Rewarding Futures

The rise of Wellbeing - and the challenge for HR

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Alongside culture and engagement, wellbeing is another intangible benefit proven to have a very real business impact that has consequently seen its stock rise in recent years.

So given its elevated status, how significant is wellbeing for those seeking their next career move? And what are the implications for HR colleagues as expectations change?

The extent to which wellbeing is now established was emphasised in a feature earlier this month in HRD, confirming that UK employers are ‘rolling out workplace wellbeing strategies at an unprecedented rate’. Almost half now have a strategy in place with the remainder stating a clear intention to establish one.

The report from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (Reba) and Punter Southall Health & Protection (the Health & Benefits consultancy) also suggests how wellbeing is currently defined and interpreted. Over 80% of strategies are focused on promoting physical or mental health (the top initiatives being employee assistance programmes, discounted/free gym membership and health screenings). Sleep management is less an office joke these days and increasingly a serious consideration.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Government research back in 2014 made the connection between wellbeing and general workplace performance. In the same year, the Harvard Business Review cited academic research that found on the days when employees visited their workplace gym, they were generally more productive, efficient and satisfied. And Nestle and the NHS are typical of major organisations who are now paying greater attention to the health of their workforce both for societal and internal performance reasons.  

Where the value on wellbeing has grown, specialist agencies have followed. One such business is Lifeworks who combine a number of corporate offerings traditionally managed in isolation of each other - employee assistance, wellbeing, communication, and reward for example – to create a ‘demonstrable return on investment’ that benefits both employees and the organisation. Their global reach of 49,000 client companies and 15 million users back up a trend for integrating wellbeing into everyday business – an approach recently summed up at HR Grapevine Live by Ed Lea, Lifework’s Chief Technology Officer; “To get the best out of employees, don't just catch them when they fall... engage and support their wellbeing every day”.

So does this investment in wellbeing strategies by business have a bearing on attracting – and retaining – talent?

In a recent assessment of the business year to date, Vana is seeing ‘employee experience’ featuring in the majority of client conversations. People are being drawn towards progressive organisations that are flexible around how the work is delivered. And where work is designed around individuals and flexibility is built in – such as configuring a daily routine to include physical activity – organisations in turn are getting the best out of people. Admittedly, wellbeing will have different meanings for different organisations, and come more naturally to some such as the start-up/tech cultures who dominate the Independent’s recent list of 9 UK companies offering unlimited time off. We’re still seeing organisations making a cultural shift to more flexible work practices, for whom wellbeing might constitute a simpler approach that becomes more ambitious in time.

If wellbeing is now clearly on a candidate’s wish-list when choosing their next career move, where does HR come in to ensure an organisation meets this expectation?

Wellbeing is becoming a central focus for many HRDs according to one of our partners. ‘Developing internal coaching expertise in senior managers so that they carefully understand the inter-relationships of PRS - the Person, their Role and the System - is key to work life integration’, says Julie Stokes, an Executive Coach and Consultant Clinical Psychologist with The Preston Associates. ‘How to achieve a culture where wellbeing is encouraged and lived is no longer a case of work life balance and not emailing out of hours – it’s far more sophisticated and central to the success of the HRD.’

The growing significance of wellbeing, and the related investment in time and resource, is another indication that the boundaries and expectations of work are shifting rapidly. The good news is that, at the heart of this, there’s an exciting leadership opportunity for HR professionals. Ultimately however, organisations stand to gain or be left behind depending on how integral they see wellbeing to talent attraction and retention.

It’s a trend that we’ll continue to follow closely.

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John Burgess, Head of Talent & Leadership Development, AXA Group

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Helen Norris, Head of HR - Nationwide Building Society

I have worked with Debbie both in the search for talent and also as a candidate, in both situations Debbie has been faultlessly professional. Debbie builds strong relationships exploring briefs to ensure she has a deep understanding of what the business and candidate need, allowing her to deliver a real match.

Ian Marchant, Retail HRD, Greene King plc

Candidate experience is really important to me in recruitment, because that is someone's first experience of an organisation - your organisation. As I see it, the recruiter is part of YOUR brand and their actions impact on YOUR reputation when they act for you. The candidate remembers the experience of applying for a job and not always the recruiter involved.

My experience as a candidate of Jo's was exceptional. Jo kept me informed at every stage, questions were anticipated and I always knew where the process was. Also, Jo was present as a person and not as a remote handler. This shows me that any candidate that Jo places would be treated in exactly the way I'd want them to be. I recommend her without hesitation.

