Why Employee Well-Being Should Be Your #1 Priority

It’s easy to get caught up in the race to acquire the best talent for your organization, but retaining top talent once they’re on board is arguably more important. Not only does higher retention prevent a backlogged recruiting process, but it also means savings for your organization. While there are many steps to take to ensure employees are staying with you, they mostly boil down to one thing: prioritizing employee well-being.

Let’s take a closer look at employee well-being—from why it’s important to how to make it a priority in your organization.

What is Employee Well-Being?

While it may seem obvious, employee well-being is actually a complex topic, and defining exactly what employee well-being means is challenging. That’s because the needs and expectations of the workforce are always changing.

Broadly, employee well-being is defined as the holistic health and wellness of your employees. This includes physical, mental, emotional, and economic health. Recently, elements such as career growth and health, sense of purpose, and community engagement have also been included under the umbrella of employee well-being, as many employees in today’s workforce prioritize them. 

It’s essential to address each of these areas when working to improve overall employee well-being—leaving out even just one area can lead to disgruntled employees depending on which they value most. This can be a comprehensive, time-consuming process, but it will pay dividends in the end in terms of retention rate and ability to attract talent. It can also be helpful to learn which areas are most important to your employees and start there. This can make the process more manageable if significant, large-scale changes need to be made.

Why is Employee Well-Being Important?

In the midst of the pandemic, many HR professionals recognized the importance of prioritizing employee well-being. The Future Workplace 2021 HR Sentiment survey found that 68% of senior HR leaders viewed employee well-being as a top priority.

However, employees are telling a different story. A 2022 Gallup survey of workers across numerous job types found that only 24% strongly agree that their organization cares about their well-being—a return to pre-COVID levels of dissatisfaction. This disconnect emphasizes the need for HR professionals and organizations as a whole to reevaluate how they’re approaching employee well-being.

In addition to simply benefiting the overall health of your employees, prioritizing employee well-being, and doing it effectively, is incredibly important for a number of reasons, including:

Higher Retention

The benefits of a higher employee retention rate are extensive—from improved morale to lower costs. Employees who don’t feel their well-being is a priority for their organization are far more likely to seek better opportunities. Those who feel their organization cares about their well-being are 69% less likely to search for a new job. 

Lower Burnout

Burnout and employee well-being go hand-in-hand. Burnout affects an employee’s overall health and well-being—from physical health to mental health to overall career outlook. Having many burnt-out employees can be a huge red flag that employee well-being is not being prioritized within the organization. In fact, employees are 71% less likely to experience burnout when they feel their well-being is prioritized.

Improved Employer Brand

An organization’s employer brand plays a huge role in talent acquisition and employee retention. Employers that prioritize employee well-being are not only improving their employer brand in the process, but they’re also creating internal advocates—employees that feel cared for are five times more likely to advocate for their organization.

These are just a few of the numerous benefits of prioritizing employee well-being. However, identifying the issue isn’t enough—employees still don’t feel like their well-being is a priority. So how do we change that?

How to Prioritize Employee Well-being

One of the main reasons why the disconnect between priorities and results exists in regard to employee well-being is that it’s not a simple issue. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer on how to improve the overall health and wellness of your employees—and there’s no quick fix. Improving employee well-being can take significant time depending on where your organization is in the process.

As mentioned earlier, the concept of employee well-being is split into individual facets of an employee’s health and wellness, and it’s important to target each area to improve the overall well-being of your employees. Let’s take a look at core ways to improve employee well-being across numerous areas of health and wellness.

Listen to Your Employees

Above all else, prioritizing employee well-being starts with listening. Your employees know best when it comes to determining where the gaps are in health and wellness, and starting the process out by listening to what they view as areas of improvement within the organization can guide all your efforts. Otherwise, you may end up spending time addressing areas that your employees don’t feel are lacking, or that they don’t prioritize as immediate needs. 

Depending on the size of your organization, this can come from personal meetings or employee surveys—anything that provides you with direct feedback and data to guide your strategy is helpful.

Encourage (and Pay For) Physical Wellness

Physical health is a core component of employee well-being, but it’s a broad term that can’t be tackled all at once. However, promoting overall physical wellness can help address the issue at the source by showing employees that you care about their health. While it’s one thing to provide a list of nearby workout classes or fitness centers, it’s another to provide a monthly stipend to attend them. Going the extra mile can show employees that you’re serious about their health—and it can motivate them to take control of it.

For remote workers, this can also include providing a stipend for a stand-up desk. Providing employees with the resources to have a healthier workspace can help close the gaps that may prevent them from doing so on their own while showing an investment in their well-being.

De-stigmatize Mental Health

Many employers have already made shifts in regard to providing mental health services for employees. This became critical during the pandemic, as many people experienced an overall decline in mental health. Providing resources and services for employees should be considered essential at this point, and to take it a step further, so should de-stigmatizing mental health overall.

Employers can convey compassion toward employees by building an inclusive, welcoming culture where mental health is not viewed negatively. Holding events or creating incentives for Mental Health Awareness Month or sharing testimonials can help increase the visibility of mental health within the workplace, which in turn can encourage employees to seek help if they need it.

Create Clear Career Growth Paths

Career growth isn’t always associated with employee well-being, but those who choose to include it within their plan can see major benefits. Employees who can’t see a growth path within an organization can become frustrated, complacent, or even burnt out. Providing employees with clear paths for growth, including goals or benchmarks to aim for, can demonstrate your investment in their success. This can relay a sense of value and appreciation that can ultimately lead to improved well-being.

Build Workplace Communities

Many employees value the flexibility of hybrid or remote work, but keeping these employees socially engaged with coworkers represents an additional challenge. The benefits of social relationships in the workplace extend not only to the employees themselves but also to organizations: those with close social relationships with coworkers are more likely to stay than those without those social tethers.

One way to do this is to create communities within the workplace. This can be anything that encourages employees to get together, whether in-person or virtually. Examples include weekly icebreaker meetings, current events forums, or hobby-based groups like an employee book club. Forming these communities can provide employees with social outlets they may not otherwise have—especially in remote settings—and also demonstrate your interest in building an inclusive and fun workplace.

Provide Money Management Training

Improving the financial well-being of employees starts with offering fair and competitive wages. If employee satisfaction with wages is high, taking extra steps to promote financial well-being can let employees know you have their back.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to provide resources and training on essential financial skills like budgeting or retirement planning. Providing this education can not only show employees you care about their well-being, but it can also help reduce overall anxiety or stress amongst employees who are managing their finances effectively.

Offer Volunteer Programs

Newer members of the workforce are coming with a desire to work for companies that align with their personal values. This means improving employee well-being now means providing employees with opportunities to make a difference—and demonstrating the commitment your organization has to these causes.

Creating volunteer programs that promote opportunities to get involved in the local community or for greater, global causes can provide employees with an extra sense of purpose or fulfillment. Better yet, offering PTO for volunteer events reinforces your commitment to these causes and allows employees to easily get involved.

It’s Time to Commit to Employee Well-Being

While these are only a fraction of the steps you can take to improve employee well-being within your organization, implementing these services and programs can address the entire spectrum of employee well-being needs. As mentioned, let your employees inform you of the areas for improvement and where big changes need to be made, and you can build toward a positive, welcoming workplace.

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