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10 Practical Tips for Creating Employee Wellbeing - Culture, Engagement, Care, and Retention

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When Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, woke up after collapsing from exhaustion at her desk, she had a broken cheekbone and a cut above her eye. She and her company had achieved success by many definitions, but the experience made Huffington realize the hidden cost that success had been achieved at.

“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in,” says Huffington. In her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she notes that what is celebrated in eulogies at the end of life is strikingly different from how we define success in society.

“Remember, we’re paying people for their judgment, not their stamina” Arianna explained in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. It was with that reminder that Huffington went on to launch a revolution within the Huffington Post to change workplace culture and wellness, and in the process changed her own habits as well.

Getting Started with Wellness

High employee satisfaction doesn’t happen by chance. It’s a process that takes deliberate planning and consistent upkeep. With competition for top talent in the spa and service industries becoming increasingly fierce, attracting and retaining team members has become a top priority of many managers.

But what does employee satisfaction look like day today? As we’ve been exploring women’s leadership in the wellness community as part of our Women in Wellness series, we’ve found inspiration to help others develop strong cultures, engagement opportunities for employees, and care for the caretakers.

Wellness is more than a competitive paycheck, it’s about creating an environment where employees are supported physically, mentally, and emotionally. And it turns out, creating that environment really pays off. According to survey data from the State of the Industry Survey organizations that invest in wellbeing, culture, and engagement see a measurable impact on business performance and outcomes.

In this post, we’ll explore the three key elements of employee care: culture, engagement, and wellbeing. We’ll also provide tangible tips from experts on ways to increase employee satisfaction, retention, and well-being in your workplace.

Why Employee Satisfaction Matters

In a study featured in the Journal of Operations Management, researchers explored the impact of employee satisfaction on quality and profitability in high-contact service industries. They found that “employee satisfaction is significantly related to service quality and customer satisfaction, while the latter in turn influences firm profitability.” Further, they found that profitability, in turn, affects employee satisfaction, leading to a “satisfaction—quality—profit cycle.”

In other words, employees that feel well cared for, go on to provide superior care to clients, who in turn become returning customers and increase profitability, which then drives further employee satisfaction, and so on.

Creating a Wellness Program

Although creating an intentional wellness program is only one slice of the employee satisfaction puzzle, it’s a big slice. In the State of the Industry Survey, 74% of employers with strategic, holistic wellbeing programs saw improvements in employee satisfaction.

When it comes to wellness, begin by practicing what you preach. As part of her reform efforts at HuffPost, Huffington created nap rooms for employees to recharge in. Yet it’s unlikely that the nap rooms would have taken off if Huffington herself had not championed and modeled the need for sleep, breaks, and rest. Identify the ways that you can create wellness in your own life and habits, then model those habits for your team so they see your commitment to real and authentic change.

Education is an often overlooked element of wellness programs, yet plays an important role in habit change both individually and collectively. Wellness education can take the shape of resources on local food, health, and activities, or can be guest speakers or workshops on wellness related topics. Chances are, the more you and your team learn, the more opportunities you’ll find to reinforce your burgeoning culture of wellness.

When local WeWork coworking chapters began making commitments to their health and environments, the global umbrella took it as a sign that the time had come for collective action as well. Beginning with education, they found that avoiding meat on an individual level would have a greater environmental impact than switching to a hybrid car. Ergo, a company-wide commitment to not serving meat at events could save an estimated 16.7 billion gallons of water, 445.1 million pounds of CO2 emissions, and 15 million animals. The initiative has aligned WeWork locations across the globe in what they refer to as the “Power of We.”

While creating a healthy and balanced environment in the workplace is important, remember that wellness extends into home and community life as well.

“The most successful of these plans recognize employees only spend 20 to 60 percent of their waking hours at work, and so it’s their entire lifestyle that has to be supported through positive behavior change,” says Emily Regenold, of Tal Matrix. “Additionally, the most successful wellness plans are those that can be tailored and shaped for each individual. If a wellness initiative isn’t set up in a way where it can be relevant to each individual’s lifestyle, it’s not as likely to cultivate lasting behavior change or impact their level of engagement.”

Another method for developing wellbeing is to incentivize and reward wellness. This may take the shape of a financial incentive such as a reduced health insurance premium or incidental perks such as a free massage or lunch with the CEO.

Stay Inspired and Be Good to Yourself on your Wellness Journey

Developing workplace wellness can be hard work, but if done right can also be fun and rewarding. Find stories, individuals, or companies that inspire you on your wellness journey. One resource is our recently launched Women in Wellness series, which provides stories and ideas to help fuel your efforts.

