An honest perspective on creating an award-winning holistic wellbeing culture at Jaguar Land Rover

Dr Steve Iley cropped

When you have a diverse workforce, one of the biggest struggles we hear wellbeing professionals grappling with is how to create a culture, or programmes, that appeal to all. This is particularly challenging if your workforce is split into office-based and site-based workers.

This is exactly the challenge that Steve Iley, Chief Medical Officer and Global Head of Occupational Health and Safety, Jaguar Land Rover, faced. Lucky for us, he’s going to share this struggle – covering the lows as well as the highs – at our sister event, The Watercooler. This event is all about connecting workplace wellbeing solutions to achieve the best possible outcomes for all. It is named in recognition of those crucial moments of connection between employees, and is a free to attend conference and exhibition which takes place at at Excel London on 25th & 26th April 2023.

Iley’s own staggeringly diverse career background – which spans emergency medicine in Australia, Singapore and Bermuda, as well as being a GP in the NHS and positions at British Airways, AXA and Bupa – means he is very open minded when it comes to finding solutions. He’s learnt, he says, that “there are multiple ways to do something and the way in front of you isn’t necessarily the best way”.

We caught up with him to ask him more about his Watercooler session entitled ‘Creating a holistic wellbeing culture that empowers people to be at their best’ which is going to deliver an honest perspective on creating an award-winning holistic wellbeing culture…

Why are you so well placed to talk about creating a holistic well being culture?

Like many organisations, we have different groups of people in our workforce, but not all office workers. Our colleagues who work in manufacturing, and work in the factory building the cars, are much harder to connect with. They don’t have work devices. So we’ve had to really think hard about how we connect with, and reach out to, these individuals.

Historically we called this group the ‘unconnected’. We don’t use that term now, but it’s true that they were physically and emotionally more unconnected than some other groups. We often didn’t even have contact details for them. Basically, they would come to work, do their job and then leave as quickly as possible. They wanted their pay check, and that was the extent of their communication with the company.

Why did you feel so strongly about connecting with this group of non-office based colleagues?

Employee engagement was really poor. It’s hard work building cars. It’s repetitive. It can be boring. It can be stressful, both from a musculoskeletal perspective and psychologically. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s hard.

We had high absence rates. We had lots of musculoskeletal and psychological issues, but also our employee engagement score, which we measured through Net Promoter, was very low. And there was a clear discrepancy between our office based staff and our non-office based staff (or manufacturing staff). The difference was stark. We needed to do more for them.

When we looked at our range of services, a lot of them were very reactive and much easier to access if you knew what you were doing, and you had a computer. Or you had a connection with the company.

If you didn’t have those things, and if you had a manager who was too busy or overwhelmed to help you, life was even more difficult.

What did you start by doing?

In conjunction with our manufacturing director, we decided we had to take our services to the people, to be where they are, so that they can access the services without any friction.

We wanted to rethink the model. That meant going back to concentrate more on site services.

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While the drive to digital and remote wellbeing is great, and certainly has a place, it doesn’t necessarily reach the people who need it, who are working every day on a site and aren’t digitally savvy. Or have other barriers which make services difficult to access; we’ve found any amount of friction stops them.

Then you built centres for wellbeing on site?

Yes, in the manufacturing plants.

These plants are very varied. Some of them are very old, like in Castle Bromwich, where we used to build Spitfires in Second World War! These old locations can feel a bit ‘down and dirty’ in places.

In fact, there was definitely this idea, across the organisation, that ‘manufacturing doesn’t get the nice stuff’ and that head office did. Which was true. One was a highly designed, luxury environment and the other was an old factory.

So we built the centres for wellbeing using the template of modern luxury, which is our brand. We now have these microcosms of modern luxury in the factories.

You’ve created a luxury environment where all workers – including those on the factory floor – actually want to go, then?

Yes. They’re built to the standard of, not just headquarters, but our modern luxury branding. The same materials, same design input, same look, same feel. We’ve made them very inviting with, for example, coffee machines and all sorts of things that you don’t find in the factory.

You’ve already talked about the need to make an environment ‘frictionless’. How did you take out the friction in accessing these wellbeing services?

You don’t have to be referred by your manager. You can be referred by a manager. Or occupational health can refer you. Or you can simply refer yourself and just walk in and say ‘I’d like to get involved in a programme’.

And we have digital services too – so on one side we have occupational health, digital on the other, and they’re both feeding into the centres for wellbeing in the middle.

You have a strapline for your centres, don’t you. What’s that?

“No matter whether you’re an individual, or a team or a manager, and whether you’re well or unwell, we have something for you.”

Now I don’t want to steal your thunder, but just to give our readers a sense of your session – I’ve heard you are very entertaining in your delivery and that you are unlikely to stand up there and just talk about how perfectly the process all went. Can you tell us what you intend to share?

Ha, yes! I’m going to talk about the complexity of it. Challenges like dealing with procurement, finance, IT and all the other entities within an organisation.

My view is that you’ll never get anything done if you follow the process to the letter and some of the process was about busting through the door.

I’m also passionate that initiatives must be clinically and data led, so I was very deliberate about being evidence-based. I’m open minded and I’m willing to try out things like fresh bowls of fruit and yoga, but all the clinicians and programmes in our centres have data behind them. We collect data at the beginning, and at the end, so we can tell whether we’ve made a difference or not.

If you want to hear an honest perspective on creating an award-winning holistic wellbeing culture at Jaguar Landrover, then come and hear Steve Iley speak at the Watercooler on April 25 & 26.

The Watercooler, named in recognition of those crucial moments of connection between employees, is a free to attend conference and exhibition which demonstrates that wellbeing IS the future of work.

Taking place at Excel London on 25th & 26th April 2023, The Watercooler event is where you can gather to join ideas together, make connections, learn from peers’ experiences and find the right solutions for your organisation – whatever its size and shape.

For reasons why this is a must-attend event for anyone interested in workplace wellbeing, see this article here.

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