Failing to focus on employee wellbeing can cost your business dearly:
- Average 15% to 20% of total payroll is lost in voluntary turnover due to burnout
- $20 million lost opportunity cost for every 10,000 struggling or suffering employees
- $322 billion global loss of turnover and productivity due to employee burnout
It has been shown that how you engage employees has a powerful influence on their wellbeing.
When you make an emotional connection with them, you will get to know them and understand what motivates them. Then you can create the correct climate for them to thrive – one that’s linked to their values and purpose. That way, they can be themselves, minimise their stress levels, and are more likely to do their best work.
Practical steps you can take
How can you connect meaningfully with people in your organisation, whether that’s as large groups, small teams, or one-to-one?
Talking and listening
You need to talk from the heart, at a more emotional level. My article Why use storytelling in business includes some advice about this. You might also benefit from reading (or re-reading) my piece about Perfecting the art of public speaking.
You also need to be a good listener. Encourage people to talk, particularly if they are extraverts. Give them space to reflect and talk through whatever they are anxious about. This gives you useful insight into how they think, what their concerns may be, and how you can support them.
Don’t feel pressured to have the answer – listening is probably the best help you can give them, as it creates the space for them to think for themselves and discover what’s best for them. We’re all unique. Just as well, since when you’re leading through uncertainty you won’t have all the answers anyway!
Help people keep in touch with the purpose of the business. If they have strong self-awareness (maybe through personal development activities), they can link their personal motivations to the company objectives. This enables them to build confidence and stay self-motivated, as they will know what they can do to contribute and they are more likely to feel as though they belong.
Identifying their purpose is a great way of summarising this. This image is based on an exercise my coaching clients sometimes complete, in my work with them, to help them discover their purpose:
Do regular check-ins with your direct reports, skip level contacts and small groups. Focus on asking how they are, so you don’t just talk about work. Find out what’s on their mind (intellectual) and what they are feeling (emotional). Invest at least as much time on the relationship as you do on the work, because, if the relationship is good, the work will get done.
Remember, human connection is paramount to wellbeing.
If your people are more self-aware, they will know what motivates them, what self-care will help them personally, and what their other needs are. They will also become more resourceful and accountable for themselves. Providing them with the personal development tools to help them do this is one of the most powerful things you, as a leader, can do for them. It won’t surprise you to discover that I’m a great believer in personal development – I am a coach, after all! Of course, I can help you (and them) with this.
Please ask me if you’d like me to design a programme for your individuals or teams to learn about themselves and what makes them tick. From there, they can set goals or commitments on which aspects of personal growth they’d like to work on. We can then set up an accountability partner within their team to keep them on track and/or book a block of coaching hours that people can draw on to progress their growth. I’ve done this kind of work many times before, and you can choose on-site or virtual delivery. My clients find it an economical and time-efficient way of providing people with support.
Things seem very uncertain at the moment, and your people may be stressed about many things, such as: what’s going on in the world, coming out of the pandemic, changes in the organisation, financial uncertainty, challenges in their personal life…
When people are scared and panicking, it’s very important that the leader is confident (whilst also acknowledging the reality).
When dealing with uncertainty, the best thing you can do is lead with the facts. Keep yourself informed, and communicate clearly. Be open and honest about the reality of the circumstances, and paint a pathway out as much as you possibly can.
It’s likely that the rumour mill will be spreading inaccuracies. As the leader, you should acknowledge that, call it out, and dispel misinformation.
Building on that, you should always address ‘the elephant in the room’, role modelling a safe space where it’s OK to talk about anything, even a catastrophe.
One example of a current ‘elephant is the room’ might be what people feel about the Covid-19 vaccination. Are they nervous about coming back to work? Are you going to ask unvaccinated people to wear a mask? What are the rules of engagement as the pandemic become endemic? Are people feeling socially less confident than two years ago, with the reduced people contact we’ve all had?
Talk about the worst that could happen and then turn it around to discuss how to deal with it. Most of the time, the worst doesn’t happen, but being ready for anything helps support people’s wellbeing.
If you role model courageous authenticity you will be creating an atmosphere that makes it safer for people to speak to their truth. This skill is shown by bringing up difficult or risky topics that others avoid, and acknowledging your personal feelings/vulnerabilities about a situation. Please ask me if you’d like more information on this
Dealing with vulnerability
When someone opens up, it’s important to show them support and especially compassion. Don’t be nervous, or ignore it, or gloss over it. Acknowledge their experience. Don’t make the mistake of linking it to yourself, because that makes it about you, not them.
Ask what support they need and how you can help. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is listen and try to understand. This is better than trying to offer a solution, because you can never really ‘get inside their head’ and know what will work for them.
Many people have been working from home for the past two years, so people may have forgotten what company resources are available to them when it comes to wellbeing.
Inform yourself and remind your people what’s offered, such as:
- The employee assistance programme
- Fitness and wellness facilities
- Talking therapies
- Meditation apps
- Personal development, career development, skills development
- Anything else
As people come back to work, put the information together and send them a summary so they know what the company provides and how they can access it.
As a leader, lead by example to emphasise the importance of wellbeing.
When you host a meeting in the workplace, perhaps you could open it with a two- or three-minute meditation. Or ask people what’s keeping them awake at night, what’s on their mind, and how the rest of the team can help them. You know your own team, so you’ll be the best judge of whether these ideas will work for them.
Even if people are still working from home, you could initiate walking meetings, say, every third time you get together. Rather than both sitting at a desk and talking to each other through a screen, you could both put headphones on and go for a walk as you talk. This is most valuable when it’s quiet and the participants are not distracted by the environment around them.
The well-known book Drive by Daniel H Pink is sub-titled ‘The surprising truth about what motivates us’. One of the key learnings is giving people freedom to work they way they want. As a leader, you can create this environment.
If you found this article useful, you might also enjoy my other articles that touch on the same subject. These include:
- How to motivate employees today (especially the sections about Daniel Pink, and intrinsic/extrinsic motivation)
- Employee engagement
- How to look after the wellbeing of your workforce
- Emotionally intelligent teams
- Emotional courage
- Healthy habits for wellbeing
- Meaningful conversations
- Courageous leadership
- Why it’s OK to show emotion in the workplace
- Understanding and managing anxiety
- How to reboot your social skills and confidence