Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Laura Matthews looks at the importance of prioritising employee wellbeing.
“It’s not the right time.” “There are too many other things going on at moment!” “This isn’t a priority.” “We can’t get senior leadership to buy into this.” Despite the well-recognised importance of understanding, managing and improving employee wellbeing we hear this a lot from HR leaders. This was also a theme that came out of our recently held HR bites roundtable and lunch event.
"HR needs to think and act more strategically by advising on and influencing business performance from an employee proposition, experience and performance perspective."
So when, according to employers, is the right time? HR understands the importance of employee wellbeing but how do they get the rest of their organisation to agree and move it up the list of priorities?
HR needs to think and act more strategically by advising on and influencing business performance from an employee proposition, experience and performance perspective, rather than just reactively responding to what the business believes it wants and needs. Otherwise it implies they are merely firefighting, having to negotiate high workloads and work arounds that respond to identified symptoms but not the root cause of problems. This is ineffective, inefficient and costly.
Does this send a message to current and prospective employees that wellbeing is, in fact, NOT a key priority for the business right now or that something presumably more urgent has superseded it as a priority? Why are senior leaders not on board? Do they not recognise the importance and benefits of wellbeing? What are the reasons behind this? Also, are HR talking about wellbeing often enough or in the right way?
Below are some suggestions on how to ensure that employee wellbeing remains a priority for the leaders of your organisation.
Organisational purpose, values and culture
Organisational purpose, values and culture play a significant part in ensuring that employee wellbeing is a priority.
Purpose provides the foundation and framework that both the customer and employee experience, along with business success, is built upon. It is the compass for setting strategic direction, determining key business (and therefore employment) priorities and decision making. If it is not used in this way then there is very little point in having it. Instead, it might even negatively affect your brand and potentially cause damage to your organisation’s reputation internally, externally and financially.
Values define the culture and behaviours that shape how you want people to behave and work together. It helps inform how decisions are made about people priorities.
"Values define the culture and behaviours that shape how you want people to behave and work together. It helps inform how decisions are made about people priorities."
Build the business case
HR should have access to a wealth of data that could be used to build and support the business case for the “what, why and how” of wellbeing. This includes reviewing joiners and leavers over a set time period. For example, if you’re using agencies that support your recruitment, you can work out your annual fees over twelve months and consider what it costs when replacing people who have left. You can also review absence rates. Are there groups or areas internally where absence levels are higher or lower than the norm and what are the reasons for this? Is mental ill health and stress in the workplace on the rise? Do you know how much revenue is generated each year per employee hour worked? This would certainly reinforce the business case for wellbeing and attract the attention of the management board.
Some organisations simply provide a wellbeing strategy because they feel that it is morally the right thing to do. Some HR teams will have a harder job of securing buy-in from their organisation’s management board, or even sign-off for a sufficient budget for wellbeing. Examples that have worked well previously include making an objective a measurable target: “Reduce absence by 1% will save the organisation £XX” or “improve productivity by 1% will increase revenue by XX.” The value for both of these is easy to quantify.
Let it speak for itself
Wellbeing affects so many different elements in the employment lifecycle today. It can be a fantastic attraction and retention tool which could be the key differentiator for a quality future employee choosing you over a competitor. It will enhance the way your employees are supported, which in turn will improve happiness levels and positively impact your bottom line. This level of support will ‘silently’ speak volumes; employees would recommend you as an employer of choice to friends or family and your Glassdoor ratings and reviews will speak for themselves.
With more organisations focusing on the ‘employment experience,’ make sure your employee experience achieves top marks.