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The Role of HR and Internal Communicators as Trusted Advisors

Feb 15, 2022

Chasing the Sun focuses on the well-being of the individual, team and enterprise. A robust and strategic partnership between human resources (HR) and internal communications can play a significant role in the well-being of all three.

Designing and executing a successful well-being program must empower your employees to prioritize their mental and physical health so they can be emotionally, mentally and physically prepared to live their lives to their potential. Beyond the reputational benefits, there is a genuine business impact when an organization has healthy employees.

 How does this impact the bottom line? According to Gallup, “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.”

However, there is work to do. Recent findings from a Willis Towers Watson survey say while “86% of employers indicate mental health, stress and burnout are a top priority…49% of employers indicate they have not yet formally articulated a well-being strategy; only a quarter of respondents said they have articulated and adopted one.”

If the HR and internal communications partnership can lead engaging well-being initiatives, together they can make a real difference on the bottom line and, subsequently, your impact on the organization.

Here’s how to lean in and partner to improve awareness and activation of wellness benefits.

First, remember, you are an employee and a customer. As HR and internal communications leaders, your role includes being some of the most influential company advocates. Because of how much you work with all employees, you have unique information about what motivates and inspires them to act. You are uniquely positioned to use your experience to solve employee problems. And, because you have close ties to your executive bench, you know how to deliver the right information to them to make informed decisions.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget you are also an employee! You are experiencing your workplace benefits and challenges alongside your fellow employees. Ask yourself: Are you taking advantage of your corporate wellness benefits? Whether it’s a mobile application with meditation exercises or stipends for gym memberships or at-home exercise equipment, learn about the benefits offered by the company, use them and report back your experience.

Recommendation: Imagine you aren’t responsible for any well-being program decisions, strategy or execution. I want you to spend 30 minutes, close your eyes and imagine you’re learning from someone else about your company’s well-being offering. What and how do you want to learn?

Next, partner closely with your HR and communication counterparts. Communications and HR professionals are uniquely positioned to understand high-level company strategy and the employee experience. HR access to employee and wellness data partnered with communications strategies and initiatives can create a well-informed approach to address company and employee needs.

Recommendation: Identify key individuals on your HR and communications teams to create a well-being committee and establish regular touchpoints to address strategy and execution. “Dream” together as employees and as company advocates. What are common denominators to enable you to align your strategy?

Be clear on the overall objective of your program. Designing a short- and long-term strategy is essential to a successful initiative. The heart of your strategy should be steeped in data from your employees on the types of well-being initiatives they want and an objective to meet these needs. Ensure your cross-functional committee is aligned with the program’s overall goal with clear milestones that address short- and long-term objectives. Examples might include “increase paid time off usage by 20 percent over the next three months,” to “increase retention rate by 10 percent over the next three years.”

Recommendation: Committee meetings should be held consistently to ensure milestones are met. Check data points from employees monthly to ensure priorities haven’t shifted.

Show your proof to executives. Highlighting how an appropriately funded, strategic well-being initiative can have reputational and financial benefits to the company will be a critical success factor. Quantitative and qualitative data with examples highlighting how this initiative will benefit all employees and cost-benefit analysis will make it a much easier choice for decision-makers.

Recommendation: Understand how your executives make decisions. Are they immediate and decisive, adaptive and flexible, hierarchic and want others to weigh in, or integrative/process driven?

Pilot, test, iterate. Are you aware of a particular department of your company with extremely high turnover and/or stress and burnout challenges? Approach them with the opportunity to participate in a test program to gauge success before rolling out company-wide.

Recommendation: Start small and impactful by running a three- to six -month pilot program to increase awareness of (and subsequently activate) your corporate wellness benefits to test proof of concept.

Finally, make sure you demonstrate your results, key learnings and next steps. Your company’s well-being program is not static and must be adjusted based on results and employee response. Was the amount of turnover of your organization reduced? Were more employees using wellness benefits year-over-year? Don’t be shy when touting your efforts by playing a critical role in communicating with employees.

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