John Mayor: Getting your employees to be actively interested in health at work

Danone offers free health screening to all its employees in the UK, with 60% of all employees voluntarily signing up. John Mayor, Head of Rewards & HR Efficiency discusses how its wellbeing programme has helped its staff.

Until 2014 only executives at Danone had been offered a company-paid health screening as part of their benefits package. The cost of making the same offering to all staff was seen as prohibitive.

An established flexible benefits programme was in place, but due to the nature of healthcare offerings available, the balance of investment leaned towards reactive support – life insurance, income protection, ‘death-in-service’ benefits – rather than preventative health.

Health screening has a natural fit within the organisation’s ethos and business objectives, supporting both internal branding for employees and potential employees (as a ‘great place to work and grow’) reinforcing the Danone external brand of promoting healthy choices and lifestyles through a focus for all staff on health and wellbeing. Here was a clear opportunity here for joining up the mission with our people in a way that was fundamental to supporting employee engagement. The challenge was one of finding a new partner capable of delivering a programme of high-quality, comprehensive health screenings that was affordable.

By working with provider Bluecrest Wellness, Danone was able to design a tailored, large-scale programme of health screenings that were practical on a financial level and would fit with the lives of people in very different roles, including field-based employees working on the move around the UK where time is in short supply. In this way the offer could be made wholly inclusive.

Danone rolled out free health screening services to all 1,300 employees in the UK. There has been an emphasis on accessibility, again to ensure the screens were a platform for engagement, by providing the services onsite at Danone and also via a network of 1,700 mobile, pop-up clinics in hotels and other venues. This has meant more than 60% of all employees have voluntarily signed up.

Checks are wide-ranging (more than 50 individual tests, including areas that aren’t covered as standard by the NHS), evidence-based and focused on outcomes – the findings that can be used to demonstrably improve health. This means critical checks for all major types of cancer, heart health, diabetes risk and areas like musculoskeletal health and psychological wellbeing. For example, a test for blood sugar levels in the past three months which provides a risk score for diabetes, easy for employees to understand, change behaviour and track progress. Staff get detailed, jargon-free health reports that can be synchronised with health apps on their mobile devices, and for any follow-ups they can speak to a professional via a 24/7 private GP helpline.

The universal offer has always been intended to be part of a long-term approach, not just providing a handy health snapshot, but for employees to associate their work and their organisation with good personal health.

Danone also makes use of the annual data coming out of the screens, getting advice from Bluecrest on implications for the health of the organisation and key areas for wellbeing interventions. Extent of participation and data checks ensure that findings are representative of the company population. Immediate campaigns have been delivered in individual business units in response to findings around Vitamin D deficiency and obesity levels; and data has been used to inform the creation of the strategy for the coming years.

Employees lead very busy lives, both at work and at home, so health can become de-prioritised, fighting for attention. This way we can get as many staff as possible interested and actively thinking about their health. The biggest changes have been seen in general terms through new attitudes and awareness of personal health issues, anecdotal reports of increased levels of engagement and motivation, less absenteeism and a more productive workforce generally.

More specific outcomes have included improved employee perceptions of the benefits offering: the UK (the only locality with the health screening offer) has, on average, a 16% higher score than Danone globally, and a 24% higher score when benchmarked against comparative UK employers (according to a Towers Watson index). There have also been signs of healthier lifestyles: improved body mass index (where business units saw falls in numbers of employees with ‘raised BMI’ levels of between 6% and 11%; smoking (numbers of smokers falling at levels between 5% and 12%); high blood pressure (falls ranging from 14% to 18%); and alcohol-related liver conditions (reduced from 10% to 5% across UK business units).

About John Mayor

John Mayor is Head of Rewards & HR Efficiency Projects at Danone UK - part of a world-leading food company with a mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible, producing household brands such as Actimel, Activia, Evian & Volvic, Cow & Gate and Aptimil baby and infant formulas.
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