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How Prioritizing Wellbeing Drives Employee Engagement

Published 11 months ago • 5 min read

For this week’s Workplace Intelligence Newsletter, I interviewed Lauren Spencer, a Senior Consultant at Workhuman®, a cloud-based human capital management and employee recognition solutions software provider. In her role on the Strategy & Consulting team at Workhuman, Lauren collaborates with customers on new strategic recognition programs; consults on change management, program design, communications, and trainings; and supports the ongoing growth of customer programs after they launch. She has more than 15 years in the recognition industry and has served more than 130 customers in her tenure with Workhuman.

In an upcoming webinar on June 1 at 2PM ET, Lauren will partner with Christine Grant, Staff Compensation Analyst at GoTo, to explore how GoTo implemented recognition to promote wellbeing and spark a cultural transformation.

In our conversation, we discussed the connection between employee wellbeing and engagement, ways to boost wellbeing in today’s workplace, and new research on the impact of recognition on burnout. Lauren also shares how teams can build a collaborative culture, and how employee recognition can help a company promote their values.

What’s the connection between employee wellbeing and engagement?

Forty percent of employees say their job has had a somewhat negative or extremely negative impact on their mental health in the last six months, according to Workhuman’s latest research with Gallup. Regardless of where employees work – in the office, from home, on the manufacturing line, or anywhere else – today’s employers have an imperative to take care of their people. It’s better for the people who work there, and it’s better for business. When employees feel like they can show up to work as they are without worry of judgment, they are better able to do their best work, lightening the emotional stress of employees and the financial stress of turnover and disengagement for organizations. Employee wellbeing is a valuable tool for establishing meaningful connections at work, as well as for improving business metrics including retention, engagement, and productivity. The research also shows it is underutilized.

The costs of neglecting wellbeing at work are significant for employees and employers alike, so making smarter investments in wellbeing is more important than ever. In fact, our research found a global cost of $322 billion in turnover and lost productivity when low wellbeing shows up as employee burnout.

What are some effective ways to amplify wellbeing among today's on-site, hybrid, and remote employees?

First and foremost, make smarter investments in wellbeing. A lot of companies rushed to put together programs and benefits for wellbeing support during the pandemic. It’s time to take a second look – are they still effective? If not, leaders should reconsider where they’re allocating funds. One area of opportunity could be in recognition. Organizational dollars will likely go farther here than in one-off projects they were previously funding.

For a recognition program to make a measurable impact on wellbeing, it needs to be strategic. Peer-to-peer recognition can amplify wellbeing at work because everyone can give and receive appreciation. The Gallup wellbeing report found employees who strongly agree that recognition is an important part of their culture are up to 91% more likely to be thriving in their lives. They are also up to 84% more likely to be thriving when they agree they get the right amount of recognition for the work they do.

Next, upskill your managers – they can make or break an employee’s success at a company. To ensure employees are getting the coaching, support, and value they need to grow, employers should be actively engaging managers in learning and development courses. And wellbeing is no exception. Organizations should train managers on the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.

Finally, lead by example. Leaders set the tone for how the entirety of the organization looks at wellbeing as a strategic driver. Leaders should participate in volunteer opportunities, encourage employees to make use of mental health resources, and provide psychological safety to show up as their whole selves.

Can you share some new research about the impact of recognition on employee burnout and turnover?

The average full-time employee is absent for five unplanned workdays in a calendar year. People miss work unexpectedly for many reasons, from physical illness to mental health. And those missed days of work can have very different impacts based on a person’s industry and role. For example, a missing worker on a manufacturing production line can easily delay the delivery of products to customers. Regardless of role, those missed days cost large organizations millions of dollars per year. According to Gallup research, absenteeism because of mental health – burnout – alone costs the economy $47.6 billion annually in lost productivity. Employees who are burned out much or all the time don’t bring their best to work – they are 63% more likely to not show up at all and are more than twice as likely to look elsewhere for a job.

However, work itself can also negatively affect mental health. Forty percent of employees say their job has had a somewhat negative or extremely negative impact on their mental health in the last six months. Recognition can play a role in improving this. Prior Gallup and Workhuman research found that recognition acts as a buffer against job stress and enhances multiple aspects of wellbeing. This positively impacts employees’ overall lives and gives them the vitality and resiliency to show up for their employers.

In fact, the new report found “employees that get fulfilling employee recognition are up to 90% less likely to report being burned out at work ‘always’ or ‘very often’.” Not only that, but employees who strongly agree that recognition is an important part of their work culture are up to 91% more likely to be thriving than employees in workplaces in which recognition is not important to culture.

How can teams maintain a positive, collaborative culture in a flexibility-first world?

Companies are built on relationship infrastructures. When that weakens, their culture starts to decay. Peer-to-peer recognition is perhaps the most valuable tool for strengthening culture and protecting against turnover in a hybrid workforce. A consistent stream of positive interactions fuels unparalleled, provocative human insights and draws on your entire organization as a community – unlocking human potential and motivating people to do the best work of their lives. The data proves it, again and again.

Social recognition amplifies appreciation and relationships by creating a continuous loop of positive feedback in the workplace. Receiving frequent, unexpected recognition from colleagues and managers goes a long way in making employees feel more appreciated. But studies also show that those who give the recognition benefit too. Workhuman® iQ research found employees have the highest level of engagement when they both give and receive recognition.

I’ll be walking through some additional ways to create and maintain a positive, collaborative culture in a flexibility-first world with Workhuman customer, GoTo (formerly LogMeIn), on June 1 at 2:00pm ET.

What role does employee recognition have in helping a company promote its values, reinforce culture, and make a business impact?

Did you know that organizations that focus on living their corporate values are more profitable? Companies that have strong core values also have strong cultures. And how does a strong company culture affect a business’s bottom line? It increases productivity, retention, and employee happiness, to name a few benefits.

In fact, experts say that having core values is essential for resilient organizations. In the book “Built to Last,” Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found that “Companies with strong positive core vision and core values have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925.”

The challenge for many companies is how to make those core values attainable. That’s where recognition comes in. Because social recognition is designed to tie back to core values, it integrates those ideals into employees’ everyday thoughts and actions. Workhuman research, in collaboration with SHRM, found values-based programs to be more than 2x as likely to be focused on reinforcing/driving business goals. This is another topic I’ll dive into deeper with GoTo in the June 1 webinar.

Recommendation

Find out how your core values resonate with your employees. Do core values match the organization’s culture? If the answer is no, social recognition can help. Use gratitude, mapped to core values, to show employees how their work connects to your culture.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn, and listen to Lauren and I talk about this topic on LinkedIn live on May 18th at 1:00 PM EST.


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