Why workplace wellbeing is crucial for accelerating employee engagement
- 5 Min Read
Understanding how to recognise employees and how often will be crucial for workforce retention and productivity moving forward
In the wake of the ‘Great Resignation’ and tight labour market, the need for businesses to think more broadly about employee wellbeing has increased.
There is a distinct connection between workforce wellbeing, recognition and retention, as well as wider organisational success. Employees who feel their employer does not supper their wellbeing are more likely to consider moving on.
“While wellbeing and employee engagement has always been important, the topic came into much clearer focus during the pandemic,” says Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers, a provider of employee voice and recognition solutions.
“Recognition is now a protective factor for wellbeing, with frequent recognition helping drive significant feelings of wellbeing,” she says.
Organisations which work collaboratively to create a forward-thinking culture – one which fosters innovation and inclusion – will be more likely to succeed in the long-term and help drive tangible business results in order to stay afloat in a competitive economic market.
Connecting the wellbeing dots
With more work happening outside the office, businesses have had to seek input from employees to develop effective communication strategies and personalised workforce wellbeing programs. This has led to new forms of engagement within the workplace and driven home the importance of recognising employees.
According to the 2021 Culture Report by Achievers Workforce Institute, employees who receive meaningful weekly recognition are twice as likely to feel a strong sense of wellbeing. They are also more than twice as likely to be productive, resilient, committed to their company, satisfied with their job, and feel enthusiastic about their role.
“What’s more, is that organisations with a recognition platform have better wellbeing outcomes than those without a platform,” says Baumgartner. “Those who feel their employer doesn’t support their wellbeing efforts are twice as likely to regularly think about looking for a job elsewhere.”
Businesses are now constantly looking for ways to help avoid burnout and maintain retention, through analysing how to better engage with their workforce and improve productivity. The question is no longer where the impact of recognition goes beyond simply making employees ‘feel good’, but rather how big the impact is.
“Wellbeing is the common factor, but it’s equally important to evaluate flexibility, opinion and preferences, and understand what is really needed to ensure recognition is meaningful and to create a positive change,” says Baumgartner.
And there’s still a long way to go; 40% of employees say they still feel disconnected and isolated at work, according to a study by Harvard Business Review. It is therefore imperative for businesses to take the required steps and listen to employee feedback to enhance employees’ lives both inside and outside the workplace.
Ensuring recognition is meaningful
There will be no one size fits all with regards to employee communication. Companies will need to consider communication channels, frequency of recognition, publicity of recognition, and whether an employee responds well to this form of communication.
Baumgartner says while the process will vary for each organisation, HR leaders should ultimately focus on developing continuous communication efforts to understand their workforce and what they need.
“I think of recognition as a culture accelerator. We know what gets recognised, gets repeated. Business leaders that recognise and reward the behaviours that they want to see in the workplace and build on the recognition are leveraging a really powerful tool,” she says.
“A workforce that is recognised at least once a month is more likely to report stronger job commitment and this has a huge impact on retention and productivity in the workplace.”
A true sense of belonging is also key to fostering new relationships and ensuring employees feel valued and appreciated in the workplace. It is the deepest outcome measure of engagement – and one of the best predictors of the extent to which one will thrive at work.
“Recognition is powerful all by itself, and it will accelerate whatever it’s pointed at,” says Baumgartner.
The power of continual listening
Businesses now face the challenge of leveraging continuous conversations, both around the employee experience and around societal challenges which could affect the workforce to ensure the right communication channels are in place and employees remain engaged.
Those businesses which develop and build communications streams and encourage opposing opinions will create an environment which welcomes diversity and allow the workforce to learn from each other.
According to Baumgartner, gaining insight into the personal values of each employee will also help create an environment where employees feel understood, as well as illuminate areas of culture, inclusion and belonging.
“We must ask employees what they need — not just once a year, but throughout the year,” she says.
Gathering feedback from employees and utilising data and analytics to track performance, is another way to understand employee challenges and address them across the entire business. Using new forms of technology, anonymous surveys, and continuous listening tools can empower all employees to have their say and find the deeper meaning factors.
“Every organisation has the data, but if your organisation can respond in real time and take care of any issues, it will have a tremendous impact on engagement and belonging,” Baumgartner says.
People thrive when they feel valued for being who they are and having their own opinions and experiences accepted, and organisations that don’t adapt will inevitably lose out.
“The pandemic was an existential reckoning that caused the workforce to really evaluate what was valuable in their lives,” says Baumgartner.
“There’s nothing like being disconnected from one’s regular life to get clear about what truly matters. But what’s important for organisations now is to really communicate with their workforce and not make assumptions.
“If I could give one piece of advice for organisations, it would be to ensure that they have a really nimble voice of the employee system in place, so that they have a constant pulse on how their people are doing and what they need.”