#40 - Making Employee Health & Wellness Leadership Focus | David Osborne
Hi everyone welcome to the leadership Biz cafe podcast. I'm your host Tim Venus ear. CEO UH-HUH OF TAVERNA senior leadership looking for keynote speaker or corporate trainer for your next event then visit our company's website Tavernier dot com to find out how we can bring in valuable insights and practical tools to help your organization succeed in achieving its goals and this episode is sponsored by GOCO growing. 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There's a common understanding that to truly succeed leadership. We need to ensure we're creating a workplace environment that allows employees to bring their best efforts to the work they do but what about your employees overall sense of health and wellbeing. Are you putting into place measures to address this and perhaps more importantly should you. That's the focus of my conversation today with Virgin Pulse CEO David Osborne as CEO of the world's largest most comprehensive digital health health and wellbeing provider. Dave is responsible for optimizing and Scaling Virgin Pulse as the company continues an aggressive Growth Strategy David join join virgin pulse as Chief Operating Officer in two thousand sixteen following the company's acquisition of DC and shape up as CEO he he has accelerated virgin pulses growth and expansion with several successful mergers and acquisitions all aimed at simplifying and improving the health and wellbeing being journey hi David Welcome to the show. Hey how are you now David before we talk about why employee health and wellness should be a key focus for leaders. I'd I'd like to start by discussing the exponential growth company virgin pulses had especially through various mergers and acquisitions which I believe you've had seven. Is that correct yeah. We've put seven companies together in the last year and a half okay perfect and you know the reason why I wanted to start off with this is because merging existing companies with your own presents in itself unique the challenges not just in terms of harmonising processes across these new companies or divisions but also in terms of the organizational culture so I'd love to hear from you David. How do you go about transforming the culture of a group that had its own way of doing things its own value set and focus and bring it into alignment with the parent organization in a way where these new employees of yours want to embrace this change. Yeah sure what you Kinda hit the nail on the head right we when you buy company and and as you said we bought seven now you have to integrate process you have to integrate product bass back office and so forth but you also have to integrate the people and one of the challenges that we've had is is often. You know you buy a company. That's a little smaller in nature that has a great vision or mission which is in our case. It's changed lives for good and often some of the cultures don't realize that you also also have to be profitable and then so when you start to to bring companies together I in you when you do that you obviously have to maximize revenue synergies and cost Austin Energy's. That's that's really the success of them but getting people through that culture change of hey you know we are now a bigger company and we have to be profitable because you know even though a prophet is not a bad word right in the more the more you have the more you can spend internally on people in the more you can spend on innovation and product and so four so it's really this concept of almost taking a a nonprofit business and turn it into a private business in helping people bridge that what I'd say maybe uncomfortableness comfortableness as as they go through that that concept and and we have a playbook obviously that that we deploy when when we buy companies and we're quite good at it and we do it fast an and the thesis behind it is is ripped the band aid off and and don't you don't take your time with it the quicker you can do it the better and the quicker you all everybody everybody the story a about what's going on the new company vision and culture and so forth the faster the faster they go and the hear the story from you versus you know creating their own narrative which which often can be the wrong one so you know we we put a lot of focus on over communicating to the employees always helping them understand what our vision is and what we're trying to accomplish at the end of the day now health and wellbeing were up to is really about changing lives for good so that that vision if you will regardless of of if we're properly or not doesn't really change we try to hit that home as best we can and we do a lot of things really around helping with their culture in helping can onboard them onto our culture really around. Can you know career and talent management and learning and development and all kinds of things like that so it's helpful when you when you already know you're doing and you know where you're going and and we really try and focus everybody. That's new the organization via acquisition on. Hey we're still the same company as far as changing lives for good and in fact we have even more lives. We're changing around the world now. which which is exciting exciting in the momentum around it is is thrilling for everybody because most most people in this business or in this in this work that that health and wellbeing they really thrive on doing good to some degree which which which is exciting and the one benefit we have when we do by companies in the spaces culturally a lot of the companies that we acquire the people have that kind of backbone bone- right they want to change lives for good or WanNa help people or or do something other than just you know shut for work and you know punch a clock so absolutely and you know there's there's two things you were bringing up that? I really took note of and that was that you have as idea of playbook that you use to integrate these companies and bring people in along this vision that you have as well as that idea of the story that you want them to have a consistent story and I think this is it's GonNa come up. I think in our conversation when we talk about this importance of wellness and overall health that's why I