3 Leverage Points
Most of the leadership conversations explicitly or implicitly evolve around building a resilient and thriving culture that attracts top talent and brings high energy, innovation, and agility to customer needs in good times and in times of crises. Gallup’s study found out that creating a thriving company culture requires that the employees feel they are treated with respect, they use their talents well, and they see that leaders do what needs to be done.
It requires that executives and managers themselves thrive in all five elements of the wellbeing at work: Career, Social, Financial, Physical Health, and Community wellbeing.
It also requires that they understand that the development of an employee is an end in itself and that the key to changing the culture is to make it easy for employees to experience what is in their best interests: A stimulating and engaging job, Strong and harmonious relationships, Financial security, Good health and a good level of energy, and A physically and humanly safe environment at work.
A resilient culture yields superior performance and is the biggest differentiator in how crises or major disruptions are overcome. Designing and activating a resilient and thriving culture that improves people’s lives and performance requires an approach that goes beyond traditional approaches to wellness.
To start with, it requires attending to the avoidance of the four critical risks:
To this end, Clifton & Harter’s book “Wellbeing at Work – How to create resilient and thriving cultures” directs us to 3 leverage points to create a resilient and thriving culture:
1. Creating a resilient and thriving culture starts with career engagement.
Employee engagement is essential for net thriving and resilient culture. In organizations that achieve three to four times the global average of engaged employees, the following themes are engaged.
What influences employee engagement?
Here are the top five engagement items that influence career wellbeing at work identified in Gallup’s research:
Clear expectations are an employee’s most fundamental need. The performance implications are substantial. By increasing the ratio of employees who know what’s expected of them, companies can increase their productivity with 10%. Setting clear goals, providing adequate resources, leading collaborative goals setting, and nurturing collective intelligence are among those practices that, when applied consistently, are deeply gratifying to employees. With only 1 in 2 employees knowing what the organization expects of them, this means that only 50% of employees know their role, and even worse that they are stressed and anxious enough to lose it. Employees who believe their job descriptions are aligned with their work are 2.5 times more engaged than other employees. When leaders and employees define objectives jointly and clarify expectations on both sides, this increases accountability, creativity, and innovation.
When managers position people to use their natural talents and strengths, they get better results. However, only 33% of employees say their jobs allow them to do what they are best suited to do. To give their employees opportunity to do what they do best, thriving companies build and use a scientific job fit system, identify and embrace unique strengths within roles, and give employees challenging assignments that align with their natural abilities.
the development item it is the most important one to get right when building a thriving culture. When people are not growing and developing, their thinking becomes narrow and more self-serving. Two third of people who change jobs change companies rather than find new jobs with their current employer. And the top reason people change companies is a lack of career development. Thriving cultures offer an exceptional development experience by designing a system of mentoring, focusing on goals, using validated manager training and, watch out on burnout.
Feeling like your opinions matter is closely tied to respect. The reverse is a major factor in burnout. There can be no culture of respect in the absence of dialogue between managers and employees. 2/3 of employees who think their opinions count are thriving in their overall lives. The best managers and leaders use their team as an important resource to make better decisions. They encourage dialogue and debate of opinions and create a team culture of problem solvers. Deliberately seeking out employee opinions is essentially important with remote workers.
globally just one in three employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of the organization makes them feel their job is important to them. If a job were just a job, it really wouldn’t matter where someone worked. People look for their contribution to a higher purpose; employees want to believe in what their employer does. Millennials and Generation Z that in particular, demand purpose-driven, mission-oriented work. Employees want to find meaning, especially when times are tough. Each organization has a well-written mission, but it is the leaders who bring it to life.
2. Managers are the conduit between employee engagement and well-being at work
Ultimately, culture change is the result of messages perceived by employees by the leaders of the organization.
Highly skilled managers are the most important factor for well-being at work. They stand out for high level of attunement to employee strengths and needs for development on one side and organizational (business) objectives and service delivery needs on tha e other side. They are at the forefront of workforce management, and their workforce management effectiveness has a direct influence on business results. The best managers use their team as a key resource for better decision-making. They encourage dialogue and debate and create a team culture of problem-solving. Every company has a mission statement, but it is a manager who makes work meaningful. The best managers deepen a sense of purpose by clarifying the organization’s mission, helping employees see their role in it, and giving them opportunities to talk about it.
