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Supporting Employee Health and Wellbeing

Written by: Tom Nash
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In the Australian job market, employee health and well-being are more critical than ever. Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals a decade-high job mobility rate of 9.5%, with professionals making up 24% of those changing roles. This high turnover rate, coupled with the fact that 56% of employees have been in their current job for less than five years, emphasizes the urgent need for effective employee well-being programs as a retention strategy.

Given these trends, it's crucial for businesses to focus on driving specific behaviours that support employee health and deliver tangible results. In this blog, we'll explore five key focus areas that can help build a culture of recognition, thereby optimizing your health and well-being initiatives. By doing so, companies can enhance employee satisfaction and contribute to long-term retention, a vital factor in today's competitive job landscape.

Most organisations have gone through a lot the last few years, especially when it comes to addressing the overall health and wellbeing of their employees. A lack of focus and attention these initiatives can have a drastic impact on engagement, productivity, mental health, turnover and the financial bottom-line.

  • In a Forbes article, employers who create a positive wellbeing culture can expect to see 11% lower staff turnover than those that do little to prioritise employee wellbeing.
  • A recent study by CMI found that more than half of managers (56%) believed that their teams’ mental health had suffered as a result of the pandemic.
  • Further research also suggests that the direct financial impact on Australian businesses subsequent of mental health issues is in the vicinity of $11 billion every year due to absenteeism and reduced productivity from unwell workers.

Employee health and wellbeing is not just about supporting individuals who are stressed and struggling, it is about creating a strategy and culture that allows employees to feel safe, supported, happy and prosper. To achieve this, we can split an organisational health and wellbeing approach into five focus areas:

Company Commitment

Organisations should avoid the trap in thinking that employee wellbeing is only a HR problem to solve and drive. It requires the involvement and support from leadership teams across the entire organisation to lead by example and promote key behaviours. To achieve this, it all starts with a strategy focusing on social, career, physical, community and financial wellbeing.

What are the benefits of creating and implementing a health and wellbeing strategy?

Seen as being proactive, not reactive.

  • Conveys commitment to employee wellbeing and helps embed it into the overall vision and day to day activities.
  • Provides direction, key goals and priorities.
  • Senior leadership become employee wellbeing advocates as they understand the benefits and importance of driving the strategy (see approach 4 – Individual State for more details).
  • Allows organisational teams to implement an array of solutions and activities that support the strategy.

Once a strategy is in place organisations need to be able to implement initiatives and measure results, which is easier said than done. To remove barriers of success, your recognition strategy should not only compliment your health and wellbeing strategy but play a key role.

Culture of Recognition

The impacts on engagement

Achieving high employee engagement is not only desirable but necessary as it has a ripple effort on many aspects that determines a successful organisation.

  • Companies with high engagement outperform other organisations with low engagement by 30%-40% (BIW).
  • A Gallup study found that when employees are engaged, burnout decreases, and productivity and wellbeing increase.
  • Engagement drives purpose and boosts relationships. Good relationships lend to a good environment and a welcoming environment creates feelings of security. When you are secure, you can let your health flourish (Hacking HR).

Employee engagement sets the stage for developing trust, which opens the door for addressing overall wellbeing. Low and declining levels of employee engagement closes that door.

One of the key drivers in lifting and maintaining employee engagement is recognition. A lack of recognition is one of main reasons why employees are disengaged. Employee engagement is the key aspect of increasing employee productivity, innovation and retention. Moreover, social recognition amplifies the message of recognition that takes place and thus allows engagement to flourish.

Organisations with recognition programs that enable employee engagement had 31% lower voluntary turnover than organisations with ineffective recognition programs (Bersin by Deloitte).

Companies with a strategic recognition strategy reported an average employee turnover rate 23.4% lower than companies without any recognition program (SHRM – employee survey).

In the end employees want to enjoy their work, find meaning, be recognised when they do well, and feel a sense of achievement. Frequent and meaningful recognition helps fulfills this want and starts a cycle of repeated behaviours explained by behavioural economics:

  • Dopamine effect: when recognised, employees experience the dopamine effect, a rush felt after something good happens.
  • Subjective well-being: feeling valued and appreciated enhances self-worth, subjective wellbeing, and happiness.
  • Reciprocates desired behaviours: employee reciprocates the desired behaviour to feel the beneficial effects of recognition and in turn, become more engaged and motivated. Building a culture of recognition (making recognition a habit) is key to boosting engagement.

“Those who anticipate recognition for their future successes feel a greater obligation to work hard, give a higher proportion of their full effort, look for ways to improve the way they do their work and deliver more of their best ideas to the company.”


“When recognition is common, employees develop resilience against adversity. It’s a very uplifting, happy and optimistic environment, even when business is tough.”

- Rodd Wagner, New York Times bestselling author of Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees as if They’re Real People


The impacts on mental health and happiness

Building a culture of recognition plays a key role in achieving strong employee engagement, but also directly impacts mental health and overall happiness.

  • “Employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation, compared to those who do not feel valued by their employers.” American Psychological Association
  • “Embracing a culture of recognition creates a friendly and happy office environment and cooperation between employees is also enhanced. Happy and satisfied employees bring in not only positive energy to the workplace, but also increase the company’s performance and profit.” HR Economic Times
  • “Employees report more joy when recognised and acknowledge.” (Siegel & Gale survey)

To summarise, BI WORLDWIDE’s own research supported by external literature reinforces that building a culture of recognition creates employees who are happier, more engaged, committed, and intensely performing. This translates into lower turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and ultimately reduces the cost of onboarding.

