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Where is health & wellbeing on your agenda?

Sep 26 2012
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Health and wellbeing at work has gained a much higher place on the agenda for employers and inpiduals over the last few years. Government attention on the issue through its welfare reform agenda has helped put it firmly on the radar for organisations and barely a day goes by without mention of the issue in the media.

While the Government seems to have grasped the importance of health and wellbeing as a workplace issue – it has invested in employee happiness research and the significant Black and Frost Review into absence and health at work – not all employers feel the same.

There are some forward-thinking companies who are grasping the issue, taking a proactive approach to the health of their staff and reaping the associated benefits. But research suggests that some employers are only just starting to confront the issue and grasp the opportunity to improve the performance of their businesses.

The cost of poor employee wellbeing should alarm any leader: translating the impact of the sickness absence, reactive health costs and staff turnover gives the average organisation with 750 staff a bill of around £3,264,000 according to the energiseYou Employee wellbeing guide.

Employees know there is a problem. Research of over 2,000 UK employees, from energiseYou, shows 80% of people score just 40% with regards to their health and energy.

With sickness absence and stress levels rising across the UK, poor employee wellbeing represents an iceberg which looks set to hit UK business unless action is taken quickly.

So the opportunity is clear: employers need to turn their attention to helping their staff improve their health to support better business performance.

To better understand issues facing organisations around health and wellbeing at work we partnered with Edenred and asked almost 200 senior HR professionals what their organisations are thinking and doing in four key areas:

  • Getting wellbeing on the agenda
  • Making the link between wellbeing and performance
  • Practical actions to improve health and wellbeing
  • measuring the impact

The purpose of this report is to share this insight and draw on best practice to establish a framework so that organisations can improve the performance of their business.

For a copy of the survey please email contactus@energiseyou.com

The rules of engagement

Sep 06 2012
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High levels of employee engagement is what every business wants.

According to research, from the Best Companies, high levels of employee engagement help to create a more profitable business. This is because it drives performance by:

  • Improving motivation so that staff go that extra mile for the business
  • Inspiring employees to be the best they can be at work
  • Giving clarity so staff understand the organisations objectives & priorities
  • Achieving great staff retention and the ability to attract top talent

If we were able to wave a magic wand to create a highly engaged workforce I’m sure most business leaders and HR professionals would take it. But sadly there’s not. As leaders we need to work hard to create a positive work environment where employees feel valued, where they are driven by what they do and able to perform at their best.

There is lots of employee focused research that has been carried out to investigate what creates an engaged workforce and what helps attract, retain and motivate workers. This all shows we are not simply driven by large salaries and job security. Our needs go much further, beyond just our material needs, and they become quite physical and emotional.

Wayne Clarke, International Partner, Best Companies Partnership says, “One of the most important things in achieving strong levels of employee engagement is the relationship between employees and their line manager – people join organisations, but they leave managers. Managers need to focus on providing direction and this means good communication.”

Think about a time when you have produced your best work or performed at your best. How did you feel? What type of environment were you working in? How did you feel about your employer and manager? Did you feel healthy, happy and energised? When we are able to meet our employees material needs and also make sure they feel valued then they are far more likely to put in extra work.

Employees want to know that their employers care about them. They want to be recognised for their work and feel valued, which is why the role of managers is so important – click here to read my earlier blog, which focuses on the role of line managers.

Wellbeing is very important. Wayne says, “Effective managers not only offer clarity for what is expected from their employees but they treat them as individuals, with fairness and respect and with a concern for their wellbeing.

"We know that when employees feel that they are fairly treated and looked after, in terms of their health and wellbeing, that they are much more engaged and far more likely to put in the extra effort when needed.”

As a business leader myself, I want my employees to be committed, feel motivated by their work, be passionate about what they do and able to perform at their best. This means listening to employees so that I can:

1. Understand what is most important to them

2. Identify any potential problems so that interventions can be put in place

3. Create a culture where employees are able to perform at their best

We know from our work with some of the best companies that they remain successful because they stay close to their people and have open communication. They listen to employees so that get a good understanding of their needs and by doing so they are able to create a culture where their staff are happy, energised and able to perform at their best.

Employee wellbeing – where do line managers fit in?

Sep 04 2012
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More and more organisations are taking action when it comes to improving employee health and wellbeing but in order to achieve real return on investment it is critical for line managers to play their part. In this blog I discuss the role of line managers in improving the health and wellbeing of employees - this first appeared on Edenred.com.

