Last month, we teased you with some headlines from our Wellbeing Survey. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into these headlines and understand what this represents based on our experience of working to create a culture of wellbeing in organisations in the UK.  

The data from 95 client organisations has given us some useful insight into the ‘State of the Nation’ when it comes to wellbeing.

81%

reported that the engagement to health and wellbeing in their organisation is patchy or poor

We regularly see from our work that wellbeing in organisations is initiative-led rather than strategy-led.  This means that organisations are dealing with wellbeing reactively and they are not necessarily strategically and proactively delivering a culture of wellbeing throughout, so this statistic from our survey seems to make sense.  

This reactive approach can be seen in organisations in a few ways:

Firstly, organisations will often spot a wellbeing issue and react by putting an intervention in place to deal with the ‘hot spot’.  

Secondly, because wellbeing is a thriving market with a stack of products and services available, organisations can see a well-researched, or well-used,  wellbeing product and decide that it might work for their organisation – we could go further and say that sometimes wellbeing products become the ‘trend’ and organisations feel like they must comply to ‘keep up’.  

This type of initiative-based spending on wellbeing rather than a strategic unified and planned approach means that organisations often develop areas of best practice where wellbeing has engaged people and is connected to performance. But more worryingly, wellbeing spend is often not optimised across the board and that is another reason why these survey results are not surprising.

We tend to recommend our clients take a holistic approach and strategically manage the delivery of a culture of wellbeing with a series of integrated, goal-directed and, therefore, meaningful initiatives.  

Only 14%

of respondents reported that they have a robust measure of wellbeing in their organisation.

“Passion provides purpose, but data drives decisions” (Andy Dunn)

This result from the survey ties into what we have already discussed; there is a lot of passion around wellbeing and therefore organisations have introduced initiatives and interventions to keep their people healthy, but the decisions around the spend are quite haphazard because very few organisations have useful wellbeing data to show what is driving the levels of wellbeing in their organisation.  It is very difficult to make effective decisions on how to tackle wellbeing and improve employee experience without a robust baseline measure.

Many organisations have ‘Indicators’ of wellbeing, such as Engagement or absence, that is they have measures which give an indication of how well people are, but more often than not (and this is demonstrated in the survey results) organisations don’t have the data on what is driving wellbeing outcomes. Why are the engagement results the way they are? What is causing people to go off sick with stress? Why do people leave? In a nutshell, you need to know the pressures employees are experiencing to drive these outcomes.

A robust measure of wellbeing enables a ‘deep dive’ that provides levers to pull when it comes to action planning – ones that stand a good chance of making change happen. We recommend making this a priority before you do anything else – get to understand your eco-system and get a robust measure of wellbeing. You need to know your destination… but also your starting point when it comes to getting wellbeing right.

Only 9%

of respondents reported that their Senior Leadership Team are fully behind wellbeing as an enabler of performance

Wellbeing sometimes gets a bad reputation for ‘yoga at lunchtime’ and the ‘fruit drop’. The results from the survey demonstrate this reputation is alive and kicking.  

This negative reputation is no more dangerous than when it takes hold inside the Senior Leadership Teams as every business needs the support of the leadership team in delivering a wellbeing culture.  When people have this negative or indifferent view of wellbeing, it can be seen as a frivolous activity (and cost!) that will reduce performance rather than what it actually is – an enabler of performance.

The research, however, is overwhelmingly consistent in showing that the higher the levels of wellbeing, the higher the performance, in almost all business performance measures.

For example, research shows that psychological wellbeing is linked to:

  • Productivity 12% improvement (Oswald et al., 2015), nearly 25% improvement (Donald et al., 2005)
  • Client satisfaction (measured across 66 different organisations, Taris & Schreurs, 2009)
  • Organisational citizenship (Ilies et al., 2006; George, 1991)
  • Overall job performance (measured across 30 different samples, Ford et al., 2011)
  • Creativity and innovation (Amabile et al., 2005

Leaders often do not have this information, but once they do and have made the connection between wellbeing and performance, wellbeing usually becomes a business imperative. The message is even more powerful if they can see these relationships based on data from your own organisation… another strong reason for good measurement of wellbeing! For the practitioner, it is crucial to build an objective business case for wellbeing to gain Senior Leader buy-in.  Creating an effective business case for wellbeing is the starting point for transforming wellbeing from a ‘nice to have’ benefit to a business imperative. Some people will need to be persuaded of the value of investing in wellbeing, so being unequivocal about why wellbeing is important to the organisation is a critical part of setting the scene for your overall wellbeing strategy.

In that sense, the survey results were unsurprising to us because although health and wellbeing at work has moved on with pace in recent years, they represent the challenges that we encounter with our clients every day.  

But the good news is that all of these challenges can be overcome.

One of our main goals when implementing a sustained approach to wellbeing is helping clients influence the Senior Leadership Team. By demonstrating the commercial case, adopting the right language, and connecting wellbeing to their overall business strategy, we help leaders fully understand the reason for creating a positive culture around wellbeing.

This gives us a grounding to work holistically and strategically throughout an entire organisation, identifying where improvements can be made, and implementing these in an effective manner that results in a tangible impact on the bottom line.

For more information, contact our team on 0161 232 4910 or hi@robertsoncooper.com