wanted to start with this conversation of folks your company's growth because it does set the stage stage for us to discuss why it's important for companies to be promoting employee wellness over health because I think asking to take on that challenge in their own organizations is in itself a big change in both mindset and focus which is obviously what you've had to do with all these organizations these seven companies that you've integrated into your own but before we get into into that let's start with the first question which is really. Why would this be something or why. Is this something. Leaders need to be putting on the radar especially when we consider all the other demands is being made on their attention resources. Why should they be really considering an employee wellness and overall health as to your point to moving from being maybe not profitable or maybe you are profitable but how this can actually improve your profitability sure. I think well. I think it's our view is healthier. People are just happier in general right and you show up work kind of ready to perform at your peak and and we all know that when your healthier you just you're more engaged aged at working. We're dealing with a a a couple problems. in the Industry today one is rising healthcare costs. we all know that it's out of control and and we have employees east taking more and more employees picking the high deductible plan within their insurer and and that's kind of basically rolling the dice on their financial being essentially essentially so you've got higher rising healthcare costs coupled with the lowest employee engagement rate the country's probably ever seen seventy percent of the workforce is not engaged gauged work so it's a dual problem that we're trying to solve right now. and it's an employee market right we have had we have the lowest unemployment rate in fifty years so when you add all those three things up health and wellbeing now becomes very important in organizations and and I think leaders need to think think about that and you know if you can and think about the new social contract which is really around employees wanting their employers to take care of them and and and care about them invest in them health and wellbeing is Kennedy the low hanging fruit offer them up a opportunity to be to be healthy and in we think health and wellbeing it's it's not just the marathon on runners or tracking your activity activities part of it but it's also let's. Let's look at how you how you sleeping at night. Let's look at mental resilience financial wellness nutrition you know we can go on and on so offering up something like that to the employees to allow them to personalize it which is what we do in focus on things that are important into them at that particular time in their life and just allowing them to just be healthier and happier in and show up for work performed repeat what we're seeing. Is that when you do that. The employees employs take part of the program are are way more engaged at work in their engagement. Scores are higher and you know absenteeism is lower and attrition rates are lower and so forth so there's there's definitely a a huge each benefit from a business perspective as well as a benefit for the employees right and just to add to your point. I just read there was a report that just came out a few days ago by by CPI Scotland and KPMG where they made the case that leaders should be addressing the physical mental health of their employees as being key to boosting hosting productivity and how boosting productivity wouldn't just benefit the organization's but it would also benefit employees as it would lead to higher value jobs higher wages which leads to increased consumer spending and consequently stronger overall economy so it seems David like there is a strong business case to be made both inside and outside a company's these walls to make health and wellness a- cornerstone to how your business operates yet new you're absolutely right and it's a waterfall effect just like you've described and if you think about Richard Branson started this company longtime ago fourteen years ago and and you know his view and all his companies by the way he takes cares employees first and foremost because he knows if he does that they'll take care of the business so it's a it's a different type of thought process that that he brought to the table and we follow that strategy by the way and like I said one of the easiest ways to take care of employees is is really to to invest heavily in in health and well-being. You know I think now. We've probably the case okay eight. This is something that I should do and that it's important I start focusing on and it was interesting in the same report by CPI Scotland. They pointed out how one of the critical elements that they are looking to address. The upcoming years is the reality that most leaders don't really know how to go about improving health and wellness and organization and they offer. I wanted to share this with you to get your comments on David. They shared these falling. Four steps is a place to start. They said that you should make health and wellness. Leadership priority that you take a proactive approach to early intervention which I assume includes a greater wellness mental health issues and creating a safe space for people to be open about their mental wellbeing that you build an organizational culture that encourages health and well being and that you recognize the impact and employees financial situation has in their health and wellbeing in other words if they are struggling financially this is going to impact how effective they are on the job because they're bringing that home life stress to work now David as a CEO of a company whose focus is on health and wellness. How do we accomplish. Let's start with that third. Step described this report of creating that organizational culture that encourages health and wellness. I mean I know your company has facilities that are designed to promote physical health as you have a walking track built into your floor plan and so forth but how can other leaders not only start this process us of making health and wellness a leadership priority which is the first step that they suggest in the CBI Scotland report but how can