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Blog and Insights, Chief Innovation Officer - Eric Zimmerman, MPH, MBA

A Key Missing Ingredient to Employee Wellbeing

Employees continue to languish

You don’t have to look far beyond your news feed or workforce trend reports to be confronted with disheartening stats on how employees feel these days. From C-suite to shop floor, workforce wellbeing is top of mind.

In fact, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report reveals that only 21% of workers are engaged. Imagine you’re coaching a basketball team and only 1 player out of 5 on the court had their head and heart fully in the game. Now imagine you’re the CEO responsible for the bottom line, and it’s 5,000 out of 25,000 employees engaged (not 1 out of 5 players on the court). That’s where things get even scarier. According to this same Gallup report, the costs add up: disengagement is taking $7.8 trillion dollars from the global economy.

Our own research from the Harris-Kumanu national survey1 of full-time U.S. employees finds:

  • 3 in 5 have moderate to severe burnout (up 20% since December 2021)
  • 40% show signs of anxiety and depression (up 4x since January 2020)
  • 1 in 2 lack a strong sense of purpose (3x as likely to be disengaged)

That 40% jumps to 60% or higher when we look only at Gen Z’ers and Millennials who now likely make up much of your workforce – many of whom have had to navigate early career development, and their own mental wellbeing, during a pandemic.

These challenges have a significant human impact and represent costly challenges to organizations in the form of diminished productivity, engagement, safety, and retention.

The risk of status quo

Leaders know that unless they can improve the wellbeing of their workforce, the business will struggle. The costly threats of quiet quitting, disengagement and talent retention will continue to impact organizations.

Yet despite increased investment around reducing burnout, treating mental health, and building greater wellbeing, leaders and employees are still struggling. This suggests that the traditional tools and strategies once relied upon to help employees, are falling short and not meeting the moment. In a poll by Dr. Vic Strecher (University of Michigan Professor and Kumanu’s CEO), with over 100 leaders from Fortune 500 companies at the Council on Employee Benefits this past spring, only 16% of leaders rated their own programs highly effective. Most organizations feel there is room for improvement and are no longer satisfied with the status quo.

Employees thrive—with Purpose

There has been a growing body of research looking into foundational drivers of engagement and wellbeing. One topic coming into the spotlight as among the strongest intrinsic motivators is sense of purpose. More than 1,000 studies have illuminated the profound impact that a strong sense of purpose has on health behaviors, brain health, as well as individual and organizational wellbeing.

Dr. Vic Strecher shared a new data-backed model at Hero-Health’s Annual Forum illustrating the impact that sense of personal purpose has on key business drivers like retention, work engagement, and mental wellbeing. This new wellbeing model centers on how a purposeful culture aligns several interrelated and significant business outcomes. Employees with strong purpose have greater emotional regulation, resilience, and more effective coping strategies when things get difficult. Those who report their employer supports their purpose are far more engaged, and report they are more likely to stick around. These purposeful culture factors (measured by Kumanu’s Purposeful Culture Index) directly impact their mindset, health behaviors, and risk of burnout and depression.

If you and your fellow leaders recognize the need to evolve your organization’s approach to employee wellbeing to build a more sustainable and thriving workplace, drop us a note.

Other articles you may find interesting:

  • 1July, 2022 National Survey
eric zimmerman

Eric Zimmerman, MPH, MBA

Chief Innovation & Commercialization Officer

Eric has over two decades of global experience in design, launch, and commercialization of breakthrough solutions focused on population health, connectivity, community, and collaboration. He also brings insights and experience from designing and implementing employer based wellbeing strategies reaching hundreds of organizations globally.

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