Implementing a global wellness program

For many multinational employers, global wellness programs may seem complicated, impractical, and sometimes too risky of a challenge to undertake. Experts, however, believe that global wellness programs can strengthen the company’s message of health across the board, and lead to greater success. By following a few important elements focusing on global perspective and local needs, HR professionals can help their employers build a successful program that fits the needs of all employees across the corporation.

The need to go global

Studies show that 32% of multinational employers have some form of global workforce health strategy currently in place. This number is up from 26% last year, and experts predict it to rise to 47% within the next two years.
What is causing an increase in demand for global wellness programs? The answer is clearly seen in the changing lifestyle of employees around the world. Today’s global employee is experiencing increased work demands to remain competitive, greater stress due to the troubled global economy and unemployment, and an increase in fast, less nutritious foods. The result is a stressed and unhealthy lifestyle. Studies show stress, obesity, and tobacco use as the top areas of health concerns across the globe.

Elements for success

A successful global wellness program will incorporate many of the same basic elements essential in a local wellness program. This includes:

Leadership buy-in – In a global program, leadership buy-in may be one of the more difficult elements to surpass. Senior management may be skeptical about a “one size fits all” program across all divisions. Inquire about the wellness needs of your company’s international units from managers and leaders from those sites. Group similarities together. Propose ways to address these needs with a centralised program that can meet needs, customs, and lifestyle specific to that country.

Collaboration between resources and departments – Create teams and committees that will utilise resources effectively. Divide the work among a group of individuals instead of one person solely responsible for all duties. Utilise any other department in the local unit that may provide essential resources.

Employee motivation – In order for any program to be successful, employees need to be motivated to use it. Be sure you research what motivates employees in specific units of your company in order to receive a high level of employee buy-in.

Repetitive communication – Communication is crucial for any wellness program to work. Understand what methods of communication work best in each unit. Remember to deliver your message frequently for best results.

Elements unique to global wellness programs include:

Obtaining global perspective – Establish a centralised global wellness strategy or perspective as part of your program. This should be tied to your global company branding. Employees will feel proud to be part of something bigger, and your company can leverage best practices and deal with fewer vendors. This is also a great way for your company to earn a distinction of global employer of choice among future employees.

Assessing local needs – Your goal and main strategy should be centralised, but your specific needs will vary depending on locale and country. Talk to leaders at your local sites about conducting health risk assessments and employee surveys.

Leverage expertise and resources – Become familiar with local laws and regulations before implementing a specific program in order to avoid any legal issues. Don’t be afraid to share ideas between locations, if they would make a good fit.

The bottom line

Global wellness programs are gaining greater awareness in our less than healthy world. Although it may seem a daunting task at first, HR professionals are encouraged to address globalising their wellness program with senior management. The benefits of a centralised message of health and wellness can be successfully obtained by following a few key elements focusing on global perspective, local needs, and leveraged expertise and resources.

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