Employee wellbeing is much more than a nice-to-have.
Evidence suggests that employee wellbeing levels impact organisational success in a big way! When employees feel good, they tend to perform better, are more engaged and are less likely to quit. Organisations also tend to see an average 10% improvement in customer satisfaction and shareholder return. If we factor in that one in five Australians experience a mental health condition in any year, it is clear that organisations need to take action strategically to build long-term, sustainable wellbeing throughout the employee lifecycle – from attraction to exit.
A recent PwC study suggests that 38% of Australians are potentially thinking of quitting their job in the next year. According to The Australian Financial Review, it takes on average six months to locate, onboard, and train new talent, with an estimate of $200,000 of lost productivity when a person leaves. When deep-diving into the reasons for this current wave of resignations, research shows that health and wellbeing is the second most important driver of employee satisfaction – only second to remuneration and reward. If employees are the most important assets of a company, then employee wellbeing should be viewed as a cornerstone of an organisation's Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
Improving employee wellbeing and engagement is not a ‘set and forget’ exercise. It’s a cultural change initiative that takes analysis, planning, and time. But, don’t let the term cultural change put you off. Every good cultural change incorporates easy wins – or low-hanging oranges - that we can pick to have an immediate impact in our organisations, while on the road to the larger ‘strategic’, organisational-wide initiatives.
Spoiler alert: even the smallest organisation with a limited budget can take a strategic approach to wellbeing.
Systems approach to wellbeing
Systems thinking is a way of making sense of the complexity of a given network by looking at it in terms of the whole system and recognising the interconnectedness of relationships, roles, functional units and processes, rather than by splitting it down into its parts. It has been used as a way of exploring and developing effective action in complex contexts.
As Victoria’s Department of Health suggests, wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It’s more like a system - a complex combination of a person's physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Although, there are many external factors that influence an individual’s wellbeing that organisations cannot control, when you think that, on average, people spend a third of their lives at work, there are many initiatives that organisations can put in place to positively influence the wellbeing of their people.
A successful wellbeing strategy often outlines the organisation’s commitment to a systems approach to employee mental and physical health. It defines an action plan to ensure that employee wellbeing underpins every aspect of the organisation. It ensures wellbeing is integral to the entire employee lifecycle; from attracting the right talent to mitigating attrition, or reducing the likelihood of employees leaving the organisation. The key to long-term, sustainable success of a wellbeing strategy also lies in its everyday application and optimisation.
The employee lifecycle:
Viewing the end-to-end employee experience as a lifecycle with employee wellbeing central to this can provide a helpful framework for identifying strengths, opportunities and gaps in an organisation's systems and processes. The employee lifecycle includes all touchpoints that an employee or prospective employee has with an organisation – from attraction, recruitment, induction, to learning and development, retention and attrition (or exiting). It’s not always completely linear and there is some overlap between stages. The following section outlines a few key considerations at each stage to consider how employee wellbeing is built into the employee lifecycle.
Attraction: Connecting well
From the moment a prospective employee learns about your organisation, there’s an opportunity to communicate your employee value proposition (EVP) and how wellbeing is embedded in your workplace. Considering all the domains of wellbeing - from flexible, family-friendly working practices through to training and wellbeing days - communicating the wellbeing offering will help you attract the right talent, in an increasingly tight labour market.
Employees are also your most important brand ambassadors. Fostering a culture of wellbeing increases the probability that your current employees will spread the word about how great it is to work in your organisation.
- What tangible and intangible wellbeing benefits do you offer? Are you promoting these loudly? Outline your wellbeing initiatives upfront.
- Are you thinking like a candidate when writing job ads and publishing the careers section of your website? What would you want to hear when choosing your next employer?
- How can you better promote your positive workplace culture through the power of word-of-mouth from current employees?
Recruitment: Matching well
A key way we can support the wellbeing of our people is in the way we design the job. When an employee leaves your organisation it’s a great opportunity to use the data you gather from the exit interview/survey to redesign the role. If the role is new, then ensure you’ve consulted key stakeholders to maximise the impact of the role and reduce any uncertainty. If the job itself is overloaded, or the skillsets of the candidates don’t match the expected outcomes of the role, it’s likely you’ll increase the risk of negatively impacting the employee’s wellbeing which may potentially lead to burnout, dissatisfaction and more attrition.
Finding and securing a new job can also be a challenging and stressful experience. Organisations have a role to play in supporting candidates to have the best opportunity for success. As David Rock’s SCARF model suggests, when experiencing change and uncertainty, people benefit from leaders creating more certainty and communicating regularly. Designing a recruitment process that supports and includes people with regular feedback and two-way communication can provide candidates with a positive experience that supports their wellbeing even if they are not successful in the role.
It’s important to keep in mind that for the interviewee, the job interview is an opportunity to assess whether the role and company culture offers a suitable fit for their professional and personal lives. The employer can support them during the interview by portraying a clear vision of their organisational culture.
- How do you ensure that the skills and the workload of the role are achievable and realistic?
- How can you effectively convey your organisational culture during the recruitment interview process? Are you ensuring there’s an alignment with the behavioural and cultural norms?
- Do you take a strengths-based approach to recruitment? Are you asking strengths-based questions, rather than focusing on the candidates’ weaknesses? Are these strengths celebrated?
- Are your interview panellists provided with training or education on minimising biases and how to create a safe and welcoming environment for the candidate?
Induction: Starting well
As the saying goes, start as you mean to go on! The induction process sets a foundation for the employee experience, and is an ideal time to introduce the employee to organisational values, culture, expected behaviours and norms. To make sure your onboarding process is positive, ask for and listen to feedback from the minute the new team member starts.
