After enjoying 28 years free of recession, Australian headlines are now full of cautionary notes of how the economy is going to unfold through 2019 and beyond. Behavioural economics tells us that humans are emotional beings that are easily distracted and don’t always make rational decisions. Our spending decisions and business outlook will be shaped by the messaging that we read each day. Throw into the mix a pending federal election, ongoing international geopolitics on top of technological advancement and there’s many reasons for business to take a conservative view on their discretionary spending.
As organisations rationalise expenditure, there will be discussion as to whether spending on employee wellbeing is an investment or a nice to have. In competitive industries where employee benefits are a competitive advantage to attract talent, what happens when the hiring drops off?
Thinking back to pre GFC, sustainability was built into most business strategies. As soon as the GFC hit and that investment didn’t make economic sense, sustainability and its services experienced a massive downturn, taking a number of years to re-establish and become a business imperative.
The difference between sustainability and employee wellbeing is that sustainability is about protecting the future. When you don’t have a job, people don’t care so much about the future. Whereas employee wellbeing will impact productivity and increase the cost of disengagement and stress almost immediately.
I remember working in recruitment through the Dot.Com crash and one of the directors told us, ‘if you don’t have anything urgent to do, go home. Look after yourself because it takes more of yourself to get through the tough times than the good’. I always remembered and appreciated his approach. Not only is there increased burnout, employees become ineffective as they keep pushing hard without reward. Then as soon as the market improves, employees that felt overworked and unappreciated during the tough times, will move on to new opportunities.
Employee wellbeing is a business imperative to maintain a productive and engaged workforce, not only to navigate a downturn but to help the organisation thrive when their market recovers. Employee wellbeing is cost-effective when it meets the needs of the employees. As wellbeing is unique to individuals, it’s also unique to organisations so the ideas are numerous but here’s some food for thought:
The value employees place on flexibility has more than doubled in the last two years. This relates to real salary value for some employees as well as the ability to manage their lives and be trusted to deliver output not just hours.
Use it wisely. Technology is designed to be used constantly and repeatedly for platforms and apps to make profit. This stickiness is detrimental to our wellbeing if not managed well. Ensure your communications policy allows employees to switch off.
3. Investing in ideas
The best innovations are often born out of adversity. Create forums for idea generation where everyone can contribute. A sense of contribution and ability to work on projects outside the normal scope allows employees to potentially work in cross functional teams and develop their skillset.
4. Build community & Purpose
If your organisation subsidises or sponsors an event for employees then ensure it is appealing to as many employees as possible or promote a selection of different events. Create team champions and set tasks and goals and then celebrate the achievements. Humans are hard wired to belong.
A team can’t win if it only focuses on the goal scorers, it requires input from everyone. Show gratitude for effort, ideas and of course goals but make sure it’s in a way that is fitting for the individual, some enjoy the public accolade, others a quiet word or an email cc’d to the boss.