18 December 2020
The key purpose of a company Board is “to ensure the company’s prosperity by collectively directing the company’s affairs, while meeting the appropriate interests of its shareholders and relevant stakeholders,” states the Institute of Directors’ Standards for the Board.
Wellbeing is increasingly recognised as an important driver of company culture that enhances productivity, thereby directly supporting this key purpose.
Below are 10 suggestions, which, in our experience, have worked well with Boards to help move their thinking forward in this area, and recognise the increasing role that wellbeing plays to support a productive and engaged workforce.
Think about what keeps them up at night
If your Board is not yet on the cutting edge with their thinking on employee wellbeing, it’s important to start where they are currently. Rather than focusing on what should be prioritised, start with what their current focuses and pressing issues are. What’s currently keeping them up at night? Whether it’s cash flow, productivity, retention or automation – start by raising awareness on how employee wellbeing can make positive improvements in these areas.
Look at it from a cost-saving angle
Employee productivity is often a key area that Boards are interested in. Our research highlights that one-third of employees said that personal financial pressures negatively impact their ability to perform their job. Poor wellbeing is also linked to increased absence and lower retention. Linking the positive financial impact of improved employee wellbeing is a clear way to demonstrate to the Board why an employee wellbeing programme is a sound investment.
Back yourself with data
When building the case for further action on wellbeing, it’s crucial to arm yourself with the relevant research and insights. Boards are much more likely to make decisions with data, research and evidence to back their decision. Providing external research and data to show the impacts of poor employee wellbeing will give legitimacy to your arguments to focus their attention on this area.
Drill down into specifics
While national and international research is valuable, you also need to bring it back to the impact on your organisation specifically. Industry or regional statistics will provide a more valid comparison point than general UK data. Either by using your own HR data or engaging a third party to review your current state of employee wellbeing – you need to quantify the needs of your organisation and show the opportunity for improvement.
Highlight their obligations in the Code
One principle from the 2018 UK Corporate Governance Code, is that Boards “should ensure that workforce policies and practices are consistent with the company’s values and support its long-term sustainable success”. As the employee wellbeing space continues to develop, there is an increasing expectation of support from employers, especially those who communicate values around caring for and supporting their workforce. Boards need to be aware of these changing expectations, as the workplace wellbeing industry has been rapidly developing over recent years.
Make it personal – share employee stories
As valuable as data is, many of our decisions are based upon on gut-level instincts, which we then back up with research and rationale. Evoking personal stories to highlight the real-life impact of a good wellbeing strategy and programme can gain emotional buy-in to couple with the logical and data-driven approach to wellbeing initiatives.
Learn from the best
There are many organisations gaining accolades for their employee wellbeing strategies – some may even be competitors. To continue to have a competitive edge – not only in terms of hiring and retaining the best talent, but also in terms of public reputation – many organisations are stepping up their wellbeing strategies.
Most companies start small, initially trialling a few wellbeing initiatives, perhaps in one part of the business or location. As well as minimising the initial cost and therefore being an easier decision, this approach has the added benefit of allowing you to seek feedback after the pilot phase and adjusting it to suit the unique needs of your organisation. Once companies see the benefits, they invariably roll the programme out to more employees.
Build a cohesive multi-year approach
Advocates of wellbeing programmes need to be cautious to not inadvertently promote a check-box approach to wellbeing. Rather than thinking of this as a project to be implemented and ticked off, focus on laying out a multi-year pathway. Boards should be able to see a clear outline of the development from current state, to wellbeing advocates, and the continuous development which will occur moving forward.
“What gets measured gets managed”. This principle is critical and is sometimes overlooked for wellbeing strategies as it can be harder to determine an appropriate metric. But without measurement, it can be difficult to show the Board the success of the initiative. It is therefore crucial to think about the metrics you want to impact – whether these are employee satisfaction, absence rates or productivity – and report back on these as your wellbeing programme progresses over time.
I'd be interested to know if these suggestions helped you to get buy-in for your employee wellbeing strategy. Combining improving the lives of your employees with better wellbeing and engagement and having a positive impact on the company, culturally and financially, is a true win-win.