At The Oranges Toolkit, we love the idea of a ‘policy-free first week’. This is where you avoid bombarding your new team members with heavy policies, procedures, and online compliance training... Let their first week be about connection and culture, not compliance!
- What elements of fun and connection can you build into the induction process to strengthen relationships with others in the organisation? Connection Cards are a great example of how to encourage open conversations and build connection.
- Have you assigned them with a buddy, who is a peer? It’s a great way to teach them ‘the cultural ropes.’
- How do you seek formal and informal feedback (via surveys and check-ins) during the process?
- What ways can you role model wellbeing practices with new employees throughout the induction process? i.e. Are you recognising that the first week is likely to be cognitively draining (a lot for their brain to take in) and are therefore spacing out the learning and giving the team member plenty of downtime?
Learning and development: Growing well
Learning and development (L&D) are more of a constant rather than a stage in the employee lifecycle, as learning occurs formally and informally at every step. To remain engaged and feel valued in the workplace, employees may need fresh challenges and a growth path to maintain their motivation. Beyond technical and job-related learning and development, organisations can strengthen wellbeing and their EVP through the provision of personal development training programs related to general wellbeing or more specific learning outcomes like managing stress, avoiding burnout, or developing resilient and agile thinking.
- Does your L&D framework include competencies such as greater resilience, agility or emotional intelligence?
- What capability-building training do you offer people leaders so that they are equipped to proactively lead wellbeing and create a psychologically safe work environment?
- How often do you provide wellbeing training? Where ever possible, this training should be delivered in person to build connection and collaboration across teams.
Retention: Staying well
Employee retention is influenced by many factors. Recent research suggests employee engagement is most impacted by leadership, remuneration, recognition, flexible work practices, and support for mental health and wellbeing.
Using measurement and analysis tools can be helpful to assess priority areas or outcomes that need to be addressed, and what success you can celebrate too. From very simple actions, such as allocated time in meeting agendas for wellbeing check-ins, to planned breaks and wellness events, through to more comprehensive wellbeing training and support programs – investing in the wellbeing of your employees pays off. Research suggests that, on average, every $1 spent on creating mentally healthy workplaces, organisations receive a return of up to $4.
- What cultural and wellbeing-related behavioural norms are role modelled and celebrated? i.e. Do you have values-related awards or a wellbeing champion award? Do your leaders refrain from sending emails outside of office hours?
- How are you proactively measuring wellbeing and engagement to anticipate and manage issues before they arise?
- Are your managers regularly checking in on the wellbeing of their team members? Remembering that one-size-doesn’t-fit all, some employees will want more flexibility while others may flourish when they have more quality time with their manager, for instance.
- How do you celebrate success and express gratitude in your organisation to amplify positive emotions? This can be formally through your employee recognition platform and also informally with a handwritten note, or a meaningful token of your appreciation.
Attrition: Leaving well
The lifecycle of an employee will always come to an end. Often overlooked in organisations, why and how people leave can offer rich insights into how to improve wellbeing and engagement at work for everyone. It is important to capture data about why people leave the organisation through exit interviews and surveys. Furthermore, offering support for those transitioning to retirement or parental leave are also important contributors to a positive workplace culture.
When an employee leaves, it can also have an impact on others in the organisation. Thus, organisations can take this golden opportunity to acknowledge the departing employee's contributions, and provide a safe space to obtain honest and open feedback through conversations with remaining employees. Leaving well has a positive influence on the wellbeing of the departing employee, and can positively influence others too. They may even return to the organisation in the future.
- Do people in your organisation 'leave well'? How can you ‘send them off’ with the same effort and rigour as you welcomed them into the organisation?
- How does your organisation measure wellbeing throughout the lifecycle?
- What can you do to ensure the insights gained are acted on to ensure trust in the organisation’s leadership?
Building wellbeing into the employee lifecycle
Many organisations using this guide might already have a wellbeing strategy in place, or have valuable insights on what needs to be worked on. In any case, we recommend the following before designing or reviewing your employee lifecycle:
- Know your ground: Review the employee-related data you already capture – these indicators may include turnover, sick days, Employee Assistant Program (EAP) usage, workers compensation claims and employee engagement/satisfaction levels captured in cultural surveys and pulse checks. Basing decisions on data rather than assumptions is likely to lead to better outcomes.
- Look outside: Review the latest trends and best practices in the industry and benchmark your organisation against what competitors are doing to help you define your employee value proposition (EVP) and benefits.
- Recognise the gaps: Review your employee lifecycle - are the philosophies of wellbeing already embedded across the whole organisation and at every touchpoint from recruitment to retention and exit? Are there any gaps that need to be filled so that the organisation better meets the employees’ needs?
Importantly, organisations are more likely to create sustained behaviour change when wellbeing is seen as a cultural foundation rather than a standalone program, pillar, training or initiative. Wherever possible, take a top-down and bottom-up approach - with executive leadership 'buy in', not just sponsorship from the Head of People and Culture. Meanwhile, empower a team of wellbeing champions to activate a grassroots movement to positively influence their peers.
To help you develop or refine your wellbeing plan, we have provided a quick guide on how to do this in the following infographic. Feel free to download and share it with others!
Need support to enhance employee wellbeing?
Get in touch to let us know and explore how we can work together.
Seek help when it's needed
The Oranges Toolkit offers a range of science-based workplace wellbeing programs focusing on practical actions you can take to build resilience, energy, and emotional agility.
Remember there is help all around. If you or someone you know needs extra support, we recommend contacting your workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a qualified health practitioner, or:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636