We know from our experience of working with some of the UK’s top brands that by taking a proactive approach to the health and energy of employees, organisations can really improve wellbeing which in turn helps increase the company’s profits.

But to succeed, and achieve real return on investment, the culture of the organisation needs to be one that embraces wellbeing - this is where line managers come in. Managers can really help create the positive organisational culture that is required to really achieve a healthy, energised, high performing workforce.

Here are five things areas to consider when thinking about the role of line managers in employee wellbeing:

1) Direction, motivation and challenge

It is important for line managers to give clarity about the vision of the business and business objectives, and make sure employees understand how their individual objectives fit in. A little pressure can be a good thing. It is up to line managers to get the balance right, making sure staff feel stretched and are motivated by their objectives but not feeling overwhelmed and unable to handle the pressure.

2) Good communication

Research from Best Companies highlights the importance of good communication in achieving high levels of employee wellbeing and engagement. The most effective way to improve communication is through conversation and this is where line managers come in. It is important for team members to feel that they trust their line manager and can have an open and honest relationship. Managers who listen to and are open to receiving feedback and maintain an open channel of communication will naturally become aware of problems more quickly and this will enable them to fix them much sooner.

3) Spot the warning signs

Managers need to work closely with their team to ensure they are working to realistic deadlines and have a manageable workload. There will be times when individuals themselves are unable to spot early warning signs and this is where line managers come in. Are employees unable to cope with the pressure? Do they appear to lack energy? Is morale low? Are engagement levels changing? Is someone working too many hours? Managers need to be close enough to their team to spot potential problems. Only then will they be able to intervene and provide the support required.

4) Address the warning signs

Fail to address these warning signs and the business will suffer. Sometimes it will be as simple as a manager taking their team member to one side and discussing the issue and other times it maybe more complex. It is important to ensure line managers understand how to deal with problems when they spot them and what processes are in place to support their employees.

5) Employee recognition

It is important to give recognition to employees when they do a good job. By treating employees well and giving them recognition they are far more likely to be happy, motivated and engaged in their job and as a result pass on the positivity to customer, clients and colleagues thereby maintaining a positive corporate culture.

High potentials - the missing element

Aug 21 2012
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‘High potentials’ and ‘top talent’ are terms that have been used within the business world for quite some time now.

As employers most of us now recognise that our people can give us a competitive advantage. By identifying individuals with high potential, both inside and outside our organisation, we have an opportunity to really accelerate the performance of individuals and achieve great things.

This has created many specially targeted recruitment campaigns and development programmes for high potentials, including special graduate development programmes and leadership programmes.

As a result many organisations are now investing thousands of pounds to identify and train those with high potential. But there are many questions that we need to ask ourselves:

  • Are we investing money in the right areas?
  • Are we doing all we can to accelerate the development of those with high potential?
  • Are we doing all we can to retain those with high potential?

All too often employers miss a crucial element that could really help accelerate the development of these employees and improve their performance that little bit more – health and wellbeing.

Whilst these high potentials may need the relevant technical training so that they are equipped with the relevant technical skills to do their job research also shows individuals perform much better if they are healthy and energised.

Think about yourself. When you get a good night’s sleep and eat the right food do you feel better? Are you more alert? Are you more energised? Are you able to perform better?

Our research of over 1,000 employees shows 80% of people score just 40% with regards to their health and energy. What this means in practice is that there is a huge opportunity for us, as employers, to help our people make simple changes to improve their health, energy and performance.

Investing a little more time in developing a well thought through employee wellbeing strategy makes good business sense.

By incorporating wellbeing activities into these wider training and development initiatives for our high potentials we have a huge opportunity to improve the success of these programmes and maximise the performance of our people.

This is a great example of how focusing on marginal gains, which I discussed in my previous blog post, can be applied to the workplace.

By integrating education around health and wellbeing into wider training and development programmes organisations will really reap the benefits in terms of maximising the performance of targeted talent pools and making the most of their recruitment spend.

What we can learn from our Olympic team for workplace performance

Aug 08 2012
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What a fantastic Olympics – it really is inspiring to see Great Britain (GB) scooping so many medals! The coaches and the wider GB team have clearly put everything into helping our athletes reach their peak.