Manager Empowerment

Driving the health and wellbeing message and initiatives significantly relies on leaders. They are responsible for implementing and driving a work culture that supports their employees’ health and wellbeing. In fact, research conducted by BI WORLDWIDE highlighted those employees who report being in a work culture that supports their health are at least twice as likely to feel:

  • Their manager understands them
  • Their ideas are taken seriously from their manager
  • Confident the good work they do will be recognised by their manager
  • Their job challenges them to push their limits

Consequently, employees that report a lack of the above qualities from their manager are therefore more likely to cause employee burnout, their team are less likely to work hard and be less committed.

Tips to Engage and Empower your Managers

Share your Health and Wellbeing Vision and Strategy

Show Managers you have a plan for the future and that you are adapting that plan based on what they’re telling you is working (and what’s not). Managers who see value in the purpose will work harder to bring it to life each day.

Connect them to the bigger picture

Make sure leaders are given regular opportunities to see how the health and wellbeing initiatives contributes to larger organisational goals.

Let them lead

Give leaders a specific health and wellbeing project or initiative to own. Be there to support them when needed but give them the freedom to manage it and see it through to completion.

Communicate, measure, then do it all again

Spread the word and keep checking back to make sure goals are being met.

Make Recognition a Priority

Recognition is a learned behaviour. Let managers know why employee recognition is important and the value it plays in reinforcing the health and wellbeing behaviours.

When managers have recognition budgets to use at their discretion, employee retention increases. A BI WORLDWIDE study of recognition with points showed employee turnover is 4x higher among employees who received the lowest frequency of recognitions per month compared to employees who received the highest frequency.

Individual State

The individual state is all about deeply understanding the positive impact a health and wellbeing strategy has on individual employees. Knowing the impact allows you to explain to key executives and managers why a strategy is required and the difference it can make. It therefore helps create advocates of the strategy at all levels of leadership, which trickles down to employees recognising an organisational approach in providing health and wellbeing assistance. The inclusion of building a culture of recognition and empowering leaders will only help delivery results and overcome barriers to success. In fact, BI Worldwide research found employees who think their organisation provides health and wellbeing support are:

  • 2.5x more likely to recommend their organisation as a great place to work.
  • 2.5x more likely to think their managers makes decisions with their interests in mind.
  • 2x more likely to say their ideas are taken seriously at work.
  • 2x more likely to think their jobs challenges them to push their limits.
  • 2x more likely to think their good work will be recognised.

Program Effectiveness

A robust recognition and rewards platform should be considered when delivery a tailored health and wellbeing program. Launching programs on an easy-to-use platform helps bring it to life, promote actions and behaviours, brings people together and makes it possible to evaluate the overall effectiveness. Here are some ways a recognition and rewards platform can deliver successful health and wellbeing initiatives.

Recognise and reward key behaviours

By offering your employees a formal system through which they can recognise their colleagues for good work, you’ll sustain your culture of recognition, generating employee behaviour change, satisfaction, and engagement.

Empower leaders by providing manager discretionary budgets to send recognition with rewards. A recognition with a personal comment from a leader has a material impact on the level of commitment and intensity of that commitment. Adding discretionary award points simply magnifies that impact.

Nominate your standouts

Turning on a nominations module allows participants to submit nominations for individuals or teams, and give leaders the ability to easily manage the approval process, and winners. Creating a formal framework for contributions from teammates with specific criteria can really help align health and wellbeing behaviours.

Education – Learn2Earn

Learn2Earn modules are quick and simple way to train, educate and grow participants knowledge with quizzes. For effective take up, issue rewards and badges for completion and / or passing the quiz.

Contest and Gamification

Gamification is a great way to ignite emotions and desires. Examples may include competition through leaderboards, collaboration by completing team missions, community by seeing other participants on a news feed, collection when earning unique badges and surprises by unlocking new missions. All unique and effective ways to foster engagement and motivate participants, ultimately drive your strategies and delivering targeted results.

Online Games

At a purely social level, games are popular because they're fun and memorable. Turning on online games on a platform creates a next level unique experience.

Learn about our Game Arcade solution

On The Spot cards (OTS)

OTS cards are branded physical cards preloaded with Award Points. It's a fun, quick, and easy way to reinforce behaviours and recognise accomplishments effectively face to face. The cards are activated on the platform which can be redeemed for a wide array of rewards including merchandise, travel, and experiences.

Learn more about OTS cards


The use of visual banners, news items and tailored communications via a platform allows you to communicate your Health and Wellbeing initiatives effectively. Creating vivid ways of communicating overcomes the spotlight effect.

  • The Spotlight Effect more likely to recommend their organisation as a great place to work.
  • Vividness, a behavioural economics term, explains that people remember things that are graphic or dramatic. By getting attention through vivid communications, employees are more likely to notice, read and remember what is being conveyed.


Employees receiving aspirational and meaningful rewards for key behaviours motivates them to repeat those behaviours, results in greater effort and improves the relationship between the employee and their employer. The research is in, non-cash rewards have the greatest impact on behavioural change.

Learn more about our Rewards Marketplace

Reporting and Analytics

Reporting and analytics is the key to understand the impacts of recognition and reward tactics. An effective platform requires analytical tools and reporting to truly understand and evaluate the impact certain initiatives have on overall engagement and performance.

Tom Nash

Tom Nash

Account Director

Tom is experienced in account management across a range of industries including automotive, telecommunications, health, finance, insurance, government, retail, and sports. Joining the BIW team in 2015, he works with clients in planning, implementing, and managing effective programs that achieve measurable results.

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