Updated: Sep 20, 2022
We have been reviewing and studying similar strategies related to the most important asset in an organization, the people, for decades, yet most leaders and organizations have not learned from those repetitive teachings.
The time is now for leaders to prioritize the whole person in the workplace in all aspects of wellbeing.
A student, Theron Eiberhardt, studied Business Principles and Management in 1954. I acquired his textbook he signed from a thrift store recently. In the mid-1950s, students dedicated two chapters to selecting, hiring, training, and supervising employees, then called Personnel Management. I am shocked at how similar our methods are for talent acquisition and development today.
Theron and his classmates explored centralized employment structures, knowledge of the job to be filled, sources of labor supply, the selection procedure, introducing the employee to his work, and following up with new hires. Do any of these themes sound familiar? They also discussed productivity, labor turnover and good management. Still more of the same.
As contemporary organizations have begun to prioritize wellbeing, I turned to the pages of the vintage textbook and found reference to the same challenge. The book's author states: “It is therefore essential that the manager of every business make a careful study of what should be done in connection with the selection, training, supervision, and welfare of employees.” Welfare is another name for wellbeing and the authors even call for having a separate department dedicated to Employee Welfare.
So, we have been students of employee wellbeing for nearly 70 years, and it seems like we have just been reading words on a page.
While I am certain human resources and management students today spend more time on the topic and additional textbook chapters are dedicated to the importance of wellbeing, I wonder if we have really made much progress.
The future of work is employee wellbeing.
It always should have been our priority, yet we have fallen short for far too long. Employee wellbeing is caring for your people and includes the overall mental, physical, emotional, and economic health of employees. According to Gallup (2022), fewer than one in four US employees feel strongly that their organization cares about their wellbeing, the lowest percentage in nearly a decade. The answers are not in some management book we have been studying for decades and are likely not in any current textbook either.
Employee wellbeing requires a whole new rulebook.
While the wellbeing rules are still being written, I recommend the following:
Be a champion for wellbeing, not just a student and learner. Leaders need to be role models, advocates, and zealots for wellbeing.
Hire a wellness director, or better yet, a Chief Wellness Officer and provide abundant funding for wellbeing programs and initiatives.
Form a task force including employees and managers with short- and long-term responsibilities, reporting weekly to the C-suite about their progress.
Administer a wellbeing survey and require all managers to have a wellbeing plan for themselves and their teams.
Continuously discuss employee wellbeing with employees, managers, and senior leaders at every opportunity.
Apply a wellbeing lens to every decision and in every corner of your organization, including selecting, developing, and caring for employees, every step of the way, which includes policies, decision making, strategic planning, and growth opportunities.
It is time to learn from the past and prioritize wellbeing as our strategy for future success.
There is no time to waste for leaders to prioritize the whole person in the workplace in all aspects of wellbeing. It is the only way forward.