Walking Towards Futility: A Wellness Fail

It seems there is nothing that brings HR professionals as much joy as rolling out tortuous physical activities for unwitting employees in the name of “Wellness.” There are companies that, in the quest to promote healthy lifestyles (aka “lower health care premiums”) have mandated everything from Jazzercise to rock climbing to participating in a local 5k run/walk for their employees. And yes…mandated; meaning they’ve tied participation in such activities to performance appraisals and salary reviews.

I once worked for an organization that, to be fair, was very transparent about why it ran and supported a wellness program; to save money. Health insurance costs were forever rising at a seemingly exorbitant rate and, as the company had a self-insured medical plan, this meant each month the checks cut from the company checkbook were growing ever larger. In addition, those expenses that had not sufficiently budgeted for came right out of the end of year calculation for the bonuses paid to leaders. In other words, a few medical catastrophes spread across the employee population (or their covered dependents) might mean that VP Bob wouldn’t be able to buy his vacation home in the mountains.

Sad.

So, with lowering costs as the primary reason, the company launched a Wellness Program a number of years ago. It’s important to note that when a company labels such an initiative a “program,” you have your first clue it has nothing to do with truly caring about people’s health, financial stability or mental and emotional wellness. And this program, like many before and since, had all the hallmarks of failure including making participation a chore (“track your meals and turn in this checklist!”) and running multiple “Biggest Loser” contests which are just about the worst activity to run from both a legal and health standpoint.

There was also, as you may imagine, quite a bit of employee shaming that ran rampant. One of the HR zealots told me, with quite a bit of pride, that he saw it as his DUTY to promote healthy eating. He would wander through the employee lunchroom, on a regular basis, and stop and have discussions with employees about their meal choices: “Sandy! Do you really want to eat that leftover friend chicken? A better choice would be a healthy salad with some lentils and a vinaigrette dressing!”  (inner monologue from Sandy in Accounting: ‘get out of my life crazy HR dude.’)

At one stage, amongst this backdrop of ill-informed and ill-placed intentions, it was dictated from those-on-high that additional physical activities were needed in order to ‘get everyone healthy.’  The answer, determined by an avid runner sitting up high on the org chart, was to institute walking activities! This was to include:

  • Setting up an obstacle course in the company parking lot so employees could head outside during their 10-minute breaks and 30-minute meal time to ‘get in a few steps’
  • Running a Couch-to-5k challenge
  • Awarding points, on the employee’s annual performance evaluation, if they participated in one of several chosen Run/Walks on a Saturday morning

OK, you may think, those aren’t so bad (well, other than the tie-in to a job performance review). But here’s the deal:

This was not a 9-to-5 organization; people weren’t cooped up in an office and sitting at desks all day and thus eager to ‘stretch their legs’ at lunch time.

  • The majority of employees worked evening shifts or overnight so talking a walk in the parking lot would have meant strolling around, in the dark, at 11 PM or 2 AM.
  • The nature of the work meant that most everyone’s job included STANDING ON THEIR FEET and/or WALKING for the duration of their shift; by the time meal time came all they wanted to do was sink into a chair for a few blessed minutes.
  • This was in south Louisiana. In the summer. With heat, humidity and mosquitos as big as your fist.

But running a couch-to-5k challenge? What’s wrong with that? Well, when the average hourly wage is just over $12 per hour it’s a bit much to expect someone to purchase appropriate footwear ($150? $200?) and pay the entrance fees for a 5k.

As for those somewhat-mandated Run/Walks and 5ks, well, all of them (I mean all of them) occur on Saturday mornings; usually kicking off between 7 AM and 9 AM. On a day, and a time, when the vast majority of employees were either just getting off shift after working all night, or, sleeping because they had worked until 3 AM.

Oh yes…there were many wellness fails at this organization:

There was no consideration of the fact that in a multi-gendered workforce that spanned ages 18 to 80, individuals would have not only varying physical abilities but also differing metabolisms.

Activities and plans were formulated by leaders with lots of disposable income and disposable time. Their prism of privilege meant they never gave any thought to the fact that employees had multiple jobs to make ends meet or ate white bread and processed-lunch-meat sandwiches because they couldn’t afford to purchase fresh fruit with granola when their take home pay for the week was $300.

This stuff drives me crazy.

Pass me the quinoa please.

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For a recent conversation “Calling BS on Wellness Programs” – check out this episode of New Yawk HR where we also offer some helpful (hopefully) tips.

