Measuring & Improving Employee Wellbeing

Measuring & Improving Employee Wellbeing
by Paul Flanagan

You can only improve what you measure

A recent strategic wellbeing project with an organisation of approximately 1,000 employees found that 10% of their workforce were ‘flourishing’, 75% were ‘coping’ and 15% were ‘struggling’.

‘Flourishing’ refers to employees assessed as having high to very high levels of psychological wellbeing, ‘coping’ describes those in the moderate range and the ‘struggling’ group are those assessed as having low to very low levels of wellbeing. 

Hands holding seed of wellbeing

Within the 15% ‘struggling’ group, approximately 6% were experiencing clinical levels of psychological distress that warranted professional psychological assistance and the remaining 9% were classified as ‘at risk’, indicating the need for individual help to avoid the slide into more significant wellbeing problems. 

This organisation’s ‘wellbeing profile’ is not atypical for Australian employers. Benchmarking this organisation’s wellbeing against others found that this organisation’s wellbeing was typical for professional, white collar organisations. In this case, managers reported somewhat lower levels of wellbeing than other staff. Part-timers reported higher levels of wellbeing than full timers, while casual workers had lower wellbeing. 

What was driving high and low wellbeing?

Across their organisation, their key wellbeing enablers identified by the diagnostic were:

  • the opportunity for staff to utilise all their skills in their roles,
  •  the ability to maintain a sound level of work and personal life balance and
  • a high level of work support between co-workers.

 

On the other hand, the main wellbeing derailers in the organisation were:

  • a low level of person centred support from their managers,
  • gaps in employees’ skills /knowledge required to operate at their optimal level and
  • elevated levels of personal (non-work) issues in a particular area/demographic.

 

Often ‘the things that bring you down’ are not the opposite of the things that ‘lift you up’

 

Employees were found to be ‘flourishing’ for a number of reasons. The strongest factors lifting up the flourishers were, in contrast to other employees, the perception that their skills were fully utilised and continuously developing. They had managed to achieve what we refer to as the ‘positive integration of work and personal life’. From a personality perspective, they had high levels of self-efficacy, a belief in one’s competence and abilities.

Those that were ‘struggling’ had lower wellbeing as a result of various factors. Of particular note was the negative impact of having low ‘activity connection’ and low levels of ‘personal support’ from their manager. ‘Activity Connection’ refers to the psychological benefits of being regularly and fully engaged in an activity or interest to the point of absorption.  ‘Personal Support’ refers to the importance of person-centred management (reflecting interest, consideration and concern) as opposed to task-focused management.

Differences help target effective, wellbeing strategies

While there was generally a high level of consistency in the Wellbeing Profile across the organisation, there were organisational outliers.

In one area, low levels of operational support and in another 'non-work' personal problems contributed to lower wellbeing scores. On the flip side, employee wellbeing in one area was higher than most other areas of the organisation due to higher levels of team work and peer support.

Engagement + Wellbeing = Sustainability

Employee engagement here was found to be very high. Research however shows that engagement alone is not sufficient to sustain organisational productivity.  Wellbeing has been identified as the missing factor that sustains engagement and productivity over time. The analyses of the results for this organisation showed that while wellbeing was at a sound level, strategies to further lift wellbeing would be necessary to sustain the current levels of engagement and productivity.

The diagram below illustrates this practice. Sustainable engagement is a result of high engagement combined with high wellbeing. Without high levels of both factors, engagement becomes either negative or unstable.

b2ap3_thumbnail_engagement-wellbeing.PNG

What happened next?

This organisation initiated a strategic wellbeing exercise to help formulate an employee wellbeing strategy.  It was based on a sound, evidence based framework, their employee wellbeing profile, and identified group and individual needs.

The diagnostic data and trends were workshopped with stakeholders where a wellbeing action plan was developed, including targeted programs to address their core wellbeing issues.

Employees with low wellbeing were provided with confidential, professional help, and others were offered individual Wellbeing Reports and one-on-one debriefs. The aim was to develop Individual Wellbeing plans to further lift wellbeing.

Program evaluation is planned for 12-18 months’ time to measure the personal and organisational impact of the wellbeing program.


Enquiries – Paul Flanagan (Sydney and Canberra) pflanagan@fbggroup.com.au; Jo Crosby jcrosby@fbggroup.com.au (Melbourne) or Susan Crawford scrawford@fbggroup.com.au (Melbourne).

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Guest Friday, 28 April 2017