Well-being initiatives, workplace health promotion (WHP) days, well-being at work campaigns, occasional surveys… Does this sound familiar? Well-being management has not changed much in decades. While these are all important tools for supporting well-being, the past corona-year has made it clear that the models developed to serve the old world of work are not enough anymore. Increased remote work, structural upheavals, and many other change factors are putting the squeeze on the individual and teams. We need to find more agile, holistic, and tailored ways to support people’s well-being.
80% of companies believe that well-being is a critical factor for the success of the entire organization. At the same time, only a fraction of organizations feel they are well-equipped to respond to this challenge. The pandemic has forced organizations to face up to the inadequacy of their well-being programs. (Deloitte 2020 Global Human Capital Trends.) So, what should we be paying attention to? What is modern well-being management in practice?
We have been focusing on this challenge at Vincit, a tech company and the birthplace of the LaaS-model (Leadership as a Service). When organizations grow and communities are composed of very different people, how can we continue to support each of them individually, while also systemically managing the big picture? In the LaaS model, well-being is made up of countless interrelated factors that need to be looked at together.
1. Prioritize individual needs while giving support
Employees are all individuals. Everyone leads a life that is uniquely theirs and no two employees live in the same exact circumstances. A student working part-time, a parent juggling with small children and a full-time job, or someone close to retirement, all have different needs. A career-driven person and someone focused on finding a gentle work-life balance might have somewhat different goals. For some, work happens in teams and is social by nature, and for others, work is a solitary, private effort. Some find the physical aspects of work straining, while others feel trapped when they have to sit still. Different generations also have different preconceptions and expectations for work and well-being.
Offering the same thing for everyone usually benefits no-one. Modern well-being management aims to serve each employee individually and provide support that prioritizes individual needs. At its best, tailored support is cost-effective and promotes employee well-being.
2. Take the holistic nature of well-being into account
As many other issues in an organization, well-being management tends to be siloed into its own little corner. However, well-being is the sum of many factors and you need more than separate surveys, excel sheets, or initiatives to really get the big picture. All the different aspects of well-being need to be taken into consideration at the same time allowing you to connect the dots and understand their root causes.
For example, a well-being survey may show excellent results for a particular team. But what can we learn from these results? When looking at the team’s well-being holistically, we can pinpoint certain competencies and motivational factors that explain their results. In some environments, project management skills or a strong commitment to the organization might also correlate with well-being.
With a holistic approach to well-being management, you can see below the surface and identify relevant factors that are usually not seen as components of well-being. Well-being management is inextricably connected to the strategy of the company through competencies and employee experience.
3. Don’t guess, lead with data
When organizations want to start promoting well-being, the go-to solution usually is to set up committees and brainstorm projects, campaigns, and initiatives. These are all well-intentioned actions but they are often based on mere guesses. Do these procedures work? And if they do, why? Who benefits from them, and who doesn’t? How should we allocate our resources? Well-being management requires as strong and systematic an approach as any other area of business.
Measuring well-being is not enough—the results must take the lead for future action. An efficient way to do this is to release well-being survey results directly to the individuals and teams in question to give them the opportunity to examine the data and reflect on it from multiple perspectives. They should also be offered immediate action and service recommendations based on their results. A more holistic understanding of one’s own well-being generates a sense of control and gives insight into the collective big picture, increasing the sense of meaning and purpose.
4. Stay on top of things and be agile about it
Traditionally, the measures taken to promote well-being are designed and prepared in committees, implemented, and assumed to function on their own for years to come. The problem here is that few companies stay the same for too long. As the environment and people change, the means of support should also change to stay current and effective. The success of well-being management requires HR to continuously revise its practices. This means accepting uncertainty and embracing the continuous reassessment of the big picture. What works and what doesn’t? Has the environment changed? Have people changed?
The COVID-19 pandemic is a model example of how everyday life can radically change for both individuals and workplaces in the blink of an eye. When well-being is led in an agile way, organizations are better prepared to adapt to changes. Organizations need to develop models that enable them to assess their procedures and their impact swiftly.
Agility is also key for the individual. Once employees have the opportunity to reflect on their own well-being and support is readily available when needed, risks can be anticipated and mitigated even before they grow into big and complicated problems.
5. Everything starts with the employee
When you start every single well-being management initiative by focusing on the employee, traditional processes are turned on their heads. Take work-related well-being surveys, for example. Traditionally, by filling out the survey, employees produce data for HR and WHP initiatives. Their responses disappear in a black hole and the waiting begins. Does anyone see my situation? Will I receive the help and support I need?
What if the surveys were first and foremost made for the employee? The individuals could reflect on their own well-being and the bigger picture consisting of their team and the entire organization. They would also become aware of possible issues. Support is most effective when timed correctly and when support services are made immediately available and tailored to individual needs. Individuals and teams should be offered the opportunity to claim ownership of their own well-being and daily work. This builds the foundation for a community-driven culture and coaching leadership models.