Things are fast-changing. The younger workforce has different expectations, driving digital transformation at the same time as levelling the traditional corporate hierarchy.
The diet and fitness revolution is well underway — in one fell swoop the UK’s daily fruit and veg intake guideline doubled. Doubled. (Dare we mention that this is still less than two thirds what it is in Japan?).
It is refreshing, therefore, to see a corporate entity take action and make an investment that nurtures its workforce rather than bleeding it dry.
ING Bank has launched an employee well being programme which, over a six month period will train the participants to become more attuned to different factors playing into their general health and, hopefully, improve their quality of life and work.
Corporates leading the change
The programme is called WQ, Wellbeing Quotient, and is based on three years of the bank exploring EQ, emotional intelligence and mindset and their value to the business.
WQ is a numerical value, calibrated by four metrics: Eat, Move, Sleep, Relax. These are measured on a fitness tracking band, linked to an app, which in turn can be linked to another app in which the group’s collective quotient can be measured.
To deliver the programme, ING has partnered with Lifeguard – experts in stress management, wellbeing and ‘corporate fitness’, and TomTom Sports, which supplies the band (just don’t call it a Fitbit).
Each member is equipped with a band that tracks steps taken, heartbeat, calories burnt, activity and percentage body fat.
Professionals are on hand in the form of former Olympic athletes, professors and coaches in nutrition, fitness and sleep.
Almost all (95 percent) of ING’s 350 global Financial Markets sales staff across 30 countries have signed up to the programme.
It is executed in six week blocks, each focusing on one of the four key metrics, Eat, Sleep, Move, Relax. And the programme is also open to family, friends, colleagues and clients.
WQ follows the Emotional Quotient (EQ) programme, which ING has run over the last three years, with the aim of bringing emotional intelligence into leadership.
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To its credit, ING Bank has done a fair amount of research into leadership qualities and the different strengths and intelligence dimensions required for good leadership.
The EQ programme focused on aspects such as communication, performance and consequence management to enhance the performance of staff and, hence, the business.
A great number of psychologists have looked into the importance of well being in all its forms on corporate performance and ING looked into a great many of these psychologists.
Cindy Wigglesworth, president and founder of Deep Change, an organisation that promotes excellence in leadership through the development of key intelligences, identifies four key intelligences leaders need: Cognitive, Emotional, Spiritual and Physical.
Physical refers to the so-called lower level physical needs of the body, which cannot be ignored, and must be met, before any kind of so-called upper level intelligence can be employed.
The most obvious analogy to be drawn is that of an athlete or any sportsperson — they follow a strict regime in which everything, from the obvious metrics of diet and training, to stress management and sleep tracking is taken into consideration.
A corporate performer is often expected to run on empty- how often are flights taken at unholy hours or lunch skipped or days stretched into wee hours.
No Lionel Messi or Jess Ennis would perform on any of that nonsense.
Not entirely selfless
You could argue it is a selfish endeavour — a happier, healthier workforce will be more productive. But it is clearly win-win, because a happier, healthier workforce is also, well, a happier and healthier workforce.
A working environment in which money is perhaps the only metric to the fore, vis-à-vis performance, companies don’t pay attention to the maths of how much more they may get out of their employees if their employees were a little healthier all round.
While the idea of a corporate athlete may make some want to run a mile in the other direction; and yes, it could be a shrewd PR stunt; and yes- how many of the initial sign-up contingent will stay the course? And will it actually have a measurable impact on life quality or indeed corporate sales?
And do people really want to log such personal data? And won’t they just fling the thing out the window as soon if it buzzes at (yet another) Saturday night beer and burger binge?
Who wants to be judged by a bracelet — and then collectively judged by colleagues and bosses (not that the data is shared but conversations are inevitable)?
While there are many questions and many angles from which to take the cynic’s view, it remains fact that more attention should be paid to body and mind; and fact that this largely improves physical and mental well being.
Who wouldn’t want to give that a fleeting chance? And who wouldn’t want to be gifted a fitness tracker by their employer (doubles as a watch)? And if it does do what it says on the tin, who would sit back and judge against it without having tried it? And isn’t it a tad tired, not to mention cheap, to be the armchair cynic anyway?
This remains an astute move by a forward-thinking bank and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of these initiatives being rolled out over the next few years.