German luxury automobile manufacturer BMW competes in a fast-paced and constantly changing industry. In recent years, innovation and technology have impacted the whole concept of a car. The challenges of this environment drive BMW to seek out advantages in every aspect of their activities.
Experts at BMW believe that changes in the automotive industry during the next decade will be as drastic as those the company has experienced over the last 100 years of its existence. To be on the crest of the wave, BMW acknowledges the importance of good leadership and a healthy workforce as critical to the organization.
“If I look at all our assets that we currently have in our plant, all of our assets, our machinery, our buildings are undergoing maintenance. They are being cleaned, they are being maintained, they are being fitted with spare parts. Our most valuable assets are our employees. Is it not time that we start maintaining our most valuable assets?” asks Michael Zuerl, General Manager for Total Vehicle Quality Management at BMW Group South Africa.
According to Claudius Van Wyk, Head of Research and Development at Phela Wellness and Firstbeat certified coach, BMW has a wide range of resources available for their employees, but in recent years the company has taken a major step forward by putting an increased focus on lifestyle and preventive healthcare.
Key to these efforts is BMW’s Health Leadership Program. The program was first implemented at the company’s Munich facility before being adopted by other European facilities and in South Africa, where it is managed by Phela Wellness. The program utilizes Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment, a unique professional-grade heart rate variability-based analytic tool that reveals the link between lifestyle and performance.
“As a global company, BMW operates in 13 countries on four continents, which all have different working cultures and a diverse workforce,” Van Wyk explains. “In South Africa, for example, the work culture is very performance driven, as opposed to Germany, where employees apparently make sure they keep their lunchbreaks, drink enough water during the day, and overall have a culture of looking after themselves. By this program, BMW wanted to raise awareness of employee well-being, so that their staff on all continents could work in a healthy environment and enjoy their work more.”
He also describes how the BMW Health Leadership Program is designed to improve employee resilience. “The goals of the project are that people would take better care of themselves by following the example set by their leaders. Healthy leaders plus healthy teams equal a healthy organization.”
A Demand for Measurable Goals
When it comes to achieving positive health outcomes and improving personal well-being, the rules are clear. To be effective, it is vital that the feedback and guidance that people receive be scientifically valid, relevant to them personally, and presented in a way that empowers them with a clear path towards their goals.
According to Van Wyk, therein lies the advantage, explaining, “Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment is a valuable tool showing actual, accurate, and concrete evidence that daily lifestyle decisions influence on our performance, recovery and overall well-being. It gives people hard evidence of what’s happening in their lives. As Firstbeat indicates situations that are most replenishing or challenging, it gives people a chance to make specific changes for better well-being and improved resilience.”
The program offers a cost-effective solution to issues BMW wants to solve and helps them to achieve their goal of coherent and resilient work environment.
“Every person who participates in this program will definitely bring positive changes in the business,” claims BMW’s Health Services Manager Charles Louw.
“A company that wants to get results should invest in their workforce,” says Van Wyk, a veteran of many such initiatives. “Research shows that every dollar, euro or whatever the currency, invested in preventative measures yields up multiple times more effective results than the dollar put into curative measures. By continuously investing in creating a meaningful and healthy workplace, BMW can no doubt continue its success throughout the expected dynamic change in the automotive industry.”
Real Data, Real Results
The results of BMW’s Health Leadership Program have been largely positive with individual participants utilizing the insights provided in different ways. Some have made radical changes to their lifestyle. Others, already aware of their state of well-being, described a boost in their motivation and felt encouraged to keep up their health maintenance activities, confident that their efforts were making a real difference. The more information one has about the impact of their lifestyle choices, the more effectively they can work towards better well-being.
“When it comes to well-being, it’s the small things that counts. Drinking more water, preparing yourself for a goodnight’s sleep, planning the day better and doing a proper amount of exercising. After seeing what is really happening in our bodies and its reactions to what we do and feel, we can start working towards changing the things that are possible to change. That’s success in its best,” says Van Wyk.
“In this day and age, in this changing world, in this complex world, health and resilience are key components of companies’ success. We work with a lot of companies and help them to achieve their goals. Managers, and employees of course, have generally been very satisfied.”
This sentiment is shared at BMW, where the effects of the program are clearly seen.
“The most significant aspect of the program has been the health implications and the impact of stress in the working environment—not only on the individual themselves, but on the teams around us. And, how we can potentially incorporate this into the culture and change it, all for the better,” says Carla Bathauer, the Manager at BMW Finance.
The Health Leadership Program is an ongoing process throughout the organization, says Van Wyk.
“The most impactful part of the program is the learning. The Lifestyle Assessment helps each employee to find ways to go forward and to take responsibility for their own well-being. Our intention is to develop champions in the organization, and with this project, we intend to achieve our goal,” Van Wyk concludes.
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