EXCLUSIVE: Schroders creates global strategy to tackle employee health


Employee Benefits Connect 2019: Multinational asset management organisation Schroders has launched a global wellbeing strategy in order to be more proactive in supporting employee health and wellbeing.

Speaking at Employee Benefits Connect 2019 on Wednesday 27 February, as part of the recognition and motivation conference stream, Charlotte Frost (pictured), benefits and wellbeing manager, HR at Schroders, explained how an externally conducted health and wellbeing review in 2015 revealed that, although the organisation’s benefits provision was good for ill or disabled staff, its approach was very reactive.

“We were very reactive in our activities around health and wellbeing and what we decided was that we needed to move towards a more proactive approach and look at how we could benefit the wider population, because our people who were ill were actually the smaller population at Schroders,” Frost continues.

Alongside the review results, Schroders used gap analysis, benefits claims statistics and sickness absence data to create a wellbeing dashboard; this identified the organisation’s three main health risks as musculoskeletal conditions, cancer and mental health.

To address these with a mix of education and events, Schroders launched its wellbeing strategy in early 2016, taking a holistic approach across five key pillars: mind, body, finance, work-life balance and workplace. The latter linked to a concurrent office move and new working environment.

The strategy, simply titled Wellbeing, was communicated to employees via emails that promoted a wellbeing calendar of events. This calendar was also printed out and used in desk drops to ensure all employees had seen a copy.

The global wellbeing strategy saw Schroders introduce a number of new measures under each of its new wellbeing pillars. This included introducing wellbeing training, which was incorporated into the firm’s learning and development platform, qualifying HR staff as mental health first aiders, hosting seminars on subjects such as nutrition, sleep and stress, promoting financial education and having a physiotherapy rapid-access service.

Specifically around mental health, Schroders has held awareness events, committed to activity around World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week, both in October annually, and offered support around children’s mental health to help employees’ home lives. The business has also launched new employee networks, such as its Mental Health First Aider network, which was implemented last year, and Diversity and Inclusion network.

With regards to physical health, the business offers on-site physiotherapy three days a week, smoking cessation support, cancer coaching for managers, desk assessments conducted by a physiotherapist, and has upgraded its health assessments and introduced stress assessments.

Schroders gathered feedback on its new wellbeing approach after each event, using a five-question survey that collected both quantitative and qualitative information from staff. Frost notes that this is a useful way to gauge the effectiveness of the strategy.

The feedback found that 97% of respondents thought the wellbeing seminars were good, very good or excellent, while there was also a 100% increase in the take-up for face-to-face counselling.

During the session, Frost also shared her lessons from implementing this strategy on a global scale: “There’s no shortage of wellbeing programmes and there’s various approaches employers can take. In my opinion, having a global, themed campaign is extremely valuable as it provides a shared focus across the organisation and gives a sense of global alignment and collaboration.

“Global campaigns, however, should have the flexibility for individual locations to take the campaigns and position them in the right way for their people, so they can make sure that events are relevant to their audience and can get the engagement and impact they want.”

An example used was the experience of rolling out Schroder’s mental health activities in Asia; this was largely frowned upon by staff based there, due to cultural context and the terminology used. Schroders overcame this by changing the emphasis and language to resilience and mental fitness.

“We had to approach it in that area very differently to the way we would approach it in the UK,” Frost explained. “We had to approach it from a resilience standpoint; they saw that as a positive and [that] allowed us to have an avenue. That was a huge learning curve.”

Frost’s other practical tips included showing how a digital focus could prove cost-effective, as well as more engaging, if used with an interactive or gamified element. However, she warned that this should not be used alone, but alongside face-to-face interventions.

“In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to wellbeing,” Frost concluded. “So, one of the biggest challenges I’ve had is in getting employees engaged. A key factor to this is the communications. It’s also worth being mindful that when [employers are] putting out a global campaign of the challenges that culture, stigma or language can provide.”