“Be good to yourself,” Sandra Fikus, Owner of Sereno Wellness & Spa, reminds us. “That’s one thing that we tend not to do when we get into stressful situations. We put ourselves aside but that’s the time that you really need to be taking care of yourself.”

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(Click play above to view our latest installment of Women In Wellness

Developing Culture

Strong cultures breed high employee engagement and satisfaction, which in turn increase profitability... According to the State of the Industry Survey, “95% of organizations view culture as important for driving business outcomes.”

Candidates, particularly from the millennial generation, are drawn toward organizations with a strong brand, a clear sense of mission, and values that align with their personal beliefs. “When you have a winning culture, employees can speak genuinely and convincingly about why your organization is a great place to work,” according to a report from Nate Dvorak and Ryan Pendell for Gallup. “And that naturally attracts people who are seeking exceptional workplaces.”

Dvorak and Pendell recommend that you ask yourself two questions in order to zero in on the strengths of your workplace culture:

  1. What percentage of the job offers you make to highly talented candidates get accepted?
  2. When talented candidates say yes, what percentage mention your identity, culture or brand as a deciding factor?

Once you’ve answered those questions, identify what makes your culture unique, and monitor its health. “Strong organizations understand their unique culture,” say, Dvorak and Pendell, “and use multiple methods to continuously monitor the state of their culture and align the culture they want with business performance priorities -- like attracting top talent.”

In any discussion of culture, it’s essential to discuss the role of teams and teamwork within your organization. “It is imperative, at a time of accelerated change, to create cultures that value building teams,” says Arianna Huffington. “Teams can be always on, but individuals can’t. They can offer support, and amplify and reinforce incentives. They also build empathy, foster creativity and strengthen resilience. As you learned from your high school gym teacher, for a team the total is more than the sum of its parts.”

One sure fire way to influence employee satisfaction is to say thank you and to mean it. “Four out of five employees who feel appreciated stay with their companies,” according to Ben Peterson, CEO of BambooHR. “If you want your people to feel appreciated, a little thank you goes a long way. But it must be thoughtful and personalized. The next time you want to thank an employee for a job well done, take a few minutes to tell them why you're grateful they work with you and point out something specific about them you admire. Don't make a spectacle of it (some employees would hate that); just express sincere appreciation and make sure they know you mean it.” 

Engaging Employees

If it feels like your employees aren’t engaged, you’re not alone. According to a Gallup poll, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. That number is 33% in the United States. But that’s no reason to take engagement off the list of management priorities. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Investing in employee engagement has a strong impact on business results, according to the State of the Industry Survey. They found that 56% of companies surveyed saw improvements in employee satisfaction, 40% reported enhanced company culture, and 14% saw revenue growth as a result of employee engagement programs.

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To achieve those business results, bring your employee engagement efforts to life. “Define engagement goals in realistic, everyday terms, recommends Robyn Reilly, Senior Consultant for Gallup. “To bring engagement to life, leaders must make engagement goals meaningful to employees' day-to-day experiences. Describing what success looks like using powerful descriptions and emotive language helps give meaning to goals and builds commitment within a team. Make sure that managers discuss employee engagement at weekly meetings, in action-planning sessions, and in one-on-one meetings with employees to weave engagement into daily interactions and activities and to make it part of the workplace's DNA.”

Chances are, you have a perfect employee engagement opportunity somewhere on the long list of decisions you have to make in the coming week(s) and month(s). As we’ve worked with clients to create a professional brand look for their uniforms, we encourage them to engage those who will be wearing the uniform in the process of selecting it.

“A number of our clients have used the process of buying a uniform to engage and empower their team,” says Noel Asmar, “How do they see themselves in their profession? What message and environment do they want their uniform to convey to clients and customers? And the teams that are engaged in that level of decision making have an increased sense of not only belonging but agency and potential.”

Particularly when the decisions you’re making directly impact the way your team perceives their role and value, or the manner in which they can succeed in delivering quality service, engaging them to provide input and perspective goes a long way to creating a culture of empowerment and professionalism.

That level of engagement begins on day one. “Filling out mountains of paperwork and sitting through a canned PowerPoint presentation on the first day at work is a surefire way to kill engagement,” says Tim Eisenhauer, President, and Co-founder of Axero. “New employees start with enthusiasm and curiosity, so capitalize on that momentum by putting them right to work, helping them to get to know their co-workers or pairing them with a mentor. Acclimate them to the culture by making an excellent first impression, and they’ll fall in love with your company and their work.”

How are you creating employee well-being?

We’d love to hear how you keep your team engaged and happy! Comment below to share how your business creates wellness, culture, and/or engagement.

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