Geraldine Buckland, Director of People, Bristol Water

Debbie and Jo are great recruiters of HR talent; they have successfully worked on a number of key senior hires for us both in the UK and internationally.

Jonathan Wright, Group HRD, Murphy Group

Debbie has recently supported me in securing my first HRD role. Her observations and feedback were very insightful and assisted me greatly in navigating the recruitment process and learning about the company and environment I'll be stepping into. Totally dependable, unbiased and a good judge of character, I would highly recommend her to act on your behalf with prospective employers. I haven't worked with Debbie yet as the employer but wouldn't hesitate to do this if the need arises.

Anita Calverley, HR Director, Yeo Valley Farms

The thing about Vana Resourcing is that Debbie and Jo actually care – about you as a person, your career and your business. Yes they deliver great candidates and opportunities but they make sure that the fit / opportunity is right, challenging both sides in a positive way when needed. They’ve supported my career for the last 10 years, including introducing me to my current HRD role, and I have no hesitation that they will be my first point of call for future candidates and opportunities.

Suzie Noble, Chief People Officer, Brightside

“I have worked with Debbie and Jo several times, they stand out from the crowd as a sourcer of talent and when managing you as a candidate, I simply haven't worked with anyone better. Commercial, thorough, expert and with a sense of integrity that means you are only ever recommended to organisations that suit you - and as a hirer you only get talent that works for your organisation. As a hiring organisation, working with a partner like Vana is simply irreplaceable.”

Head of OD, Vodafone

Debbie brings accurate and current insight on HR Talent. Her ability to recognise top people in their field and actively nurture relationships over a long period of time sets her apart from her peers. Debbie is refreshingly honest , she keeps confidences and is not afraid to challenge both candidates and hiring Executives to ensure the right outcome for all parties. I would have no hesitation in recommending Debbie or Vana Resourcing for a critical HR hire.

Barbara Duffy, International HR Director leading on Talent, L&D, Resourcing,OD

“Debbie introduced me to OVO Energy, and she not only found me the right role, but an organisation whose ethos matched my values.  I have since worked with Vana to recruit almost my entire senior HR team! From HRBP's to a Reward Lead and most recently a HR Director. Vana really understand the importance of culture fit."

Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer, OVO Energy

I have worked with Vana Resourcing for a number of years representing me in my own search and as a client. Debbie and Jo are professional and efficient but unusually for this sector, genuinely caring about both client and candidate experience in equal measure.

Jonathan Edge, HR Director UK & Ireland at Ideal Standard International BVBA

“Jo is highly professional, knowledgeable and proactive. It’s not often that a recruitment consultant really interviews you in the same way a prospective employer would.”

Simon Amesbury, SuperGroup plc

What a refreshing delight to work with a commercial partner who understood my business, had national and regional awareness, a handle on the market, an effortless connection with candidates and could tolerate my Everest-like expectations.

I will continue to work with Debbie and Jo again on my incessant drive to solve the talent conundrum of the coming years.

Keep up the great work, you are a credit to the industry.


Stephen Robson, HR Director, Global O&Supply Chain at Kingfisher plc

"The team and I have worked with Jo now on a number of occasions for various recruitment assignments. I have always found Jo to be consultative and considered in her approach but above all honest and straight forward! She has a great understanding of her market place and is always at the end of the line to offer insight and market knowledge. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vana and look forward to our continued relationship."

Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society, Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society

I've known Jo for a number of years and worked with her as a client and candidate. What's great about working with Jo is that you're guaranteed an honest perspective and terrific insight to the market. She nurtures her relationships in a natural and engaging way: put simply - she knows her stuff!

Marie Aitken, Chief People Officer

I initially engaged Debbie to undertake a search for a Head of OD. She is consultative in style, and took time to gain a comprehensive insight into our organisational culture and HR journey, delivering an excellent shortlist of candidates and a super hire. The feedback from our candidates on their engagement with VANA has been equally positive. Jo and Debbie has since supported me with several other senior hires within the People organisation at RLG, and we enjoy an effective working partnership.

People & Corporate Affairs Director, Royal London Group

“I have worked with Debbie as both candidate and client. In both contexts I have found her to be super-efficient, thorough and a pleasure to do business with. She listens really well, responds quickly and is flexible to evolving demands. Debbie is up there in my top 3 recruiters.”

Sue Round, Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, BP

I have worked with Debbie and Jo for many years as a candidate looking for opportunities and a manager looking for talent.  I have always been impressed by how Vana strive to ensure that there is the best fit in terms of candidate values and company culture.

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