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Employee wellness: a key differentiator in employee engagement

Jarred Cinman

Employee wellness isn't a nice-to-have; it's a must-have for companies looking to attract and retain top talent. Many organisations have recognised the importance of this investment and creating an environment that employees want to be in. Our philosophy of staff retention is to give people many reasons to enjoy coming to work. The working environment needs to be more than just a place where you carry out your tasks. It must be an environment you fundamentally care about, in addition to the role you play in it.

We have introduced a number of initiatives – which includes opportunities to make real connections with new colleagues; three healthy, nutritious meals a week; 'bring your dog to work' day; access to a financial planner; in-house baristas and various health days -

to help bridge the gap between our employees' private and professional lives and so increase employee engagement levels. People want different things out of their jobs and their lives, and a business must be able to meet these requirements in multi-faceted ways.

Our approach to employee wellness is based on four pillars:

  • Ensuring the person and the work itself are well-matched. The core job must be the right fit for each individual. If it's not, nothing else matters. Even if a person doesn't necessarily have the required experience, we might still hire them if we think they're the right person for that job. Our hiring process includes interviews with direct managers, seniors and other team members to try ensure a good fit.

    From there, good work and hard effort are recognised and celebrated. There are regular 'shout-outs' at staff meetings, where people can thank their colleagues for work well done, and teams receive 'NATIVE Notches' (badges) every time a project has been successfully concluded.

  • Inject a healthy dose of fun into your company. This is where the community is built. It's about giving people a chance to engage with colleagues in a social and non-work context. People are encouraged to eat together in the canteen and not at their desks, whenever possible.

  • Communities need to give back. This year, one of our focus areas is to identify more opportunities for our employees to contribute positively to the city and country we're part of. One of our main goals is to give our employees opportunities to create purpose-driven work that has a personal meaning for them.

  • Provide top class employee wellness benefits. We look after people as comprehensively as possible, from initiatives such as our medical aid benefit to our corporate account for Scooter Angels, which is a designated driver and shuttle service. The aim is to reduce stress levels and to make life easier.

We help our employees keep their finances in check

Recently, we've retained the services of a financial planner to help our employees set financial goals and understand how to achieve these. We did this because we know that if you're struggling to make ends meet, it's impossible to be creative and productive.

Salary is one of the main concerns when people are looking for jobs, but if they feel a deeper connection with the organisation, and a greater sense of satisfaction with their workplace, they might begin to weigh up the options a little more. There is no doubt that we now attract people much more easily than we have in the past. This is in part because of our employee wellness-focused culture and the non-financial benefits our employees can enjoy. Even when employees leave for different opportunities, our company culture and the relationships they've built are often positive factors listed in exit interviews. Many relationships extend beyond the workplace.

Retaining and developing staff means that you need to spend less time and budget on hiring new employees. Employees are happier and therefore more efficient and productive, and a values-driven culture has a bearing on customers too. Companies that are recognised as ethical organisations attract clients with values similar to theirs. All this affects the bottom line.

If you're not looking after your people and displaying superb employee engagement practices, you'll never be a winner. In a business where everything is about the quality of thoughts and ideas, it's a necessity rather than a luxury.

Jarred Cinman is the managing director (and part-owner) of Native, one of South Africa's top digital agencies. He is the chair of the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) and part of the organising teams for The Bookmark and the Loerie awards.