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

Rethink or Reboot? Five Things We Heard You Say About Workforce Wellbeing

The notion that workforce wellbeing changed during (and in large part due to) the pandemic period isn’t new. We saw it in our workforce. I’m sure you did, too. 

What employees want from us now – when it comes to thriving at work – has been the subject of numerous studies. Did you happen to catch Mercer’s global talent trends study on the Rise of the Relatable Organization released this past Spring? In case you missed it, they said “Organizations today are expected to have a heart, to come off mute on what they stand for, and to make measurable progress against goals relevant to all stakeholders” – including, of course, their employees. 

When they asked employees globally what they needed to thrive at work, topping the list were: work that fulfills me, feeling valued, and having a sense of belonging. You know what didn’t make the top 10 list? Help with having a healthy lifestyle.  If employees are seeking fulfillment and belonging, but are getting offered help with food and fitness, it may be time for a rethink. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for healthy food and personal fitness! It’s simply no longer clear that employers ought to focus their good faith efforts (and limited budgets) there, relative to things employees really need, want and value today. It’s possible that “purpose and belonging” are today’s “food and fitness.” 

With all this in mind, we recently completed a deep dive interview project with HR and Benefits leaders representing a diverse array of industries – consumer goods, insurance, manufacturing, high tech, healthcare, consulting, financial services, engineering, energy, and food services. We wanted to know if they were indeed rethinking wellbeing. We asked about business drivers in play now, and challenged them to grade their current wellbeing programs and platforms. We asked what “better” would look like, and tested new ideas for resonance.  We used independent expert interviewers to ask these questions, to get the real story.  

Here are 5 things we learned from these hour-long discussions , in a nutshell.

  • Workforce wellbeing is now squarely on the C-suite radar. Leaders responding agreed: their senior leadership teams are placing an increased focus and emphasis on achieving better workforce wellbeing.
  • HR/Benefits decision makers are rethinking their approach. Leaders expressed agreement that programs are overly dependent on incentives, and over-focused on fitness and food vs. root causes. 
  • The platforms currently in use often fall short. Some, by a lot. Most rated what they have today as a 6 or below (on a scale of 0 to 10), and nearly half gave their current platform a failing score. 
  • “Better” means going deeper. Getting to the heart of the matter. Leaders makers seek to get to the intrinsic motivations for change, and to become less dependent on incentives. Most agree a better solution gets to root causes, boosts personal purpose, and fortifies emotional wellbeing.
  • Cost and experience count, but cost increasingly drives decision making. A simplified and better human experience rated high as a decision driver, but assured cost savings rated even higher.

One final thought – many found “purpose-centered wellbeing” to be a personally appealing idea. They expressed a belief that aligning with your purpose would drive deeper engagement and a more relatable, authentic experience. But many also felt unsure about how to explain purpose and its role in wellbeing – either to their leaders, or to their teams. 

Does this sound like you?  If so, you’re definitely not alone. If you are in that camp, let’s talk. Making purpose accessible and relatable, and building your purpose “muscle” as a way to bring your best into each day is at the core of what we do. We’d be pleased to unpack the “why” behind starting with why, when it comes to wellbeing.

About the Author

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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