02/04/2008 - 22:00

A healthy investment in staff

02/04/2008 - 22:00

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The skills shortage and changes to the makeup of the nation’s workforce are adding further pressure on companies to provide more comprehensive employment packages for their employees.

The skills shortage and changes to the makeup of the nation’s workforce are adding further pressure on companies to provide more comprehensive employment packages for their employees.

Included among these are corporate health and wellbeing programs, which can take a variety of forms – from sponsoring participation in corporate sporting events to conducting regular health checks and fitness programs.

Increasingly, companies are recognising the value of investing in their employees’ health to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and attract and retain quality staff.

Prime Health Group chief executive Greg Hutchinson said the changing workforce, particularly in the mining sector, was leading to employers making larger investments into the wellbeing of their staff.

“We’re seeing people aged in their 50s going into mining for the first time, working shift work, long hours and for a long period of time.

Some are carrying diseases – obesity, heart disease, diabetes,” he said.

Mr Hutchinson said employers were now being more proactive in preventing health problems among their employees by conducting regular health checks, and were taking a more holistic approach to health by providing things such as social and mental health support.

Organisations are also implementing health and wellness programs as a way of attracting and retaining staff in a highly competitive marketplace.

“If a site isn’t providing good programs its less attractive to the workforce.

Everyone wants the biggest and best programs, the biggest gyms, it’s now a drawcard to have wellness initiatives in place,” Mr Hutchinson said.

The mining industry is considered a leader in this field, adopting innovative strategies to keep their employees fit, healthy and motivated, to reduce injury and absenteeism.

Mount Gibson Mining Ltd’s environment, health, safety and training manager, Steve Horne, said the skills shortage had led to a greater number of people entering the mining industry at varying levels of fitness.

“Mining is evolving at a fast pace.

There aren’t enough people to fill the slots, and we’re definitely noticing an increase in unfit people in the industry,” he said.

“Out of that group, at the fly-in flyout or drive-in drive-out mine sites where people are exposed to 12-hour days, there’s easier access to food, they’re away from home and possibly aren’t as motivated in the evenings as they should be.” Among its initiatives, Mount Gibson has implemented a health assessment program, matching individuals with a set of tasks to perform and goals to achieve.

One of the company’s most successful initiatives has been its integration program with the local town of Mullewa, where employees are encouraged to take part in team sport activities, such as AFL football, touch rugby and bowls, in the town.

“It gets guys communicating more with each other and developing teams outside the workforce,” Mr Horne said.

But its not just limited to mine sites.

In the city, corporate office staff are also being encouraged by their employers to be more active.

Snowden marketing associate Pips Kumleben said the company had supported a number of initiatives such as funding employees’ involvement in corporate sporting events including the BRW triathlon and City to Surf, as well as supporting employees’ sporting and health pursuits outside of work.

This includes paying for things from running shoes and equipment to gym memberships.

“The company has been very keen to support employees in their personal ventures,” Ms Kumleben said.

“We’re all working like maniacs at the moment and so we need to create some type of balance, and they’re very keen to do that.” Some of the benefits being witnessed as a result of the company’s wellbeing program, according to Ms Kumleben, include increased productivity, decreased levels of absenteeism, increased motivation, and stress relief.

From a marketing perspective, involvement in corporate events and team activities allows for strong branding opportunities through branded clothing, such as is worn by the company’s cycling group.

Financially, the company has made a significant investment in the program, contributing $10,000 alone for its staff to participate in the Global Corporate Challenge, a walking tournament involving corporate teams vying for first place against workplaces located across the globe.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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