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3 Ways to Boost Accountability for Employee Well-being

Published 12 months ago • 4 min read

Over the past few years, employee well-being has remained a top priority for most organizations. Leaders are finally paying attention to workers’ mental health struggles, they’re putting measures in place to help employees maintain their work-life balance, and many have enhanced their support for caregivers and parents.

With all of these initiatives and investments, you might think that workforce well-being would have begun to improve by now. However, new research from my company, Workplace Intelligence, and Deloitte — surveying 3,150 C-suite executives, managers, and employees across the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia — finds that this isn’t the case.

In fact, most of the workers we surveyed say their health worsened or stayed the same last year; only around one third say their health improved. To make matters worse, the C-suite appears to be almost completely in the dark about the state of employee well-being. More than 3 out of 4 executives inaccurately believe that their workforce’s well-being improved.

For employees, work is largely to blame for their worsening health. Nearly three-quarters (74%) say they struggle to take time off or disconnect from work. Less than half report that they regularly get enough exercise and sleep, and have enough time for friends and family. And when it comes to the obstacles people say are getting in the way of improving their well-being, a heavy workload, stressful job, and long work hours topped the list.

Leaders may be wondering what it will take to finally make progress on this important issue, and the answer might be looking back at them in the mirror. That’s because one of the key findings from our research was that a strong focus on accountability will be key to moving the needle on workforce well-being — including leadership accountability.

Companies will also need to put the right mechanisms in place to drive this accountability, including measuring, and disclosing their workforce well-being metrics. This will be challenging for some organizations — there’s a very real risk for reputational harm or embarrassment if companies can’t turn things around for their people. But I believe that taking more ownership around matters of health is the only way forward.

In today’s article, I’ll discuss 3 ways to make your organization more accountable for employee well-being, supported by the findings from my new study with Deloitte. Let’s take a look.

1. Align executive compensation with employee well-being

The majority (73%) of S&P 500 companies are now tying executive compensation to some form of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) goals. While many focus on human capital management goals or reducing their impact on the environment, companies aren’t always linking their leaders’ pay with employee well-being, outside of safety-related metrics.

Fortunately, leaders agree that they should be held directly accountable for the health of their people. Nearly three-quarters (72%) believe executives’ bonuses should be tied to workforce well-being metrics, and many report that their organizations are already doing this (66%) or planning to do so in the future (23%).

What’s even more nota­ble is that 78% of the C-suite feel that if their company can’t maintain an acceptable level of work­force well-being, then its leadership should change (i.e., senior leaders should step down or be asked to resign). It’s a remarkable finding, one that reinforces just how important workforce well-being truly is.

2. Measure and disclose your well-being metrics

In our research, we found that 76% of the C-suite believe that workforce well-being should be measured and monitored. Most companies are already doing this, with around 9 out of 10 reporting that they measure length of work hours, work-related illnesses and injuries, employees’ self-reported well-being, absenteeism / use of sick leave, and frequency of overtime, among other metrics.

Taking this a step further, 85% of leaders agree that organizations should be required to publicly report their workforce well-being metrics. Doing so could lead to better health outcomes for workers, and executives also feel that disclosing this information could build trust among their employees (83%) and help their organization attract talent (82%).

Despite these benefits and positive perceptions, only around half of the leaders we surveyed say their company publicly reports their well-being metrics. Companies who wish to reap the benefits of a healthier workforce should strongly consider making the shift toward a more public approach, for example by sharing well-being information in their annual reporting or on their website.

3. Make public workforce well-being commitments

In addition to publicly reporting workforce well-being infor­mation, organizations also need to set goals for these metrics — and for maximum impact, these should also be publicly shared. Eighty-two percent of executives agree that companies that make public commitments around workforce well-being have healthier employees, and 87% feel this would help with talent attraction.

While leaders by and large report that they’re feeling pressure to make these commitments, it appears that most have already made good progress. An impressive 84% of the C-suite say their company has made public commitments around workforce well-being, and another 4% plan to do so within the next one to two years.

But despite these commitments being “public,” the survey uncovered one notable issue: most employees aren’t aware of any such commitments. In fact, just 39% of workers say their employer has made well-being commit­ments, 44% are certain their company has not done this, and 17% aren’t sure. Leaders will need to be much more forthcoming about these goals if they want their employees to get on-board with them as well.

Is your company ready to take accountability for workforce well-being?

With employee well-being headed in the wrong direction, it’s imperative that organizations take action around this before it’s too late. Measuring, disclosing, and setting goals around workforce well-being is a great place to start. However, leaders will need to take more personal ownership around matters of health, for example by aligning their compensation — or perhaps even their jobs — with maintaining a satisfactory level of employee well-being.

It won’t be easy, but companies who rise to the occasion will benefit not only from a healthier workforce, but also from the ability to more easily attract and retain talent.

I hope my company's new study with Deloitte provides food for thought for you on this important topic. Be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know what you think!

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