For years, employers have been consumed with benefits strategies for reducing the cost of health care by focusing on wellness programs that impact chronic conditions. These include obesity and high cholesterol or blood pressure. And while these continue to be important goals, these strategies are getting reimagined with a new orientation — getting the best return on improving the well-being of employees and their families.

Why the shift in focus? Organizations that support the well-being of the workforce can be shown to outperform those that do not. Well-being, at its core, is a people-focused strategy designed to enhance business performance by creating a culture where individuals thrive and perform to their fullest potential. By focusing on a “whole-person” of interrelated dimensions (e.g. physical, mental, attitude/outlook, spiritual, social and financial), companies develop a holistic strategy that truly attracts, retains and engages employees and most importantly connects to overall business outcomes. People who thrive in all dimensions of their wellbeing are more engaged, more innovative, more customer focused, more productive — and ultimately better employees.

Strategies used by employers

So how does an employer offer benefits that better focus on the “whole-person?” There are several successful strategies implemented by savvy employers. The first is broadening the focus on health itself. Physical health is important, but a more holistic focus that includes the mental, financial, social and spiritual dimensions can pay much bigger dividends. Ideally, these include sponsor programs and events that address multiple dimensions at the same time. An example would be to sponsor a walk team at an event; or provide resources that educate on financial planning, budgeting, and saving for a home and retirement. It is also important to not forget about the family. The well-being of an employee and his or her family is fundamentally intertwined. The employee will also value any support the employer provides that impacts his or her family and in return can also help to retain talent. For example offer paid time off for caregiving needs or half days on Fridays during summer months.

Integration of these strategies

Another successful strategy implemented by some employers include engaging leadership across an organization. Well-being as an organizational value and business strategy can be enhanced if we influence and integrate up, down and across the organization. The C-Suite can enable a broad organizational focus and buy-in to the well-being agenda. But it is equally as important to integrate into the cultural fabric within human resources, middle management and supervisors, union leadership, and diversity and inclusion.

Implementing benefits that benefit the "whole person" is about integrating with the business. To sustain efforts across the organization, it is important to help to connect the dots between organizational well-being and resilience and individual well-being and resilience. Buy-in will be greatest if efforts can be tied to key performance indicators such as sales, innovation and customer service. Equally important will be integrating well-being as a critical requirement within the ongoing business processes for the organization (solving for the “and” not the “or”). Supporting the communities where employees live and work can be additive to helping employees flourish and reach their full potential. Organizations can strategically engage and connect with community resources and initiatives, while supporting and leveraging the volunteerism of employees and their families.

By moving the well-being agenda to the front seat, employers are strategically thinking through how these initiatives connect to their broader organizational and business objectives. By doing this they execute benefits and people strategies that accelerate their efforts to attract, retain, engage and support their workforce and enhance the status and standing of their communities