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6 min read 

Over the past few months, Reward Gateway has had the honour of supporting, connecting and recognising millions of employees around the world as they work through an incredibly challenging and unpredictable situation.

Among the HR Leaders who have evolved their employee engagement strategy and improved how they connect with and support employees is Joel Rethore, Group Head of Rewards, Performance & People Analytics at Healius.

Known by most Australians for its medical centres and service providers including Laverty, Western Diagnostics and Dorevitch Pathology, Healius supports over 12,000 healthcare workers who are providing patient care across 2,400 sites all over the country. As a critical service provider, Healius has been intentional about identifying opportunities to strengthen employee connection and accelerate change during, and beyond, COVID-19.

Below, Joel shares some of the things that Healius has done to improve the employee experience and performance over the past six months.

Supporting and connecting employees during a pandemic

Q: Tell us about the workforce at Healius and some of the challenges you have faced in supporting employee wellbeing and engagement.

Joel: There have been different waves of learning over the past few months. This has been a story of crisis, and crisis often accelerates change. The question for us has been how we deal with that change and how we come out on the other side with a better understanding of our people, of what we can improve operationally, how to improve culture through COVID-19, and of what is really at stake in that connectedness between the employer and employee.

At Healius we have 12,000 people located all across the country, including people working in remote locations and in various jobs – from collectors, doctors, and nurses to imaging specialists and people who were working in our offices but have now transitioned to working from home.

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for helping me and the business explore the relationship between our employees and the business, as well as the relationship between individual employees and their coworkers or peers.

The pandemic has forced us to rethink the presence we have with our people. With many teams having to change how and where they work, we see an interlacing and interdependence of what’s on offer at work with what is impacting employees’ lives at home.

I learned early on that when the sense of fear and risk is high and people lack certainty on the operational side, they really look for security on the cultural side.


Q: What have you evolved or expanded to help strengthen employees’ sense of security and to cultivate a stronger culture?

Joel: We have looked at ways to send our people the message that even though there are some things out of our control right now, we can and will support our people in the areas within our control.

We wanted to channel people’s attention to prioritise self-care, knowing that their wellbeing will affect the quality of care we are able to give our clients.

Our engagement journey over the past two years can be summarised in three phases:

  • We introduced an employee benefits program 'MyBenefits' to support employees on a transactional basis by providing our employees on-the-go access to discounts at hundreds of retailers. We launched this long before COVID-19 but it has continued to help employees reduce financial stress by saving money on everyday purchases such as groceries and petrol, while lightening the load of larger purchases such as electronics, furniture or exercise equipment.


  • This year we expanded the 'MyBenefits' portal to include a Wellbeing Centre which gave our employees access to resources that support the different facets of maintaining a healthy lifestyle – physical, nutritional, mental and financial health. Olive S., who is managing our benefits for Healius, also introduced the communications functionality on MyBenefits to start communicating in a more streamlined way when it matters the most. We were able to communicate quickly with a centralised internal communications platform, and send out important messages and updates about the pandemic on the MyBenefits COVID-19 information hub.

    In this way, the platform evolved from something purely transactional, to something that was experiential, and helped support our people’s integration of work and home life.

  • The final phase has been to launch employee recognition on the platform, in the form of eCards. The idea is to make it easy for our people to say thank you to each other, and to also make those small deeds visible to everyone else across the whole business. At a time when many employees might be feeling physically disconnected or invisible, this can do so much to boost motivation and morale.


Q: Why have you decided to use employee recognition as a way of connecting with your people and improving culture at this time?

Joel: I find recognition fascinating because it’s a way of looking back and looking forward, it’s top-down and peer-to-peer, it’s personal but it’s also for the broader business.

Recognition is both an eco- and an echo-system. It’s a visible reinforcement of what individuals did right, and it’s an encouragement to do it again. It’s a two-way street.

It’s not just recognition from one person to another, and it’s an enabler for one person to position themselves as a model for someone doing something right. It’s also an opportunity for a manager to reinforce the message of what to continue, and to reposition themselves as a leader or mentor.

The root of the word 'recognition' is 're-cognisant,' meaning 'to remember again.' It’s an opportunity to reflect and think about what to continue.

Q: What would you like to say to HR leaders who are looking for ways to improve culture and get support from their leaders on similar initiatives?

Joel: When I started my employee engagement journey at Healius, we really wanted to do something good for our people, to bring them together and give them a good experience of working at Healius.

There are two elements to calculating the return on investment for these types of projects.


The first is purely transactional - our employees save more money through the 'MyBenefits' platform than we have to pay to give them access to it. There is also the bonus of lessening the administrative burden of my team.

Secondly, this platform helps us create an unrepeatable employee experience through the connections and touch points on this platform. We’re able to reach our people even when their manager isn’t sitting next to them. We’re able to give them information they need, we’re able to give them resources that boost their mental health and their productivity and health. You add recognition into that, and you have something people enjoy and want, which in turn helps our retention.

You then have the advantage of looking at your program’s performance or analysing the data to refine and improve as you go. The data will help you see what your people want and need from you, which is what we continue to do. The more we can create an offering that helps our people focus on the collective rather than the individual, and the experiential rather than the transactional, the more we can build loyalty to our employer brand — something that others can’t replicate.

This has been a journey for us, and we wouldn’t be at the place we are now if we had hesitated at the beginning.

Is it time to evolve your employee engagement strategy? Get in touch with us to learn more about Reward Gateway solutions to connect, recognise and support your people and improve company culture.

Talk to an Engagement Consultant »

Vanessa Grant

Vanessa Grant is an Enterprise Client Success Manager at Reward Gateway. She loves travelling, with Madagascar topping the list of favourite destinations visited to date. She’s also an avid plant lover and feline fur-parent.

Enterprise Client Success Manager

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