In setting a strategy, be clear about the cost of different approaches. What do you as a business want to pay for? The workforce strategy that promotes welfare, wellbeing and development? Or, a low cost one-size fits all approach, where some people are too afraid of leaving and others leave before they’ve finished training?
Remember that wellness strategy is only embedded when it’s the ‘way things are done’. Satisfaction is felt and seen, not just an annual survey. Work and life are in balance. Colleagues work harder or flexibly, in the knowledge that their lives are being supported, as we’ve seen in recent months. The right mindset is key, underpinned by a psychological contract, and a workforce strategy.
In setting the strategy, there isn’t an easy to follow process, but there are key areas you will need to address up front. Specific planning work, like working pattern design, only starts after this initial thinking. Try answering these questions both as an individual and a business – and ask them of colleagues. That’s how you can identify any gaps in perception and be clear what matters most.
Workforce strategy: Using the strategy pyramid (pg 50), create a wellbeing lens, for you and for your business. What is your work and life purpose? What are your personal values?
Trade-offs: How much flexibility could you give? What could you get in return that makes this worthwhile? ‘If ... then’ thinking can help strike the right balance, personally and for the business. And be clear up front; set realistic expectations.
Contingency: How can you make plans with levers to adjust? How do you flex for changing demands and backup plans? What certainty do you require; what are the ‘big-rocks’ that can’t be moved?
Mental & physical health: We all need healthy diet, exercise, fulfilling interests and social interaction. As a business, how do you support this? Personally, how can you best manage this around your working patterns?
Learning review: Discover what works for you. To remain relevant and future proof, you need to evolve, making changes where appropriate.
Recognise that we all have a natural ‘unconscious bias’, about what is ‘fair’ or what flexibility should be offered. Hard work, in building the right ‘psychological contract’, can be undermined by actions or words that aren’t joined up – agreeing ‘flexible working requests’ that don’t align to the operating model or authorising leave above pre-agreed limits. Or, if the leaders work traditional office hours and talk about evening/weekend shifts as unpopular or ‘anti-social’. If our business operates extended hours, this needs to be part of our culture as a business.
Finally, measuring success can be difficult, because operational metrics can be driven by different factors and you need good analytics to understand the impacts of each driver. Sickness may be low due to incentives or targets, not just engagement or good health. How long is this sustainable? Are there invisible consequences? High tenure could be from fear of moving or lack of options. Equally, if people develop themselves, this may drive turnover. Employee satisfaction might come from low expectations; ‘things won’t get better, but I will roll with it’. What does that impact in the longer term? For quality or customer satisfaction, does long experience drive consistency or better outcomes? Do newer people need extra support?
There isn’t always an obvious link between ‘doing the right thing’ and seeing a change in key metrics. However, be clear on your purpose, values and beliefs – and set benchmarks for key drivers, to compare yourself against.
This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge
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