement was linked to practical questions such as how much you let them see, how much is checked and how much is under whose control? If that in fact the way in which technologies were deployed and trusted epitomised the inherent organisational culture?

Then the world of well-being, justified on its own merit in corporate ethics, decent HR professionalism and just plain humanity, and the driving organisational force behind more people technology might not look so far apart.

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