The well-being of employees and, by extension, their families are dependent on the effective management of their employees. In Germany and the US, Gallup found that employees who have poor managers or leaders report worse wellness than those who don’t have a job. This is why poorly skilled managers are the greatest risk for employee wellbeing at work, for a resilient and thriving culture. Only 22% of American employees say that the leaders of their organizations have a clear direction, which is a worrying and disengaging sign. Only 27% of employees believe that the values of their organizations are well respected and lived. Only 41% of employees know what differentiates their organizations from others.
Why then don’t all the best-intentioned messages of mission, vision, and values resonate with employees? One word: TRUST. Only 33% of employees agree that they trust the leadership in their organizations. A leader who is inadequately equipped to do his job as a conscious leader appears to be the factor number 1 of a risky organizational culture.
How do thriving cultures grow leaders and managers who are adequately skilled?
They attend to how leaders and managers grow in the organization and support them into developing their coach aptitude. Managers in the absence of coaching don’t make sense. In a foreside conversation during the Future of Leadership Summit this march, Jim Clifton added that leaders and managers need to learn to have the “bold conversations.” If a manager can’t have these bold conversations, they are not managing.
This requires that the leader be able to give regular feedback to employees. Not only adjustments and advice but also inspiration and encouragement. To get to know each of them well, their goals, and their talents. Knowing the strengths and talents of employees is the first step to having a positive and effective one-on-one conversation about wellness with them. Focusing on their strengths and talents is the best and the fastest way to have a productive day built on the well-being of an employee.
When an organization is going through a period of crisis, employees need to look up to leaders to provide a strong signal that there is hope and a clear plan for the future. They need leaders who provide stability in equipping them with what is needed to get through this period, leaders who inform them adequately and therefore contribute to bringing confidence in the organization, and finally, leaders who they provide compassion by demonstrating that they care about the wellbeing of their employees.
Such organizations ensure that they assess their culture from the perspective of the employee experience at each stage of the life cycle: interviews, hiring, onboarding, fostering engagement and performance and departure. Leaders’ capability to create autonomy and integration and to deliver feedback defines largely employee wellbeing at work.
3. Policies and programs send a message of what leadership values in the organization.
Policies, programs, perks send out a message about what leaders value in the organization. Therefore, remote and hybrid work, working hours, use of mobile technology, vacation, diversity & inclusion, ethics & compliance, and wellness programs all work well to the extent that they are conducive what positive values and virtues in the organization.
Simply offering a well-intentioned wellness program does not guarantee improved levels of employee wellness. First of all, employees must be informed of the existence of this program and encouraged to use it.
Although 85% of large companies use a wellness program, Gallup research has shown that only 60% of US employees are aware of such a program and only 40% of those who are aware participate well and truly into this program. In addition, employees engaged in their work are 28% more likely to participate in such a program.
How do we ensure engagement in a wellness program?
Employee wellbeing is at the heart of building a resilient and thriving culture. It is the expression of talents within the framework of a specific role in the organization that enables employees to achieve wellbeing at work. The best way to do this is for leaders to be able to identify the unique talents of each employee and use them to contribute to their wellbeing. This will allow leaders to discover what interests their employees, what engages and excites them, and what is deemed important and meaningful to them. This requires developing coach-leaders and coach-managers.
Combining career wellbeing, skillful managers and leaders, and workplace wellness are potentially what proves most transformational in the pursuit of employee resilience, mental health, and prosperity. In the age of social media, what happens in an organization quickly spreads and affects your brand reputation and your ability to attract and retain talent and your ability to being resilience and offering great value to your customers in good and in bad times.
As Jim Clifton put it in the Future of Leadership Summit: Your employees are the closest point to the customers and reveal the blind spots in how their organization works. If your organization cares about the customers, it has to show that by caring about its employees’ well-being.
Co-author: Alain Léo Landry, CEO and Founder of Wellnessfinances.