How midsize companies use wellbeing to strengthen business

| September 6, 2017

The agility to respond to change, bringing a product to market and decision making to achieve short and long term goals are several areas that midsize businesses excel at, while in order to respond to shareholder needs, corporations are increasingly leveraging automation to minimise cost and maximise profit.

The socioeconomic cost of automation is human. As the employees who remain operate with a sense of insecurity, or those positions made redundant, look to find security by transitioning to their next career phase. These people have a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience navigating change, but due to simple economies of scale they are part of a growing wave of digital refugees.

In many midsize organisations, implementing large scale digital solutions to automate process or create analytics doesn’t make economic sense. The argument for automation is improved productivity and efficiency, but if automation is not viable, then it’s up to the organisations employees to create these gains. So how do midsize seize the opportunity of the digital refugees and create an environment where people are at their most productive and efficient?

When employees don’t feel supported to manage or take responsibility for their own wellbeing, it can have a detrimental impact on the organisation. To highlight the costs to employers, research has found 75 per cent of employees are disengaged from their jobs, while 25 per cent display active disengagement which is essentially destructive behaviour within the workplace. Financial stress falls into two categories, those that live under financial strain and those that feel they do.

Whichever of those is true, research has shown that an employer loses 7hrs productivity per week and up to 40 per cent increase in sick leave when an employee experiences financial stress. When it comes to our physical health, it’s a sad statistic that 33 per cent of employees in Australia have a preventable chronic disease that could have been avoided or mitigated by improved lifestyle choices. As there is a growing awareness of mental health, so too is the awareness of work stress, toxic work environments and the employer’s responsibility to create a healthy work environment. These costs have a direct impact on the bottom line in the form of lost productivity, turnover and potential workers’ compensation claims.

Organisation’s aren’t in business to just limit risk, they want growth and a thriving business which happens when an organisation can attract, retain and motivate employees to work together to their highest potential. Before motivating their employees, organisations first need to attract the right talent and then invest and support them through their career journey.

Employees will look to change employment when they don’t believe their current employer can provide development opportunities or if their wellbeing is being compromised. If midsize organisations create the environment for employees to articulate their needs relating to career or personal life and then programs to support the employee to meet those needs, turnover can be vastly reduced or potentially forward planned.

Creating a working environment where employees feel heard, valued and part of something significant is an opportunity where midsize organisations can lead to create workplaces that maximise the potential of their employees at any age and become an employer of choice to attract individuals transitioning due to automation. A midsize organisation can gain immense benefit from a virtual talent pool based on reputation and employee referral. When an employee feels truly valued, they become the brand ambassadors that robots could only dream of.

Employees are more productive and motivated when they have a positive sense of wellbeing, but what is wellbeing?

The term wellbeing is being attached to a vast array of activities and emotions which is absolutely right as an individual’s wellbeing is unique. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for their colleague. Wellbeing for an early thirty something career focused professional would differ to someone in the sandwich generation managing family, ageing parents and their own health. So how does a midsize organisation implement an effective, manageable framework that addresses broad elements that is easy to manage and creates measurable value?

  1. Define what wellbeing looks like

Decide on a definition for wellbeing that is right for your organisation and the mix of employees. This can be confusing as it’s become a buzz word to describe a myriad of human experiences. Whether an organisation chooses to focus on improving leadership, mental health and access to services, flexible work arrangements, employee training and development or building an internal community to create a sense of belonging and shared objectives, there’s no one answer.

  1. Create impact for the individual employee

Ensure the delivery of the program addresses the individual’s needs and aspirations. Group activities are valuable for education and creating conversations but need to connect to the individual’s circumstances to have lasting impact. Wellbeing programs are also typically voluntary, so direct value to the individual is vital to motivate employees to invest their time and effort. If a program comprises only low touch group activities, value may be lost as employees see this to be a band aid fix.

  1. Make it human

Until AI has fully formed EQ, human emotions cannot be automated. Wellbeing is all about emotions. A platform or app can be a great introduction or data collection point and then used together with interactions with supportive and qualified specialists, to maximise the return on investment.

  1. Measure it

How will you know it worked? Measurable value of a well delivered wellbeing program can be seen in reduced costs of turnover, absenteeism, workers’ compensation claims and recruitment costs but it can also be measured through the growth opportunities of productivity, engagement, innovations, referred employees and the building of a community.

The beauty of investing in your employees’ wellbeing is that it doesn’t need to start in a grand scale. Once an organisation knows what they’re solving, programs and internal policies can be developed to create incremental change. Employee incentive programs often default to a time-based and financial framework but by viewing wellbeing as investing in employee’s as humans, the benefits have a ripple effect on the person, organisation and beyond.