You may think your job is to develop employees’ minds, but what about theirbodies? Health initiatives are now muscling into the training remitIf Lord Lever were alive today, he would be building gyms and holistictherapy centres instead of housing for his workers. This idea that employers should be concerned with the wellbeing anddevelopment of the workforce in its broadest sense has made a huge comeback. Weare no longer simply concerned with employees’ skills, but with their physical,mental and emotional development too. Hilton Metropole in Birmingham has recently appointed a lifestyle manager.Georgina Stanlake’s job title suggests central planning gone mad, but it isvery much a local initiative. Throughout the UK, Hilton runs what it calls Esprit, a club employees canjoin when they have been with the firm for at least three months. It entitlesthem to benefits such as a pension, training, cheap rooms at Hilton hotels anddiscounts in local shops. “Esprit is about self-esteem,” said HR and quality director GordonLyle. “If you look at what makes good people give great services, it’sabout how good they feel about themselves.” Managers at the Hilton in Birmingham decided that at their hotel this meantconcentrating on workers’ wellbeing. They put aside £35,000 and appointedStanlake last November. Her job is to organise courses and events for staff using the hotel’sfacilities such as the conference rooms and leisure centre. These have includedfitness training, aerobics, chiropody, makeovers, and language training. “It’s about making our staff feel special and that they want to come towork,” Stanlake says. “We want to create a sense of balance andwellbeing and make our hotel the best to work for in the area.” Managers are expected to help staff find time to take part. “We try toavoid the really busy periods, and every event is limited to a certain numberof people. But managers have to work their rotas so that some staff can attendif they want,” Stanlake says. Staff have to fit in with guests, and a maximum of 10 employees is allowedto use the gym at any time. About 15 per cent of the 1,000-strong workforce are using the wellbeingprogramme. It is too early to see whether it is money well spent, but towardsthe end of the year, Stanlake will start to measure it against, for example,absenteeism, turnover, employee attitudes and customer satisfaction. Lyle is convinced it will succeed, and there is talk of rolling theprogramme out to the rest of the company. “If we have a better-motivated, morecomfortable, self-confident team of people who can take a can-do attitude toguests, it can only make for better service,” he says. What Hilton is doing in Birmingham is unique in the industry, Lyle adds, butthere are other firms offering something similar. Unipart has blazed the lifestyle and wellbeing trail in the UK since theearly 1990s. Two years ago, it repackaged its programme under the umbrella of Uand Your Health. This includes occupational health and stress management,available free, plus use of a fitness centre for £15 a month, and The Orchard,an in-house alternative therapy centre. Sue Topham, Unipart’s head of health and wellbeing, says the company takesthe programme extremely seriously. She reports directly to the chief executive,who chairs the health and wellbeing board. Directors of all the operating unitsare also on the board – all of them gym members. Unipart draws a direct link between employees’ physical wellbeing and theirability to learn skills and take on challenges. “It inspires people togive the best of themselves,” Topham says. “People tell us they feel more energetic and creative as a result, andmore willing to participate in the achievements of the company.” Topham and her colleagues are now looking at taking the training anddevelopment possibilities of the wellbeing facilities to the next level. Theyare introducing a whole series of events that can help in team building.”It’s all part of developing a learning culture,” Topham says. But what about ROI?Training managers could be forgiven for dismissing gyms and aromatherapy ashaving little to do with providing staff with the skills they and their firmsneed. “But it’s not psycho-babble – this sort of approach to developmentreally works,” says John Neal, who runs lifestyle centres fororganisations across the country including Ashridge Management College andAssociated Newspapers. He names firms such as Cellular Operations’ call centre in Bristol, whereturnover went down from 40 per cent a year to 3 per cent; and Northern Gas,which reduced absenteeism by 82 per cent.And these initiatives needn’t be expensive. Neal cites a public-sector bodyhaving problems with stress-related illness. Managers had set aside the spaceand money for a gym, but employees didn’t want that. They wanted somewhere tosit and be quiet.”If firms want wellbeing to work, they have to hand responsibility tothe staff,” Neal says. “It’s about telling staff, ‘Make life happen,don’t let it happen to you’.” Feel good factorOn 1 Sep 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.