Human resources professionals often need to balance the needs of employees against the objectives of their organizations. In our article 5 Top Tips to Balance Company Goals With Employees’ Wellbeing we share top tips from HR insiders on how to walk this fine line.
When we asked HR managers and business leaders how they navigate this balance, we got so many great tips about how to promote employees’ welfare that we decided to dedicate an entire article to it. Read on for the top 4 tips on the things that you can start doing today to keep your people happy and motivated.
1. Speak to employees regularly
One of the top recommendations we got is to talk to your employees about what they need, and to do so on a regular basis.
Adam P. Gordon, Co-Founder of PTO Genius advocates proactive communication. Not only does this help you connect with your employees more regularly, but it will help you identify issues before they become problems.
Gordon says, “If you don’t know an issue exists, there is no way to fix it. Build in a regular calendar of outreach to your team. This could include having them fill out a survey about balance-related factors such as hours worked, scheduling, support for working parents. By soliciting feedback, you can manage the areas of needed improvement and enact solutions before they fester for too long.”
The book Cracking Health Costs cites a study which shows a clear relationship between low wellbeing and higher hospitalization and emergency room admission. For each one-point positive difference in wellbeing, employees were 2.2% less likely to have an admission, 1.7% less likely to have an ER visit, and had a 1% lower likelihood of incurring any healthcare cost. For those who incur healthcare costs, each one-point positive difference in wellbeing was associated with a 1% lower cost.
Thus, Cal Martin - who has counseled hundreds of top executives at Fortune 500 companies on customer satisfaction, employee engagement and wellbeing, is spot on when he says - “it is absolutely worth proactively investing in employee wellbeing rather than trying to manage the expenses reactively. Healthier employees means a healthier bottom line.”
2. Offer support for your employees’ physical and mental health
Todd Ramlin, Manager of Cable Compare, believes that “Healthy employees make for a healthy business.” Ramlin adds, “The healthier an employee is the more productive they can be so insurance and wellness programs are great tools for meeting business goals while looking out for the welfare of your people.”
Emily Connery, Head of People and Talent at ChartHop highlights the importance of supporting mental health at the workplace. Connery says, “We need to support our employees holistically because we care about them and because happy, supported, and rested people perform better. Due to this overdue realization, mental health and the proverbial couch are shedding their stigma and getting the spotlight. This means investing in new well-being benefits like meditation apps and counseling services. It also means allowing your business to pause for things like mental health days or even weeks.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in four Americans has had a serious mental illness. The financial impact of poor mental wellbeing is staggering - research estimates that workplace stressors cost the United States approximately $180 billion annually.
To help mitigate the mental health costs to your business, invest in resilience training to help you and your team deal with stress healthily.
3. Empower your employees
When your people understand your company goals and feel engaged in terms of how they are contributing to the business’s success, they are more likely to feel motivated.
On the flip side, as Matt Erhard, Managing Partner at Summit Search Group, observes - “one of the biggest engagement killers is when employees feel undervalued or taken advantage of.” Erhard gives an example of this, “If you have a large project that needs overtime, ask for volunteers rather than assigning these extra shifts - it can make a big difference in how employees feel about putting in that extra time.”
Robert Half’s employee happiness report identifies a sense of empowerment as one of six key factors that contributes to employees’ happiness at work. Employees who feel free at work are 2.7 times more likely to be happy than those who don’t. Robert Half notes that giving your team as much agency as possible can improve their happiness in several ways:
- Team members build confidence when they realize they can make the right decisions.
- Employees have more say in the development of skills that they can use to both further their careers and contribute to the company.
- Empowered team members feel more comfortable questioning the status quo, thereby helping to create an organizational culture that is more open to new ideas.
4. Treat employees fairly and as individuals
Treating each person as an individual may seem obvious because we each have unique needs and talents. Nevertheless, in the bid to apply company-wide policies, managers may sometimes lose sight of the fact that people are likely to be working under different individual circumstances.
“It is our responsibility to have an understanding of each employee,” Ralph Severson, business owner of Flooring Masters, says. “They must be treated as the individuals that they are. While one employee may love working 60 hours per week, another will burn out after a few weeks of this. If an employee does a great job, but is not at all interested in the conference you wanted to take them to, don’t push them into it. We have to let people be who they are, but within reason. It's still a business.”
Jake Penney, Head of HR at English Blinds, reminds employers that while they need to “recognize that different individuals have different welfare needs,” they must also ensure they are “consistent and fair in their application of support.” Robert Half’s research shows that fairness and respect are together the second main drivers of employee happiness.
In conclusion, there are several proven ways to improve employee wellbeing. You can reach out to employees regularly, and take practical measures to support their physical and mental health. Be cautious of the way you treat each employee. Unfair treatment - whether real or perceived - can turn a happy and motivated employee into one who is sceptical and disengaged. And finally, remember that empowered employees are likely to be happier employees.