In January 2014, I was sitting in an executive leadership meeting discussing the topic of the day: how to accelerate revenue growth. After several years of decline, the business had some key growth engines. In that meeting, the Head of HR presented the ‘RBI people strategy’ to the team. This was the first time we’d ever had a people strategy and it was very comprehensive. It covered the key elements you’d expect to see: recruitment, retention, learning & development, recognition & reward.
One thing it didn’t include, though, was anything about health and wellness.
That meeting inspired me to go on a journey of innovation that would lead to RBI Living Well, a Workplace Wellbeing philosophy and programme that, over the next three years, would scale across multiple offices, impacting the energy and wellbeing of 1000s of people across the world, and supporting the business transformation and revenue growth objective.
If you’re looking to energise your workplace to drive innovation, customer experience, productivity and growth, here are the three steps to follow to unleash the energy in your workplace.
Step 1: Discovery
The very first step in the process was discovery and during this development stage, we:
- Found out what companies who were really good at promoting a healthy culture were doing. I looked to the big software companies like Google who offered their ‘Googlers’ free food, a state of the art gym, mindfulness training, collaborative workspaces and the opportunity to invest 20% of their time in personal projects. Google was cool and their London offices made the 1970s, south London tower block where I worked look very inadequate. I also looked to the US for inspiration, visiting Adobe’s Utah offices which had been designed in such a way to encourage staff to take the stairs (or play find the lift) and ride their bikes literally into the office. Adobe was very cool.
- Found out what RBI was already doing and discovered it was actually quite a lot! Gym discounts, swimming classes, onsite physios, Indian Head Massages, reflexologists, two charity days, team building events, flexible working, discounts of local restaurants. RBI was cool, but people didn’t realise it as many of these great benefits were hidden on a page on the company’s Intranet where no one looked! We needed to change that.
- Most importantly, we started to think of employees as customers. This was a big organisational mental shift. Companies often put a lot of focus on the customer experience, but may not connect the importance of the employee experience on that customer experience. Employee experience is the other side of the customer experience coin. Treat your staff badly, and they may not be super-enthusiastic to your customers. So, we sought to find out what struggles the employees had and whether we, as an employer, could help solve them to get win/win results. We spoke in-depth to people and conducted a health survey, getting a huge 84% response which validated the belief that we could do more to support the wellness of our people.
- Finally, I educated myself on the big trends in the corporate wellbeing space by speaking to suppliers, attending conferences and reading white papers. I discovered new terms like presenteeism (working whilst sick), and alarming stats like 131 million days lost to sickness in 2013. Wow! What could have been done with all of THAT energy?
This discovery process led to a huge amount of data and insight that we were able to synthesise and use to brainstorm solutions, and we got very creative with lists of ideas. In the end, we decided to organise an energy pumping, wellness event in our Sutton office.
The trouble was that we had only one person in Occupational Health who was overworked and overwhelmed herself, and didn’t have the capacity, the skill or the desire to organise the type of event we were looking for. So we needed to be resourceful and work out how we could make the event happen with no resources!
Enter the cross-functional team
Within the corridors of RBI, we had a lot of people with great skills and capabilities who could do things. What we didn’t have, though, was someone to align them all together, and harness their collective energy. Someone who was passionate about our purpose and could fit in well with our culture. But where could I find such a person at such short notice?
This is where LinkedIn became my friend. I went onto a LinkedIn group for Corporate Wellness professionals and asked for help, and help came in the form of Kirsten Samuel. Together we pulled together an energy-pumping wellness event that would send a message that ‘Wellness is important,” and that “We’re all responsible for our own health and wellness, but RBI is here to make it easier for employees to be well.”
Step 2: Test & Learn
And that’s what we did as part of the second phase of the innovation process: the test and learn exercise, inspired very much by the Lean Start Up movement. We organised the very first RBI Living Well Fair which, looking back, was a phenomenal event with an amazing vibe and included a whole range of education, community and personal health testing initiatives:
- Education included talks from some amazing experts, including sleep and nutrition experts such as Lyndy Stanway March.
- We connected people together though delicious, fresh food from a fresh salad place called POD, a bit like SumoSalad (but not nearly as good). Tip: Offer free food and people will come. And, whilst they are eating they will talk to each other, and who knows where those conversations will lead!
- We turned our training rooms into fitness class studios
- We provided one-to-one testing using www.getlivesmart.com to enable people to access personal health insights more easily, connecting people with insight about what was going on inside them, guiding their actions
- We launched a ’50 Days of Wellbeing’ challenge to encourage people to do one small thing for 50 days to enhance their wellbeing, and set up a private facebook group to connect the global community together as RBI had 50 offices and we wanted people to feel part of something much bigger than their local office or team.
So that was the start, the launch event which was to put wellness at the very heart of the culture. The employee reaction was phenomenal. The train was moving and there was no stopping it.
Step 3: Grow & Scale
Over the next three years, the RBI Living philosophy and framework were defined more tightly which brought isolated initiatives together into a whole person model. The framework also really helped to support both innovation and communication within the programme to embed physical, mental and social wellness as deeply into the culture as possible, helping employees to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and supporting managers and leaders to make it easier for their people to be well, to feel energised and to do their best work.
With the support of Kirsten Samuel, a cross-functional team and an army of wellbeing champions, over the next three years the RBI Living Well programme scaled across 50 offices, impacting the lives of 3,000 people across the world, and has subsequently scaled to other RELX divisions.
By the time I left RBI at the end of 2016, the Living Well philosophy had 86% awareness, a more engaged (+46%), more energised (+36%) and more resilient (+26%) workforce, and these results combined got externally recognized by winning the CIPD ‘Best Corporate Health & Wellbeing Programme’.
Through 2017, the RBI Living Well programme continued to grow and thrive and make a lasting difference to the RBI and RELX employees, customers, partners and shareholders around the world. As for me, I was ready for the next challenge and relocated to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, the Mecca of Wellness. Australian Consumers are the most health conscious in the world. Many wellness innovations start in Australia and then move to other countries and I wanted to be part of that, so joined SumoSalad in February 2017 as Chief Customer Officer, an amazing fit as our missions are so aligned. We believe that the obesity epidemic and all of the personal and financial costs associated with it could be reversed by helping people not only understand what to eat for wellness, but also have easy access to great tasting, fresh, healthy food that Fuels Greatness in individuals, teams, communities and workplaces.
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The Raw Energy Philosophy is built around the framework that looks at the whole person, recognising that life is organised into a number of segments, each creating positive or negative energy. True wellbeing is the result of achieving balance in each aspect of your life. Our mission is to work with forward-thinking people to assist them to identify energy blocks and imbalances across five dimensions and empowering them with the tools and techniques, programs and services to balance and release positive energy.