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Barnett Waddingham
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Do you know how your employees are coping?

Published by Laura Matthews on

Estimate reading time: 4 minutes


How to identify, understand and tackle coasting

We live and work in a rapidly changing world which requires organisations to rethink their sense of purpose. Not only does this include the way they do business but, also the way they employ, engage and reward employees for the value they generate. However, are employers losing sight of the individuality of their employees? Benefits that support one person will not necessarily support another. Some employees may be challenged by their role and others are simply coasting through their career.

Our latest Why BWell research found that happiness levels overall are up from last year’s results at 72%. However, this figure decreases by 15% when admitting their happiness levels at work. The wellbeing gap between an employer and employee is continuing to widen and employers need to take a step back and think – what is really impacting on happiness in the workplace?

“Although 56% of respondents felt they were either flourishing or performing above average at work, there was a large proportion who felt they were coasting (32%) or struggling (7%) in their careers. ”

There are two types of coasters. “Conscious” coasters who is content just plodding along, they could give more but don’t. “Reluctant or disengaged” coasters are those who feel and want to be able to make a difference by contributing more, but feel restricted and unhappy in their ability to achieve this in their role. Employers need to focus on how to unlock the value of this latter group, given the productivity challenges we face in the UK.  Here are some ways of doing this:

How do you identify them?

There are a number of methods used by organisations to help identify their employee’s needs, such as the use of HR, finance and business performance data. Many organisations have access to a wealth of data.   However, this in itself brings its own challenges, such as where and how the data is stored, how accessible it is and whether you have the skills in-house to extract what you need. Do you as an organisation use such data in order to understand your workforce, how they are performing and to support your people proposition and other decision making policies? Many organisations also undertake employee engagement surveys but it is really important to fully understand these, act on the results, and establish an honest and open dialogue with employees on progress. Employee survey data should also be analysed and considered against other HR metrics to give a more complete picture.

Understand your competitive advantage

Employees are your biggest competitive advantage but only if they are able to create value by delivering work that is meaningful for the organisation and themselves. You can’t maximise that advantage if you don’t understand it. A lot of organisations will often know more about their customers than their employees. HR systems collect information and data throughout an employee’s journey with you. Combining this with employee feedback gives you real insight into how they are feeling and performing and shows that you are interested in them as an individual. Almost a third (29%) of coasters feel that no interest is being shown in them as a person.

Develop your competitive advantage or someone else will

Many organisations are reviewing and reinventing their sense of purpose and operating models.  Future success is dependent on employees’ ability and desire to adapt, learn and develop and grow new skills. The research found that just under half of respondents (47%) feel that their employers supported their personal and professional development, with just over one in five employees disagreeing with this. When compared to those who could see themselves still working for the same organisation in 12 months’ time, those who considered themselves as coasting were by far the largest group (41%) who feel they would not be. This provides a great opportunity for employers to bridge the gap between coasting and above average employees, thus reducing the flight risk of these individuals and the overall impact on business.

Exchange of value

The relationship between employer and employee is becoming less transactional and much more about creating an experience which encourages shared value and benefit. This is based on the mutual exchange of value between employer and employee. At any point, the employee can decide the value they are receiving from employment is not enough to keep them there and likewise the employer can decide an employee is not creating enough value to sustain their continued employment. Meaningful work is known to be good for an individual’s mental health too. Less than half (48%) who coast say their job is meaningful and that they can add value in comparison to nine in ten (89%) who are flourishing within their role. Coasters are also three times less (33%) likely to feel recognised for the contribution they make in comparison to those who flourish (80%). 

Performance reviews

These are starting to become “so last year”, literally speaking. Performance is continuous and needs to be reviewed on a more regular basis such as a monthly meeting. This also provides an opportunity for two-way discussion on any job, personal and professional development needs, to monitor and tweak set objectives, identify support and coaching needs and identify and remove any performance barriers. This will improve engagement as well as productivity. This will give organisations a regular and up to date view of high performers and at risk employees.

Why BWell: wellbeing in the workplace

We've interviewed 3,000 UK workers to understand health and wellbeing in the workplace. Alarmingly, the research shows one in three of us are coasting through our career due to unhappiness in the current workplace.

About the author

  • Laura Matthews

    Laura oversees our award winning Wellbeing solution, BWell for Barnett Waddingham. She specialises in Workplace Wellbeing within all types of organisations, building bespoke and holistic wellbeing strategies to meet the needs of the client.

    View Biography

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