they also evaluate how effective they are actually making an impact on their employees wellbeing yeah sure yeah. I think it starts from the top right. Leaders need to invest in health and wellbeing and and they need to be proactive and do it themselves and make it part of the culture I mean obviously here virgin pulse we use our own platform internally and it really becomes a culture promotion more than as much as health and wellbeing so I think they take that step and realize that yes I have to invest in health and wellbeing we we know it's important and it's specific around so many different components that are important to people today so you just mentioned financial wellbeing. You're right. I mean you know. We've got a ton animal windows in the workforce probably have come. I've come to work with with the burden of student loans and you know how can we help them with financial bean which is in that particular the case is probably more important to them than maybe activity or nutrition so being prescriptive and having a platform this very personalized and an and promoting the platform to the employee is is how they have to start it right and I'm sure David you know this that a lot of times when it comes to any type leadership initiative right whether it's promote emotional intelligence bringing more empathy to work big becoming a better communicator often the the advice that's given even is don't just say do right so obviously one of the things that it's important if we are to make wellness and health with a key facet of how we operate comes with US starting with ourselves so I'm curious from your perspective. What are the things that you find David that you're doing that. Your employees see that shows that you're taking this to to heart yourself and being that role model to show that look this is not just something that we're saying thing we value but this is something that I'm actually living and through that I'm showing that I want you to embrace this in your everyday work life here as well sure well. There's a couple of things that will puch number one. health and wellbeing is a daily activity and I often use the golf example if he played golf once a year. You'd never get any better matter fact. If you play golf once a month you probably wouldn't get any better than the same with health and wellbeing right. You have to do a deal in everything that we do on our platform brings the employees or the members back doc on a daily basis so that's absolutely key the second thing is this is not a one size fits. All this is not you know top down employer led this is a very personalized analyzed approach for the employees so you have to give them a platform and the opportunity to use it as they as they see fit and you know reward award them accordingly so it's it's become more of an employee letter bottoms up approach and you know we for myself. Specifically I our platform what form every single day and I you know encourage everybody else us every every day and we offer incentives as most employers due to the employee lead-based to to come back to the platform on a daily basis because that's the way they get healthier and that's the way to get deal with anything health and well being again whether it's sleep or mental resilience or financial wellness or or just even having a more of a social connection at work a lot of What would we find now is is yes. The platform is this is great on health and wellbeing but it's also a great way to distill your culture and your organization's well so kind of bridging back to kind of Yemeni concept using our platform ourselves to promote the right culture and culture that we want to to Kinda trickled down through the organization has become a big part of of of of health and wellbeing platforms today ours included so I'm actually glad you brought up the idea that health and wellness should be a daily thing and not something you do on occasion where you happen happen to remember to do it because I have read that your company's approach is built on the research of behavioral scientists Dr. Bj whose work has shown that by taking small mall daily actions. You cannot change behavior but actually create those new habits. So how have you applied. Dr Fog Research on Behavioral Design David and use is it to drive health and wellness initiatives. Yeah he's been our science advisory board for years in and everything we do on our platform is really designed based on his his theories and his teachings and again to your point you know small daily changes turn into turn into habits and that's absolutely critical and that's what drives people back to platform daily and usage of our platform is is oxygen so if you think about most health and wellbeing solutions get daily usage of about maybe about five to fifteen percent of their members use the platform daily let's see low and and I as you can imagine not great results Virgin Pulse if you look at it and we follow the same amount of metric that like facebook would for example in our monthly active users just north sixty percent use our platform on daily basis in fact sixty nine percent use the platform twenty one times a month if you if you layer that onto social media facebook would win this race ace but then the next one's virgin pulse has to be company right and then there's like didn't interest in all the other ones that my daughter uses that. I've really not too sure about so that is absolutely critical I and bringing bringing people to the platform deal you like I said is is oxygen us at everything we do and when we develop new products and new features it. It's with that in mind right sub curious David because I mean I'm sure some people are listening in trying to imagine in their day. Everyone seems to be like our agendas are full at doesn't like we have a moment on a free time. We're just trying to squeeze a minute here. Admit there so how have you been able to help people who are using your platform virgin repulse to find that those moments in their day to actually make time for health and wellness yeah no great question what we find is the interactions actions are at like seven seven ten seconds time so it's not a ton of time you spend on the platform and we're finding that most people use it before the day starts and at the end