Employee well-being doesn't get attention from many executive leaders. In part, that's because leaders think more about the work the company does and less about the people who deliver on that work. As long as results keep rolling in, it's easy to forget that behind every employee ID number is a person with real concerns and problems that can impact their performance in myriad ways that can be difficult to assess.
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Eighty-eight percent of executives prioritize increasing employee engagement but struggle to find the right strategy to get results, according to "State of the Industry: Employee Wellbeing, Culture and Engagement in 2017," a report from tech firm Virgin Pulse.
For these leaders who can't figure out how to get the ball rolling on engagement, employee well-being is a great place to start.
"The data from the 'State of the Industry Report' shows that well-being is a key driver of engagement, productivity, and culture – three organizational measures that are directly linked with business performance," says Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse.
According to the report, 75 percent of companies with strategic well-being programs saw improvements in employee satisfaction and 65 percent saw improvements in company culture as a result of the initiatives. Boyce says Virgin Pulse has also seen data linking well-being programs to lower turnover rates and absenteeism and stronger stock performance.
"While the value of employee well-being has been historically difficult to quantify, that is quickly changing," Boyce says. "With a growing body of research proving the incredible impact of employee well-being, programs have moved from being a nice-to-have employee benefit to a must-have driver of critical business results."
Employee Engagement: All Day, Every Day
Many executives mistakenly believe they can drop a cookie-cutter engagement initiative into place, step back, and watch engagement improve. However, this simply isn't the case. Engagement programs need to be redefined and maintained to be successful.
"The most effective programs engage employees in positive experiences every day, helping them build healthy, positive habits that improve their work and their personal lives," Boyce says. "The daily part of engagement is crucial. Our data shows members return to our platform an average of five times a week – and they're especially active outside of work hours."
To encourage daily engagement, Virgin Pulse offers a personalized experience that fuses gamification, rewards, and competition. Boyce says these are key to keeping employees coming back to well-being programs again and again.
"Employees set their own goals, select programs that meet their well-being needs, and work toward their own definitions of success," he says. "Employees are encouraged to create healthy habits that naturally fit into their lives and empower them to be and do their best, both in and out of the office. This is how employee engagement is built through well-being: by fostering an employee experience that meets people where they are and drives a positive organizational culture as a result."
Building a Culture to Be Proud Of
A constant commitment to employee well-being and engagement leads to more than just employee performance improvement. Companies that care about their workforces are more attractive to customers and candidates as well.
"We know strategic investments in well-being drive more productive and positive workplace cultures, which remains the single greatest competitive advantage for organizations today," says Boyce. "When employees feel supported by their employer and empowered to meet their own goals, organizations see top- and bottom-line results, from higher job satisfaction and lower turnover to more productive workforces and stronger business performance – all reflections of a healthy culture."
Boyce notes that culture is "essential" for organizations today, citing a survey from Buck Consultants that found 74 percent of global organizations consider a culture of well-being a key element of their value propositions.
While cultural construction begins at the top, building something that lasts will eventually involve every rung of the corporate ladder.
"Transparent cultures require senior-level buy-in for any well-being investment," Boyce says. "Executives who display a personal commitment to well-being set a strong example and encourage other employees to make well-being a priority. In this way, culture is modeled from the top down. But it's also driven from the ground up through the daily experiences, interactions, and habits of employees."
"Cultures only change when enough people in the organization participate in and drive that change," he adds. "When the majority of people within an organization engage in and reinforce well-being as a priority within an organization, well-being becomes partly ingrained in the DNA of that organization's culture."