This got me thinking about what we, as employers, can learn from our Olympic team for workplace performance...

I saw a really inspiring interview with David Brailsford, Performance Director of the Great Britain cycling team, whose team won eight out of 10 track cycling gold medals in London. He attributes four key things to their success:

1. Talented athletes

2. Hard working athletes

3. Set a specific goal

4. Make a list of all the elements that impact on the success of your goal and work on improving each element

Brailsford refers to the different elements as ‘marginal gains’. He says that if you break down everything that goes into achieving that goal and improve each element by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

He focused on obvious things like fitness and conditioning, the technology of the bike and clothing, but also other things like sleeping in the right position and having the same pillow when athletes are away and training in different places. Brailsford said, “They're tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference to performance”.

The GB cycling team used experts in each area to help achieve these marginal gains; technology experts to improve the performance of the bike and sleep experts to ensure athletes got sufficient sleep.

Every aspect of preparation for the cycling has been meticulous. The medals are not a fluke. It’s the preparation, hard work and talent – talented athletes, talented coaches and other talented experts in each of the marginal gain areas – that has led to success.

The formula should be no different for businesses – we need to ensure we have talented people who are working hard. We also need a clear goal and by breaking this goal down we can identify and improve the different elements to ensure success. One of these elements has to be achieving a healthy, energised and engaged workforce.

I am not suggesting that we buy all of our employees a comfortable pillow, but by educating them about the simple changes they need to make to improve their health, energy and performance we have a real opportunity to help them maximise energy, improve their performance and increase business profits.

Click here to listen to our August 2012 webinar. This focused on how you can use the Olympics to inspire your workforce, drive business performance and get your employees to focus on gold.

Senior executives cannot afford to ignore their own wellbeing

Jul 01 2012
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I have been working with senior executives for years now, helping them to improve the wellbeing of their employees and helping them as individuals improve their own health and wellbeing. Many leaders do recognise the need to invest in the wellbeing of their workforce but all too often they ignore their own needs - this not only has a negative impact on their own health but also the health of their organisation. It’s true that senior executives are there to lead and need to hold everything together but this does not mean that they should ignore their own wellbeing needs. In fact, Ben Wilmott, Head of Public Policy, at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recently told the Financial Times that it is no longer good enough for senior executives to pass stress on. He said that by failing to deal with their stress this will in turn create a toxic culture and will undermine performance. I agree with Ben. We know that by improving employee wellbeing organisations can reap the benefits in terms of the increased productivity – individuals are more energised and motivated to achieve goals. It doesn’t matter whether you are just entering the workplace or whether you are at the very top, the fact of the matter is that someone with more energy and positivity is going to be much more beneficial for the organisation. It is this that has a positive impact on bottom line. The CIPD’s 2011 Employee Absence survey finds stress is now the top cause of long-term absence and senior executives are not immune to the impact of stress. In fact Michael Sinclair, City-based psychologist and author of Fear and Self Loathing in the City, raises real concerns about the pressure high-flying executives in the City face and the fact more CEOs are being signed off work. There is a real need to help those at the top as well as the average worker. Individuals, whether they are at the top or bottom of the food chain, can only take such pressure and ignore their own wellbeing for a short period of time before it starts to impact on those around them. We have all seen it in the press – senior executives burning out. Failing to address the health and wellbeing of those at the very top will have a detrimental affect on the business long-term. By giving those at the top the tools to improve their health and become more resilient they will be in a much stronger position to lead their organisation.

A call to ban the word stress in the workplace

Jun 01 2012
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Stress – it is a word that is so overused, both inside and outside the workplace. This is not to say it is not a serious issue but if we are to limit the negative impact associated with, and caused, by stress in the workplace we need to move away from focusing on it so much and think about pressure and resilience.

It is true the side effects of stress on individuals can be terrible, from both a mental and physical perspective. They are also terrible for businesses and can lead to mistakes, loss of productivity and high levels of sickness absence. But by focusing efforts soley on stress itself we have already decided it exists within our organisation and in fact we will probably end up fuelling it.

I worked with someone who suffered with stress on and off over 10 years. Her company sent her on a couple of stress management workshops, but generally they made her feel worse and just gave her another thing to worry about. She then attended a health and energy related workshop and it was here that she learnt about what the early warning signs of stress are. As a result she has been able to manage pressure at work more effectively and has developed more resilience to the pressure and challenges when they arise.

