One of the great impacts of COVID is that it put wellbeing on the table as an imperative, rather than just a nice to have. My challenge with how it’s been embraced by the majority of corporate programs is the focus is on only two of the five wellbeing pillars – financial and physical. It’s understandable there is less focus on social or community, as its nature is less tangible and connected to work, but the first pillar is Career and having a sense of purpose.
According to Gallup, those with career wellbeing will be twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall. Conversely for those without career wellbeing, their overall wellbeing rapidly reduces.
I was invited to speak at a team development day for a major corporate about whole life wellbeing. But, as part of the brief, they advised “you can’t talk about career wellbeing”….Wha?? There are many things to read into that brief, but if we’re going to support employee wellbeing then there needs to be the courage to have the conversations and provide the working conditions and opportunities to grow and develop. Not simply an annual performance review and training plan.
Over the past year, we’ve been providing webinars and resources to support employees navigate the pandemic. While much of it was well received and timely, we couldn’t ignore the growing cynicism of employees, that were experiencing career uncertainty and poor leadership, being offered another nutrition or online fitness session. Don’t get me wrong those are valuable, but if we don’t have wellbeing in the area of our lives we spend the largest proportion of time, all the group step challenges under the sun, are not going to stave off burnout and active disengagement.
There are fundamentally three elements to career wellbeing
Who we are and what we do with our time is so intrinsically linked that if we don’t like what we do, take pride in our work, or align with our values, it can have a lasting impact on our wellbeing. Finding meaningful work of our choosing has shown to reduce the negative impact of longer hours or recovery from other major life challenges. If an organisation understands what motivates and drives their employees, there is a higher chance they can support the employee to achieve their goals within the organisation’s objectives and strategy.
Trust is the cornerstone of good leadership, treating adults as intelligent, capable individuals. The majority of employees want to do their job to the best of their ability, but most policies are written with the minority in mind, policing their employees. If objectives and expectations are clearly communicated, as soon as an employee feels they are not trusted to perform their role, there is a higher likelihood of dysfunctional behaviour. The return to the office debate is a perfect example of this, where organisations that are offering a blended solution with flexibility of choice, are setting autonomy as a fundamental feature of their organisational culture.
This is often referred to as working to our strengths. Confidence comes from certainty and knowing what we are capable of ,and getting to perform that as part of our core responsibility. Higher job satisfaction comes from stretching from that confidence, moving outside our comfort zone, for short periods of time. Having the opportunity to have both mastery and stretch is essential for career longevity within an organisation as well as a long sustainable career. Typical development plans focus on the mastery aspect of career wellbeing.
Where to from here
Employer’s that invest in developing career wellbeing know that it creates a ripple effect not only on the individual employee, but wider culture and organisational capability. Creating career wellbeing doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require strong leadership willing to prioritise the wellbeing needs of employees that are inextricable from the nature of their employment.