Amber MacArthur speaks at the 2012 Healthy Outcomes Conference

This is Part 2 in our coverage of the 2012 Healthy Outcomes Conference, held in Kelowna, B.C.

Read Part 1: Winning partnerships

With the aging population and increase in chronic disease—coupled with the rise in pharmaceutical costs and growing mental health concerns—it’s more crucial than ever to get employees engaged in their own health.

Karen Seward, workplace health specialist, believes that organizations must create a culture of engagement internally and then measure it to see any real results.

Doing this, she explained, involves developing a communication strategy around the health issues relevant to an organization’s employee population and using branding and marketing to create awareness. There is a great opportunity for social media and technology in this area.

“In the workplace, only 12% of organizations use social media to promote the programs that they have. All the tools are out there for us, but how do we employ them in the organization?” Seward asked.

She added that when it comes to mental health, for example, many individuals look online for counselling and stress management advice. Providing such tools—or even resource pages to direct individuals to these tools—is one step in creating awareness and engagement.

But simply having a strategy in place isn’t enough. “Monitoring is really important,” said Seward. “You need to have the ability to take a look at the programs that [you’ve] put in place and ask, ‘What is the return on investment? What have we actually done?’ [Then] look back and say, ‘Something didn’t work, and we need to change the process.’”

Karen Seward speaks at the 2012 Healthy Outcomes Conference

Social media, as part of an engagement strategy, offer a large number of tools to help organizations achieve their goals—but many are holding back because they don’t know where to start.

Amber MacArthur, social media expert and owner of MGImedia, said companies first need to create a social media policy before they attempt to use sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest at an organizational level.

“[The policy is] basically a guideline to talk to your organization about how it should communicate, how it should use social media tools. It’s not necessarily to restrict people but to give them rules,” she explained. Organizations that don’t know where to start can visit to answer a quick questionnaire that will generate a generic policy.

With such a policy in place, MacArthur stressed that those within an organization who are working on a social media strategy should then get executive buy-in. Without it, she said, all efforts will fall flat. Enthusiastic support from the C-suite shows employees that the company is committed to engaging with them.

MacArthur said one way to show this support is to have a senior executive participate in regular live blogs, where he or she would be available for a period of time once a month or so to answer questions directly from employees. From an employee health perspective, the CEO could take questions about a wellness program or a fitness challenge.

After the executive team has agreed to be engaged in the social media strategy, the fun begins: deciding which tools your organization should use to engage employees. And which tools an organization chooses will depend on its goals. For internal communication about employee health, MacArthur said an employee-only blog is a great way to engage, as long as it’s compelling.

“Everybody wants narrative in a blog post. So tell a story about a person or something that’s happening, and really put it in context for the audience reading it,” she suggested.

Also use pictures to draw people in. “When you’re using photos and videos, you get more engagement from the audience. According to Facebook’s internal data, there was 120% more engagement when there was a photo attached to a post on the site,” MacArthur noted.

If an internal blog isn’t the right fit, organizations can turn to LinkedIn Groups, which can keep membership controlled to employees only and allows for posts with pictures and comments to encourage dialogue. The key to using social media, said MacArthur, “is lending that human face to the social experience so that the technology isn’t so intimidating.”

Watch: Amber MacArthur explains why employers shouldn’t fear social media

Scotiabank has long seen the benefits of investing in employees’ health and well-being. Through the years, these investments have taken different forms in order to address new opportunities and challenges.

Telena Oussoren, Scotiabank’s director of pension and benefits for Canada and the U.S., explained that with 36,000 employees in Canada and 75,000 worldwide, the bank needed to find creative ways to engage employees in health matters.

Over the past few years, the bank has focused on an integrated approach to health and wellness. Understanding that wellness encompasses all areas of an employee’s life—home, health, work and wealth—Scotia Vitality, the bank’s new wellness website, provides practical resources, programs and tips for employees and their families.

This integrated approach is also helpful in addressing disability management. As part of a disability claim, employees have access to an expanded Active Treatment Plan (ATP), giving them access to health and wellness programs and resources, and enabling them to make their health a priority. The ATP emphasizes participation and support, with the goal of building resilience and sustainable lifestyle change. Each ATP is multidimensional and tailored to the employee’s specific needs.

It’s a win-win scenario for both the employer and the employee.

“Integration also allows for reporting and trends analysis. We have all of that data together—STD, LTD, EAP, drug and health,” Oussoren explained.

“This provides us with the opportunity to look ahead to the next step. Using this robust data, Scotiabank uncovers correlations and connections. As a result, we are better able to direct our resources, time and effort toward addressing new opportunities. The integration of the wellness program is a major part of the program’s success—we believe that a lot of efficiency comes from integration. A major strength of our programs is how each element supports and connects to another. Scotia Vitality is yet another valuable tool to help us facilitate communication and gauge employee interest.”

Leigh Doyle is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

Get a PDF of this article and other coverage from the 2012 Healthy Outcomes Conference.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

Join us on Twitter

See all comments Recent Comments

Simonne Martin:

As a Masters of Science in clinical nutrition candidate (Sept. 2014), I am interested in providing nutrition and wellness counselling to your employees.
I currently have an account at one of your branches in the Edmonton area. I was surprised to find so many of your employees overweight or obese. In view of the overall health risks to overweight individuals, it is important to provide one-on-one consultations to these individuals, guiding them on how to achieve long-lasting health and weight loss.
I would like to offer these services to the Scotiabank employees. Thank you.

Simonne Martin

Tuesday, June 24 at 1:44 pm | Reply

Add a comment

Have your say on this topic! Comments that are thought to be disrespectful or offensive may be removed by our Benefits Canada admins. Thanks!

* These fields are required.
Field required
Field required
Field required