Performance at work depends broadly on two factors- capability, and motivational will. With the rise of knowledge work, where people are paid for time rather than for outcome, soft skills such as creativity, ideation, strategic thinking etc. have gained much importance. Will and motivation, therefore, becomes most important in this context, making well-being the key factor in a multi-dimensional concept of engagement.
In a recent webcast, Chief People Officer of ResMed, a global leader in sleep technology that has its origins in Australia, Vered Keisar discusses the latest trends challenging the current well-being strategy of organisations in Australia and New Zealand and discuss how leaders can propel a change to ensure a healthier and happier workforce.
Current gaps in well-being
Organisations have taken on well-being and wellness as a key agenda. The main focus till recently was on physical well-being and we are seeing a shift to mental wellness, but the journey is ongoing, with the following hindrances along the way:
- Employee workload and disconnect between organisational goals: discrepancy in what leaders are expecting from employees vis-à-vis what wellness is delivering.
- ‘Tick-the-box’ approach: The lack of a deep desire to understand what employees care for and value leads to a cookie-cutter approach.
- Leadership enablement: Leadership buy-in or the lack of it is a critical factor for low commitment to well-being agendas.
- Lack of employee ownership: How employees engage with well-being requires a mind-shift by leaders and employees both. For example, empowering employees to set these boundaries for themselves, is a key factor.
- Finding success: Helping employees find what well-being is for them and what does success looks like, requires a 1-0-1 conversation. “Everyone has to find what their balance is and what works”, shares Vered.
Role of Leadership in enforcing a well-being culture
Leaders have a huge influence on well-being of workers and subsequently on business performance. This is because, for most people, the most important aspect of their work day is their relationship with their manager or leader. If these relationships are healthy, they influence every other aspect of peoples’ lives.
“The leader has more influence on your well-being than your doctor."
To create a well-being-centric culture, leaders must:
Hold 1-0-1 conversations with employees to make sure employees are being heard. Leaders must provide the space and time to express and identify what wellness would look like to their people.
Create an environment that respects people’s personal time and preferences as to how they work. The 1-0-1 connects should be designed to provide enough headspace to both leaders and managers to talk openly and honestly, in every conversation. The 1-0-1 relationship with leaders, should reflect whether the leader really cares about the employees, both personally and professionally.
Show more empathy and compassion, by putting themselves in their employees’ shoes. Leaders can be good role-models by asking questions, listening, and talking about what well-being means. Leaders must make an effort to understand that everyone is different and work towards identifying the uniqueness, 1-0-1 connects can help in this regard. HR must keep reminding leaders that their main job is looking after the people in their teams and organisation. HR must institutionalize the 1-0-1 coaching connect through right trainings and tools to forge a strong coaching relationship, and less of a leader-manager power-play.
Measure outcomes around ‘how do we make sure people feel cared about?’. Leaders should define the priorities and open up specifically about workload and prioritization issues. The outcome or result of well-being should be for employees to feel valued and do a good job. This requires little financials, but more intentionality.
Ideally, wellness comes from the top, but not always. One person can change the culture too, based on a great employee-manager relationship, creating a positive domino effect.
“Take the leadership in your hands, and role-model the behaviours”, says Vered.
Making well-being mainstream
To make well-being a holistic strategy it needs to be entrenched into the business strategy and ways of working. Leaders must start by defining what well-being means for specific persons, and build processes and policy around it. The core of a well-being strategy is understanding employee needs, not just through engagement surveys, but by enabling people. HR can add value through education, by designing benefits and compensation policies around well-being, and performance policies to sort the disconnect between workload and cascading goals. This will help move away from one-size-fits-all, and enable people to work in the way that suits their lifestyle and flexibility, built on a culture of trust.
Vered shares, “Pre-pandemic too we had a globally distributed workforce, hence cross-region collaboration was an ingrained way of working. We had clear guidelines around flexibility with an emphasis on employee well-being, social connection, innovation, transparency and communication”
Questions around how productivity and well-being are connected are constantly evolving. The above should be woven together by defining and measuring outcomes credibly. HR leaders must ask themselves, “How do we enable the practices, support and systems to shift to outcome-based performance?” well-being outcomes should be about how well-being is perceived by employees. Process change and educating both leaders and employees can help achieve this by getting people to understand the benefits and actively participate. The need of the hour is to make well-being a personalized conversation and connect, closer to the employee and the leader. At the core, the question to constantly ask is, “Are employees feeling good?”, and to pivot the wellness strategy around the employee speak.