The rise of the wellness manager: is the trend growing?

When professional services network giant EY was thinking about its employee experience strategy last year, employee engagement, return to office strategyOn the struggles facing the organization and its workers, there was one theme that leaders kept returning to in their conversations: wellness.

“‘We said, ‘You know, there are so many things we need to focus on over the next two, three, four years, that it would be great to create a team that’s just focused on wellness.’” , explains Frank Giampietro, EY’s new wellness director.

That’s why the company has established a team dedicated to improving the well-being of its employees, including Giampietro’s role as director of well-being, a position created in November. In this role, Giampietro focuses primarily on employee well-being: how they are doing, what they need, what tools and programs could help them, etc.

EY is not the only company focused on wellbeing as it has added a new title to match this commitment.

Others, including consulting firm Aon, health system Geisinger and professional services firm Deloitte, have developed chief wellness officer roles as employee well-being becomes a business priority. Although this C-suite trend is still limited for now, it is likely to accelerate, says Chris Rollins, a leadership coach who works with HR leaders.

“Wellness as a topic is absolutely gaining momentum and becoming a trend,” Rollins says. “There aren’t a ton of wellness managers yet, especially in small businesses. But the trend (of wellness leaders) is certainly bubbling up.

For employers like EY who have developed this role, this indicates that commitment to wellbeing, particularly fueled by the pandemic, is not waning; It just keeps getting bigger.

“You have to look at wellness as a business imperative, it’s not a good thing to do,” says Giampietro. “It’s actually imperative that businesses focus on this right now. »

Behind the strategy

Aon’s decision this year to create its own chief wellness officer role is partly driven by the pandemic and other stresses that have had a dramatic impact on employees’ overall well-being, says Rachel Fellowes, who took on this role earlier this year.

Fellowes has a dual mission: to care for all aspects of the well-being of Aon’s 50,000 employees and to help the firm’s employer clients develop wellness programs that address the evolving needs of employees. employees. These missions are essential, she says, as organizations try to cope with declining employee well-being amid the current pandemic.

Part of her approach, she says, focuses on data-driven strategies. Through data, Aon seeks to measure not only employee performance and emotional feelings, but also how to direct them to the best, most personalized help. Using the Human Sustainability Index, a corporate wellness performance tracker developed by Fellowes and purchased by Aon, organizations can measure “human sustainability” at the individual and team level. In short, it measures employees’ resilience and how they cope with stress, change and other mental health issues.

“It’s about what kinds of things does a leader need to think about to create an environment where people can be sustainable, and can we think about that at an organizational level? she says. “It’s actually a data capture point for every human within an organization to report on it. And then, based on the data, we support actions to promote sustainability, whether that’s coaching, training, etc.

EY also focuses on measuring how employees are performing and feeling, as well as how well the company is meeting their needs, Giampietro says.

She wants to ensure that the wellness programs and initiatives she implements, like her return to office strategy, which reimburses workers for all travel expenses, all dependent care expenses, and all pet care expenses to ease the transition, is effective and helpful for employee well-being. “I want to see the scores go up, I want to see our people telling us they’re having a better experience and feeling better. And I want to make sure I give our leaders insight into what they can do to help our people every day.

Priority to well-being

The emphasis on workplace well-being itself is not new – it has been increasing over the past decade – but its importance has only grown and its definition has evolved. In the past, wellness was primarily focused on physical well-being: employers implemented smoking cessation programs, walking challenges, nutrition programs, etc., to keep employees healthy. healthy, fit and active. But in recent years, well-being has become a holistic idea: things like financial well-being, mental health and social well-being have all complemented how employees perceive their well-being and how employers approach it.

THE Covid-19 pandemic and a confluence of other events over the past two years, including galloping inflationevents of social injustice and the war in Europe – prompted a focus on the well-being of employees, who had to deal with stress after stress after stress.

“Some organizations have been more forward-thinking on this subject. But it’s only with the pandemic that we’ve all experienced imbalanced wellbeing, trying to be resilient,” says Aon’s Fellowes. “Many can no longer bear the uncertainty. With the amount of uncertainty in the world at every level, from COVID to the professional level to the family level to the geopolitical level, people cannot continue to borrow tomorrow to be resilient today.

Indeed, employee well-being has plummeted over the past two years: data has consistently shown that Americans report that their overall health has worsened and that rates of depression, anxiety, stress and burnout have increased. All of this can harm employee performance and absenteeism, as well as increase medical claims.

It makes perfect sense for organizations to focus more on their wellness efforts. Historically speaking, a myriad of responsibilities, such as benefits, wellness, recruiting, technology or diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, are embedded in the HR role. But as HR’s role and responsibilities expand, it’s more difficult for these leaders to fully focus on each priority, leading some organizations to develop a chief wellness officer role. The position often works with the organization’s Director of Human Resources and other human resources managers in the organization.

The idea of ​​a new role dedicated to an important aspect of human resources has already happened: the role of diversity manager, for example, has exploded in recent years, Rollins says. The number of welfare officers is not increasing at the same rate, but this could happen over time.

“I think the wellness manager position is a natural progression (in HR),” he says. “This is especially the case for larger employers who have the resources to (create the position).”

A role dedicated to employee well-being has another advantage, insiders say: it is attractive to employees and potential recruits. In a hot job market, where employees have more opportunities to leave for other opportunities, forward-thinking employers are going above and beyond. And employees consistently view wellness efforts as important to them.

“From a potential employee perspective, if I look at a company that has a wellness manager, that’s really attractive,” Rollins says. “The market is so competitive right now; From a recruiting perspective, these are things that can really help (an employer) stand out.

EY’s Giampietro agrees.

“We recognize that we have a great opportunity to differentiate ourselves by (focusing on wellness),” he says. “We’re maybe a step or two ahead of others in their thinking and understanding of the importance of this and what it really means when you do it right. And we want to be a role model, we really are. We want to set the tone for what we think employers can do in the wellness space. We believe this will be very useful to our people. And we think it will serve our business very well.

The idea of ​​prioritizing wellbeing – and creating a role dedicated to it – is that employers can always do more to help. Employee wellbeing is not an isolated initiative, it is a fluid strategy that is always moving and evolving.

“We always have to do more. We need to help our citizens more,” says Giampietro.


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