Last year, Whirlpool decided to design a global wellbeing strategy. Back then, a lot of great wellbeing initiatives were running locally, but without a common vision. The question was: how can we bring these together in one framework that resonates with and works for all our employees globally?

Wellbeing is a hot topic. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the concept became even more prominent in the minds of HR professionals. Companies want to do something for their employees' mental health and wellbeing. An entire industry has emerged that offers services to improve the wellbeing of employees, everything from apps for mindfulness and online yoga to EAP counseling, from health challenges to personal coaching services. These services are implemented with the best intentions and expectations are high. But employees are still burning out, are moderately engaged, and still leave the company.

So, what is the key to success?

There is no magic trick. But these 8 main takeaways helped us along our journey designing and implementing the Be*Well Framework.

1. Go Holistic!

A wellbeing strategy focuses on the total of your offerings related to the financial, social, emotional, physical, occupational, and psychological wellbeing of your employees. A framework to create a consistent and intentional employee experience, while taking into account the local differences, knowledge, and needs.  As a result, your benefits are included in your wellbeing strategy and are no longer a separate category.

2. The Power of the Narrative

The famous historian and bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari wrote: “Homo sapiens is a storytelling animal that thinks in stories rather than in numbers or graphs”.  So create a narrative that is easy to understand, explains, and visualizes your wellbeing vision and relates with your employees globally.

Whirlpool created a global framework ‘Be*Well’, to illustrate how Whirlpool cares holistically about employee well-being. The Be*Well spark has six pathways covering all aspects of well-being and how they are connected.

1. Be Balanced =  Emotional Wellbeing

2. Be Healthy = Physical Wellbeing

3. Be Connected = Social Wellbeing

4. Be Prepared = Financial Wellbeing

5. Be Curious = Talent and career development

6. And it all comes together in the Be You Pathway.

3. Start from your own strengths

Don’t try to chase the latest hot trends. There are tons of creative benefits, perks, and wellbeing offerings out there, certainly in the tech, start- and scale up world. Yes, you can organize a ‘Bring your dog to the office’-day but it will not change the world. You need to start from your own strengths. Based on your values, your EVP, and company culture, where do you want to stand out? Sometimes it is easier than you think.

Define your Relative versus your Absolute (your USPs) standards of care. Where do you want to be market competitive and where do you want to stand out versus your competition? Map your current offerings per location, define your gaps and close them.

"It is critical that companies promote a culture of wellness and belonging within every level of their organization"

4. The world is digital and data driven

Invest in a global well-being portal to create a consistent employee experience. Build a global benefits inventory and monitor external trends and benchmarks. Automate as much as possible and use data to drive decisions in a cost effective manner, impact and change behavior, understand success, and be open to adapt.

5. Inclusive, diverse, and flexible

Your wellbeing strategy is not about engaging everyone in a certain lifestyle. Focusing on sports, healthy eating or mindfulness only will attract those employees in your company who already engage. Your wellbeing strategy needs to account for everyone. Be inclusive (and fixing your bureaucratic processes will be more impactful than doing yoga).

Add flexibility: Employees have different interests, family situations, or aspirations. Provide flexibility and choice to meet individual needs. Do it incrementally and experimentally, ask for feedback. But nudge your employees with implicit suggestions that influence behavior. For example, younger employees are more cash driven, however make it a default setting opting in for a life insurance or the company pension plan.

6. Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Even with the strongest strategy designed, your plan will fail without a company culture that encourages people to implement it. Culture comes with behaviors, driven by a strong set of values and leadership attributes that are genuinely promoted throughout the organization. Ultimately it is the employee and the people leader responsible for their wellbeing. A company can only create the right framework, context, and culture that facilitates and incentives a clear and decisive focus on wellbeing. Toxic cultures need a change of culture, not a healthy food coach.

7. Without execution, strategy is useless

Execution is everything. It starts with active sponsorship and involvement of your leadership team and then:  

EDUCATE: Demonstrate the organization’s commitment to well-being. Provide meaningful communications, resources to remind and encourage employees to prioritize well-being.

APPLY: Drive engagement through activities, challenges, and tips. Evaluate and align benefits to guiding principles; coordinate benefit changes with the framework. 

EMBED: Ingrain the strategy into the organization’s culture. Train your people leaders and leverage senior leader sponsorship and systematic integrations to reinforce the education and application of your framework.

8. Don’t look for hard ROI evidence

It is not about a return on investment. Investing in the wellbeing of your employees should be a given, and part of good company citizenship. If your employer is not convinced that healthy and supported employees are more engaged, productive, resilient, and go above and beyond for the good of the team and the customers, then maybe it is time for you to look for another employer.