Global Human Capital Trends Report – 2019

Last week Deloitte released the 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report. It’s always a must read for me and I strongly encourage other HR leaders and those involved in the talent/people space to take a look. Last year, Deloitte described the rise of the social enterprise and this year’s report outlines how the factors and pressures that have driven the social enterprise not only continue but are growing more acute.

A few tidbits from this year’s report:

  • 86% of respondents believe they must reinvent their ability to learn
  • 84% of respondents reports they need to rethink their workforce experience to improve productivity, and
  • 80% believe they must develop leaders in a different fashion

Deloitte outlined a set of five principles to frame the “human focus” for the social enterprise; describing them as benchmarks against one can measure actions and business decisions that could affect people:

  • Purpose and meaning
  • Ethics and Fairness
  • Growth and passion
  • Collaboration and personal relationships
  • Transparency and openness

These five design principles define the “why” of reinvention and the 2019 Human Capital Trends, listed below, are divided into 3 categories:

Future of the workforce

  • The alternative workforce
  • From jobs to superjobs
  • Leadership for the 21st century

Future of the organization

  • From employee experience to human experience
  • Organizational performance
  • Rewards

Future of HR

  • Accessing talent
  • Learning in the flow of life
  • Talent mobility
  • HR cloud

This is a great resource for HR and organizational leaders; you can download the report here.

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Watching this year over year as I do?  Here are Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends from the last 3 years:  

Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report2018

  1. The Symphonic C-Suite: Teams Leading Teams
  2. The Workforce Ecosystem: Managing Beyond the Enterprise
  3. New Rewards: Personalized, Agile and Holistic
  4. From Careers to Experiences: New Pathways
  5. The Longevity Dividend: Work in an Era of 100-Year Lives
  6. Citizenship and Social Impact: Society Holds the Mirror
  7. Well-Being: A Strategy and a Responsibility
  8. AI, Robotics, and Automation: Put Humans in the Loop
  9. The Hyper-Connected Workplace: Will Productivity Reign?
  10. People Data: How Far is Too Far?

Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report2017

  1. The organization of the future
  2. Careers and learning
  3. Talent acquisition
  4. The employee experience
  5. Performance management
  6. Leadership disrupted
  7. Digital HR
  8. People analytics
  9. Diversity & inclusion
  10. The future of work

Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report2016 Organizational design

  1. Organizational design
  2. Leadership
  3. Culture
  4. Engagement
  5. Learning
  6. Design Thinking
  7. Changing the skills of the HR organization
  8. People Analytics
  9. Digital HR
  10. Workforce management

Hiring Henchmen, Underlings, and Evil Minions

Hello? Have I reached the Recruiting Department?

The other week, without much else going on, Mr. S. and I settled down on the couch and watched a marathon of James Bond movies. (editorial note: I never liked Pierce Brosnan in the role and, IMO, Roger Moore was the absolute worst.)

As always, when watching any movie that features some evil-doer (ED) focused on disaster, mayhem, and taking over the world, I gave lots of attention to the ED’s side-kicks. Inevitably I began to wonder…

  • How did this guy/gal casually participating in nefarious activities decide this was the career path they wanted to follow?
  • Does one prepare a resume and create a LinkedIn profile in the hope that recruiters reach out?
  • Is there a job board for “Evil Underlings?”
  • Who is the head of TA for the evil organization? 
  • What about recruitment marketing? What sort of messaging is required? 
  • Is the recruiting team working diligently to eliminate bias when creating an applicant pool?
  • Does Susie Recruiter conduct phone screens? Skype? Scheduled/recorded video interviews?
  • What are the competencies and behavioral attributes against which she is hiring?
  • Has Susie Recruiter executed an SLA with the ED? How do those regular check-in meetings go?
  • Are there any skills tests or assessments utilized during the screening process?
  • Who extends the job offer?
  • What does the compensation package look like?
  • Is there a head of HR? A policy manual? An employee handbook?
  • Do evil minions get PTO? Full medical/dental/vision? What about Life Insurance and AD&D?
  • Can you even imagine the premiums for workers comp coverage? 
  • What, exactly, is the projected and actual turnover rate in the organization?
  • If a henchman resigns, who conducts the exit interview?
  • CAN a henchman resign?
  • Does the organization provide letters of reference for an ex-employee’s next gig?

I thought my time in the hospitality/gaming industry presented mad-paced recruiting, sufficiently high turnover and challenging employee relations issues. 

Probably a cake-walk compared to that which is faced by the CHRO of Evil Empire, LLC.

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mage: Lady Penelope Peasoup; Batman