Let’s face it, pressure exists everywhere. In fact, as I have said in previous blog posts a little bit of pressure can actually be a good thing, helping motivate and engage people. It is how people deal with this pressure that will determine whether our businesses are successful or not.

So, rather than focus all of our attention on stress let’s focus on giving our people the tools they need to manage pressure effectively. By taking a more proactive approach to the health and wellbeing of our workforce and the initiatives we put in place, rather than simply reacting to problems, will enable us to create a much more resilient workforce.

How high-flyers can avoid burnout…

May 01 2012
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We have all seen it in the press – reports about senior executives burning out. It can be a lonely job at the top and a role that comes with immense pressure. But it is how we manage this pressure that will determine our success.

Once reaching the top things often change. Not only is there more responsibility but colleagues can react differently to you when you move into a leadership position and very few individuals can truly be used as a sounding board. This adds to the pressure.

Also, when you are in a position of leadership and authority you are quite often tasked with having to make difficult decisions. Get it right and you’re doing a great job, get it wrong and your reputation can be tarnished. Unfortunately this is quite often the reality of the corporate world that we live in.

It’s how we as leaders handle this pressure that will lead to the success or failure of a business. All too often we talk about stress – it seems like every other week there is a new report out highlighting increasing levels of stress among managers, leaders and employees.

But let’s face it, if we are honest a little bit of pressure is good. As a leader myself I know that a little bit of pressure can motivate me and give me the drive to achieve great things but I also see it in my team. Pressure of some sort will always exist and it should not be considered a bad thing. What is important is our reaction to it.

As leaders, we need to learn how to deal with this pressure effectively and ensure our employees are able to do the same. Only then will we be successful in creating a resilient workforce.

Schools are beginning to take wellbeing seriously but what about businesses?

Apr 01 2012
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I read a recent article showcasing a school in Berkshire that has introduced wellbeing lessons to help boost pupils' grades. The lessons were introduced to the school's curriculum in 2006 and since then, A level grades have risen - from 69 percent achieving A or B grades to 93 per cent achieving an A*, A or B.

Clearly investment in pupil’s wellbeing, giving them time out from other lessons to focus on this, is having a positive impact. But how long will it take for other schools to get this and start investing in it? My conclusion – it will take a long time if businesses are anything to go by.

Government statistics show that for every £1 invested in staff wellbeing, there’s a return of £3 in improved efficiency and productivity and research from Roffey Park has repeatedly found a correlation between individual wellbeing and the financial and strategic success of the organisation they work for.

Like some of the businesses we work with the school in Berkshire is being innovative and reaping the benefits. However, some employers are not doing anything when it comes to employee wellbeing or simply dipping their toes in the water - perhaps they just don't understand the true cost of poor wellbeing or they see it has being just too difficult to tackle? As an expert in health, energy and performance I know that it doesn’t take much to see a little increase in energy levels and performance – one simple change can have a huge impact.

To achieve meaningful results a culture shift is needed, which has to start at the top with senior management. As managers and leaders we need to lead by example – only when we take our health and wellbeing seriously, will this will filter down to staff.

A reduction in sickness absence is not always a good thing…

Mar 01 2012
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In a recent article on the Guardian Online Professor Gary Johns highlights the fact presenteeism is a much worse problem than absenteeism. He says, "There is considerable agreement across studies that presenteeism accounts for more aggregate productivity loss than absenteeism."

I agree with Professor Gary Johns. Yes, we need to reduce sickness absence but if staff are simply coming into work to show their face then the numbers are deceiving. Whilst on the face of it there maybe a reduction is sickness absence productivity may not have improved, in fact it could have got worse. And it is this that we need to be focusing on because it is quality and high productivity that will create a successful business not an extra person sitting at a desk.

This is not to say stop monitoring sickness absence but as employers we also need to be proactive in our approach to employee wellbeing, offering a range of initiatives to educate staff and really help them improve their health and energy. This is what will ultimately lead to staff performing at their best and increased productivity.

So it is simple really – a healthy energised workforce results in improved productivity and reduced absence. And it is the organisations that get this and are being proactive in their approach to employee wellbeing that will succeed. They are the innovators that are investing in the health and energy of their staff, making employee wellbeing part of their organisational culture, and in turn creating a much more resilient workforce.