There have been many staff cutbacks within the energy sector over the past few years. Employability is becoming more and more important. Nuon’s health strategy focuses on offering employees incentives for staying fit, healthy and employable, both now and in the future, and in their current jobs or elsewhere in the job market.
“We want to give everyone the opportunity – in a good way – to make the most of their potential”, says Merlyn Esajas, country health officer at Nuon/Vattenfall. “Thanks to our efforts, awareness about health and sustainable employability is greatly increasing among Nuon employees.”
Why does Nuon have a health officer
“Human talent is of the utmost importance to our organisation, so we handle it with great care.”
“In working for Nuon, I mainly focus on the development of strategies in the field of health management and on making sure that we stick to agreed processes and procedures. It goes without saying that we observe the legal requirements applicable to health & safety. On top of that, agreements are in place with parent company Vattenfall.”
What kind of jobs do people do at Nuon?
“We have people in production environments who work on generating energy, as well as people who do office work. The jobs done and risks faced by both groups of employees – around 3000 in total – differ vastly. We also have shift workers who man the power stations and our ‘trade floor’, where we trade energy on a 24/7 basis.”
Please describe ‘a day in the life of Merlyn’
“Just to give you an idea… I started this morning with an employee council meeting that involved topics that included absenteeism figures and our employer intervention programme. The latter is about what we do when employees fall ill. My next appointment was with the communication department to discuss our new ‘FlowMotion’ project. More about that later. Then, I attended a strategy meeting with my Swedish and German colleagues. Sharing information and staying in tune with one another is always useful. We’re currently implementing the health processes already in use in the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany into group companies in other countries.”
Nuon has been aware of the importance of health management for some time. When did Adaptics arrive on the scene?
“We’ve worked with Adaptics since 2012. Before that time, we had our own Preventive Medical Examination (see link) for our employees. But we wanted to expand it. So we told Adaptics, ‘This is your area of expertise, please manage it for us’. The relationship has gradually become more of a partnership in which we develop solutions together.”
What have Nuon and Adaptics developed together?
“Because we’ve invested in the health of our employees for years, we have relatively low absenteeism levels. To maintain these figures, we need a specific policy. Using PME outcomes, it’s possible to effectively establish the risks to the organisation and develop new policy or adjust existing policy accordingly. After all, risks change all the time because the world never stops turning. We use the PME at strategic-tactical level and at individual level – that turning point when you’re asked ‘how are you actually doing?’. Individual data is strictly for the eyes of the employee. However, overall statistics give us an idea of the state of certain departments and business areas. And if you roll this out throughout the organisation at specific time intervals, you can observe trends, filter out best practices and learn from one another. At the same time, the PME forms a great resource for encouraging dialogue between managers and employees.”
How do you as an organisation facilitate dialogue between managers and employees on vitality and sustainable employability
“We’re convinced that it’s the joint responsibility of managers and employees to ensure that employees are as healthy and satisfied as possible in remaining active within the job market until they reach pension age. During speed dating sessions, our Adaptics colleagues teach Nuon managers how to interpret PME reports relevant to their departments. What hands-on tricks can they apply in order to enter into dialogue with their employees? We also arrange ‘World Café Sessions’ in which we discuss the overall outcomes with employees. We ask them about their perceptions of the PME and whether these correspond to their own ideas about it. Individual employees can call on an Adaptics employability coach for further advice. Nuon as the employer does not interfere, thereby guaranteeing privacy.”
What else do you offer employees in terms of healthy living and working?
“We offer an integral package that’s called ‘FlowMotion’. It revolves around the themes of fitness, career, training and work. Employees can use a range of tools, tips and tricks related to these four themes without interference from management. Nuon employees receive great discounts at various fitness clubs. Through our online training community, known as Good Habits, they can participate in a range of education and training activities. They can do this whenever they like on a 24/7 basis, even during working hours. We apply the ‘smart working’ principle, so employees determine their own hours. They can, for instance, complete first aid online refresher courses or stress-resilience coursed. Because the focus is on the sustainable employability of our employees, we also offer numerous courses aimed at the further development of competences. The express aim of our FlowMotion programme is to create a link between health and employability.
“Incidentally, we received an ESF subsidy for the predecessor of FlowMotion. Adaptics guided the subsidy application process, the kind of task that it excels at.”
A second subsidy application was recently approved. This time, we’re zooming in on the physical strain experienced by employees. It’s amazing how many people still have bad postures when sitting at their desks. This is a problem that can easily be addressed. And, once it’s been solved, the results are immediate.”
You offer quite a lot. Are your employees able to keep track of it all?
“Yes, our employees tell us that too. For this reason, we’re designing a cartoon illustration with the help of Adaptics. This will display all the tools available to our employees and what they should be used for.”
How do you measure the effect of all your efforts in the field of health management?
“The workability index measures work ability at individual level. On a periodic basis, employees themselves estimate how well they are able to do their jobs, both now and in the future. The results predict future absenteeism rather well. We’re subsequently able to measure loss in productivity using a specific formula. This means that people do their jobs as usual, but also that we are unable to take advantage of their full potential. Loss in productivity can then be expressed in monetary terms. We implemented this process two years ago for the first time, and have recently done it again. We’ll be comparing the results from two years ago with this year’s results. This will help us obtain more accurate data on the effects of our efforts and those of Adaptics.”
Are hard figures, resulting from all your efforts, available yet?
“We’re working on it, but I can venture to claim that there’s more awareness about health and sustainable employability. The causal relation is hard to demonstrate, but we’re already seeing a more proactive attitude among employees who take their own initiative at this level. It’s also about the recognition and addressing of signs at an early stage, both by employees themselves and management.”
Are you satisfied with what has been achieved to date among Nuon employees?
“For sure! We’ve managed to convert a relatively simple PME into a sustainable employability programme. What’s really cool to me is the fact that quite a few employees look forward to the PME’s. There’s good reason why there’s a 73% uptake among all Nuon employees.”
Do you have any recommendations for other companies?
“If you want more of a focus on health and sustainable employability, try to make sure that you involve your employees from the word go. In my experience, a top-down approach is not ideal. Also look at the best practices at other organisations, but select those that are of specific interest to your organisation. And clearly communicate what you’ll be dedicating to each goal!”