How to meet top HR objectives with your wellbeing strategy

Piers Bishop · April 19, 2018

Woman talking to fellow board members about employee wellbeing strategy

Wellbeing in the workplace is certainly getting more attention and there has been some progress with changing attitudes, but C-level board members and senior stakeholders still need convincing on the impact of a wellbeing strategy on the bottom line.

Whether you need convincing or want some ammo to take to the next board meeting, today we are going to help you make the link. Proving that a wellbeing strategy can very much help you deliver on those top HR objectives for the business.

So, what are these top HR objectives?

At the beginning of the year we published a blog on survey findings from Cascade HR that highlighted a continued focus on Employee Engagement as a top objective for 2018, closely followed by staff retention, absence management and recruitment, then lastly succession and planning. A survey by Access Group reinforced these results with similar findings that the three top challenges for HR this year are:

  • Employee engagement 94%
  • Recruitment / Retention 35%
  • Growth & Scalability 31%

It’s interesting to us that these are still a top focus, when terms like ‘employee engagement’ are definitely reaching their peak, instead replaced by ‘employee experience’ or discussions around wellbeing and happiness at work. We also know based on the employee survey results we see everyday that all of these ‘objectives’ are not attained through separate strategies or approaches and in fact side effects of improving wellbeing in the workplace and boosting happiness levels at work.

Why is Employee Engagement still a top strategic objective?

Many HR or learning and development professionals know that the focus needs to shift way beyond employee engagement, but there’s still so much historic evidence and studies proving otherwise. Like anything, C-level and senior managers are used to these terms, so it is going to take time to educate and help them move away from a reliance on them. For example, a recent Gallup survey revealed that high employee engagement can result in:

  • 10% higher customer metrics
  • 17% higher productivity
  • 20% higher sales
  • 21% higher profitability

Pretty compelling statistics and all good reasons to focus on employee engagement. This is why persuading the boardroom that a wellbeing strategy should be a top priority can be a challenge. However, it doesn’t have to be complex either. It’s really about shifting their perspective and proving that all of these individual objectives are connected. Once you make that connection clear for them, your goals as a business will also align so you can begin to make real strides with your wellbeing strategy.

To help you do that, let’s look at each HR objective and discuss the link to employee wellbeing.

Employee engagement: what do humans need to engage?

It’s interesting that businesses are struggling to get employees to engage when it isn’t actually that hard for us as humans to achieve. In fact people do it naturally when it meets their needs to do so. Just ask yourself why millions of people give away their precious free time to bring up children, play football, sing in choir, repaint community centres and so on. It’s likely that your employees are quite happy doing these things for free at the weekends, but yet they are still putting in less effort during the week when they get paid to work.

The mystery of engagement is not really a mystery at all. Work is simply not typically constructed to meet the bio-psycho-social needs of human beings. Why should it be, when, most of us don’t even understand that we have such needs, and that they control everything we do?

So, the best way to position your wellbeing strategy as an employee engagement activity is to uncover what people are trying, unconsciously, to achieve. Enabling you to then construct a culture and environment in which they get these needs met incidentally while doing their work. Because people want to be in places that meet their innate needs, they will engage in this environment. 

Staff retention: the link between happiness and loyalty

The link between wellbeing and staff retention is a logical one to grasp. People tend to stay in places where they feel happy, and leave places where they are unhappy. Our employee surveys reveal time and time again that being happy at work will always remain an ultimate goal, along with seeking out a sense of purpose and belonging. While there may be temporary exceptions to this rule, for example when employees need funds urgently and do a job they don’t like for a while. Eventually when they are in a better position they will start looking for a more attractive place to work.

So, that leaves us with the question: what makes staff happy? To answer this, we need to go back to some very fundamental questions about how the human being works. There are actually a dozen or so fundamental needs that we all seek to fulfil in everything we do, and these illuminate all our choices. Recruit someone into a place where these needs are met, and they will not need to move on as quickly as they might otherwise. It goes without saying therefore, that if you succeed at meeting these needs through a wellbeing strategy, you will in turn improve staff retention.

This reduced turnover saves on recruitment costs, and the indirect costs of having to incorporate newcomers into the workplace structures. It also reduces the indirect costs of the poor health and wellbeing that result from the stress employees experience in workplaces they don’t like. This is is important when it costs, on average, £4,800 to replace an employee and £7,000 to replace a manager (CIPD). How’s that for proving the value of a wellbeing strategy?

Absence management: reducing sickness and addressing mental health

Every employer needs to have some understanding of mental health, and to have policies and procedures for helping employees who become unwell. Not just because we should care, but also because there are sound business reasons for doing this and reducing absenteeism is one of them. The fact is greater wellbeing means less absence, which costs employers a median £554 per employee in the UK according to the CIPD, and £29 billion to UK business as a whole.

However, the link between your wellbeing strategy and absence management is not just about offering support and resolutions for mental or physical ailments as they arise, but also ensuring that you’re not part of the problem. Accepting that at least some of the stresses that make staff unwell are being generated by the workplace itself. Therefore, your first obligation is to make sure you’re not causing undue and un-noticed stresses for staff. Propelling them into states where they need to be helped.

That’s a lot to manage, which is why it is vital to have some method of diagnosing where staff are happy and where they are not. Using the right kind of questioning, through a psychological led employee survey like WeThrive, to get to the root causes of unhappiness, staff loss and reduced productivity. Ultimately, providing the line managers with information about what is working and what needs to be improved for each employee. Meaning they no longer have to work in the dark when trying to decide how to help each member of their teams.

Growth & Scalability: managing wellbeing through change

Most people find change unsettling, and for companies as a whole very rapid change can be dangerous as people struggle to accommodate to the changing world they work in. In stressful times people tend to close down, becoming less communicative and collaborative, and also less likely to stay with the organisation. Dealing with a surge of employee turnover and the financial loss of the recruitment and training that follows is certainly not going to help you steer the organisation through a time of rapid change. 

Managing the wellbeing of employees is essential to the success of growing your business and scaling up, because of its intrinsic link to bottom line objectives like employee engagement, retention, absenteeism and satisfaction or productivity. This is where we come full circle and begin to see why these historically individually approached HR objectives belong under one view.

But how can you manage wellbeing successfully in these conditions? The trick is to keep track of the emotional hot-spots for your staff. Beyond checking in with employees using an employee survey, our product toolbox  enables you to continually monitor who is becoming more and less happy, about what, and why. Providing managers with access to detailed information that offers the insight they need to intervene in the right places with the right conversations – informed by data gathered from the employees just hours before. The same approach is invaluable when, for example, people come together into a new group for a project – the initial phase of orientation can be shortened significantly by understanding issues before they become seriously problematic.

Making employee wellbeing strategy matter 

We joined forces with Access Group to gather the data and psychological intelligence you need to make the case for wellbeing in the workplace. Take a look at our game changer guide on Improving Employee Wellbeing.

About WeThrive

Employee Engagement, Evolved

WeThrive is the agile employee engagement platform that uncovers how your people truly feel, enabling managers to create highly effective teams, increase employee retention and employee wellbeing and deliver better business results.

At organisation, team or individual level WeThive’s unique 4cs model leverages the latest psychological understanding to quickly and easily deliver insights, actions and learning content to help your managers become better managers, creating a high performance culture and improving business results. UK based, WeThrive has an average 91% employee engagement survey completion rate and to date has made over 5000 company-wide recommendations.

Employee wellbeing guide