of the day so you track your daily habits you read your daily cards. Most people like if I look at how I use a platform for example I wake up in the morning. I'll read my daily cards that come in that are specific diffic- offering up content and data that civic to what I'm looking at or focusing on on that particular month for that particular year that particular week so most of our members jump on the platform and of course we're very mobile first mobile friendly so most of our most of our members use a mobile platform. They use it first thing in the morning at the end of the day so it is not a it's not a massive time suck if you will. It's really just you're on it for. Maybe Max about a minute in a day in and if you can't find a minute then I think we've got problems to worry about right and so in that small amount of time you're actually seeing a shift in mindset and set 'em behavior and people who use it. I mean not obviously not immediately but over time that there is an actual impact on their overall wellness and health yeah absolutely like here's a great example I wake up in the morning and as soon as my phone or the APP sinks to my my fit bit I know exactly how many hours I've slept for example as soon as I weigh myself that's loaded into the ad that sinks to my APP as well and I and I track my weight for yet another day so I can track wait every single day where every week or whatever I want so a lot of it is automatic. I it's it as you walk around. The office. Attracts your steps all day long. So there are some things that you would input manually and there's some there's some areas we jump on and you read content and data that that's important to you but again it's it's a lot of this just happens naturally and it's just an opportunity for you to track what you're trying to track and that's fascinating because 'cause I mean it really is a a real life example of Dr Fogs work where he really emphasizes. I think he calls it. Baby steps is is platform where he says how look we don't have to take on these huge goals like we've just break it down into these bite size bits which like. I said I believe he calls baby steps and you would be amazed as just by doing that. How much you can actually affect a change in your behavior and create these new habits that actually benefit you so it's interesting to see I think for some people listening opening now. They're realizing wait a minute. We're only talking about a couple of seconds every now and then over time. I'm going to see a significant shift. I think that really gets is people thinking wow. This is actually something that's quite doable yeah. I think that's why you know most news resolutions fail right people say I'm GonNa you know lose fifteen compounds starting chanoine and and they they try and Big Bang at right. They're going to the gym every day and they're lifting weights and the running. They're trying to cut down on food and I it's just it's hard to to do and usually after three or four weeks. People fall off that wagon so This is the platform that allows you to do to your point using. BJ Fog just do small mall little bite size bite-size actions they turned into daily routines and that's just a that's the way to do it right it just it just allows you to be way more successful. Well I in in trying to accomplish what you're trying to accomplish again. It's very personalized so right now for example. I'm focused on productivity right so I'm trying to not multitask. I'm I'm trying to listen. I versus you know. I'm I'm less focused today. You know nutrition because I've I've kind of conquered that battle of the last three or four months and you mentioned earlier to how this platforms actually also helped you in terms of integrating those seven companies of harmonizing. I'm analyzing the cultures. I'm curious to how that you know because again. This is all about culture when you're talking about health and wellness. It's not something that exists outside of your company's culture really is going to be nested in it so I'm curious how that played a role in it. Is it because those little steps and your ability to basically over time consistently communicate communicate your story of what it is. You're trying to achieve yeah. It's a couple of things right. First and foremost one of our values is live and breathe it right so what we try to accomplish this little we are health and well-being company so you should try and strive to eight use the platform be used the way you need to use it and just Kinda live it and breathe it. Our products help align nine employees around our values for example we encourage people to practice them recognize them. we shout out since. Oh fourth on the APP that we can just is kind of the more peer cloud ration- and peer recognition which is important and that all that all helps with just using in a platform from a culture standpoint we can use the platform to promote anything we want internally whether it's a blood drive or or you know a picnic or again like our values or shout out to to somebody who did something great we have we use our platform to do a monthly. MVP and it's up here here nominated program that just really focuses on you know you'd get nominated for instilling one of our values or you know which is this is a great way to just recognize people and and if you get recognized as an mvp you you get to go to presence club. At the end of the year. Usually presents clubs are just for salespeople people who make their quarter but we we don't do that here yes sales people that make quota presence club but we actually have more non salespeople there than sales people so if your MVP winner in in any given month and then you go to club and and so it's pretty exciting that those types of things are really helped drive the culture we have a collar our touchstone coin which is a it's a it's a large coin de that the executive leadership team have to carry on them at all times it symbolizes value are you and and unity and it's got our it's got our virgin pulse logo on the front and Scott how we hire humble smart. Scott our values around on the edge and it's got are there are five. KPI's on how we run our business one of which is how many lives were changing on any given month than a net and that coin mm symbolizes just hard work and adding value to the organization and and probably about once a month or whenever that time may be if somebody does something goes above and beyond the duty myself as the CEO hand my coin down to them and just you know congratulate them and thank them for the record so it's little things like that that might seem trite right but seemed to go a long way. The coin is probably the most coveted thing we have in this in his office today and we've got four hundred employees and everybody wants one of these coins and we we probably have maybe thirty ish in circulation now and it's it's kind of a fun little game that we play. That's very very cool so David given how you've helped lead virgin pulse to become the industry leader were pay health and wellness. I'm wondering if you could share some final thoughts and not only why leaders need to make this long term priority and not just the short term pet project if he will but on how they can get started I mean we've kind of I think made the case in terms of productivity and also profitability but but how can they get employees to see generally WANNA make the shift to not only improve their work environment improve their overall sense of well being even when they leave work everyday. How can we make this shift and make it really stick well. I think the why is obvious right. They're soft and hard R. Y. And you know we've got employees. He's out there that are that are not overly engaged and we think that the it's obviously related that health and wellbeing and healthier people are happier in the show up for work ready you to perform their peak and again falling Branson's logic of you. Take care of your employees. I they'll take care of your business. let's. I think that's you know the Y. To make it a priority and and I think that it's just becoming increasingly more difficult to hire and retain great employees today and and I think that's a that's just the low hanging fruit in the way to start how to get started is real simple. I think you go out and buy a great platform like virgin pulse all send you roll it out to your employees and and you make it a priority for them in you. ENCOURAGE THEM TO USE IT and we've we've figured out a long time ago you need both extrinsic motivation evasion meaning give them some sort of incentive to use the platform which is exciting but make it make gamified enough or they come back on a daily basis. It used to be a health office says Mr and Mrs Employee and I'll give you five hundred dollars and that's just super ineffective and obviously there's zero benefit that but if you if you incent them with that same in five hundred dollars but to use the platform on a daily basis that seat extrinsic motivation that they're going to need and and candidly it that kind of hoax them them or that kind of gets them on the platform to start would hope some in and keeps them there is the is the intrinsic motivation which is really the game occasion the social component doing challenges and having just a a lot of fun with it right. My daughter challenges me a weekend step off every single weekend of which I lose by the way but that gamification the fawn and the peer acknowledgement and all those components that the platform can be used for and I think that's how you get them started and get them hooked and get them to stay. The sustainability of our platform is amazing. people just use it for for years and years and years and and that's discover the secret sauce of the whole thing so that my that's my advice on how to get started. I tell you I'm just impressed with the fact that we're talking about getting employees to use something just for a few seconds during their day and how again just in true farm to Dr Fogg's research. It really can build over time to create this. Listen during behavioral shift that benefits not just your employees but as you said it benefits the organization because when your employees are happy when they are in a state of mental and physical wellness the organization benefits as well absolutely and then it's all underpinned by obviously reduction election medical costs and the day that we're seeing now we're saving about just north of a thousand dollars per employee per year and it doesn't seem like a lot but if you have a twenty thousand employees that's twenty million dollars. We've just saved the company. So you know in addition to getting your employees are helping your employees. Be Healthier. Live healthier lives in addition to them. Be More engaged at work and having more fun at work also saying that hey you give us a dollar will give you like seven to ten back so the a hard. Roi Is as evident as well and I can't imagine any C. level executives. Were not think that's exciting. I think you've just given a lot of hard facts next to demonstrate that there is a genuine value to this David. I Really WanNa thank you for calling my show sheds light on this important subject and I honestly you've helped elucidate why leaders and organizations needs to recognize their part in helping to address health and wellness both for the benefit of those they serve as well as for the organization's ability to continue succeed and thrive so thanks for sharing experiences and insights into how we can accomplish this and why it's so important no problem tanveer thank you as well enjoyed talking to you and that's a wrap for this episode of leadership is cafe brought to you by tavern this year leadership looking for a keynote speaker or corporate trainer for your next event then visit our company's website at Taverna's ear dot com to find that how we can bring these kinds of insights the organization either in an upcoming conference leadership retreat or for corporate training of it and this episode has been sponsored by Goco Oko hiring and on boarding new employees can be time consuming and tedious but thanks to go you can streamline and automate this process to help your employees hit the ground running and as it can be customized to your workflow it will not only help you save time but avoid any costly mistakes involved in on boarding an employee management and remember the best part is you can try go co for free with no expiration date and no credit card needed so go to Goco dot. 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