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The Forgotten Employee Benefit That Pays Off Big Time

“Several studies, including our own ongoing work from our research arm Grokker Innovation Labs, have shown that well-being and mental health are key drivers for employee productivity and retention,” writes Lorna Borenstein.
Grokker

From quiet quitting to the recent spate of not-so-quiet layoffs–the hiring market has been extremely volatile. Many leaders believe the economic uncertainty that ushered in 2023 is easing hiring pressures and that “attracting and retaining talent” will get easier.

Temptingly simple as this logic may be, it is dangerously shortsighted. Yes, the theory of supply and demand means that employees want to hold onto their jobs more as openings become scarce, but this approach misses a critical factor employees require to stick around long enough to make any real impact on your business.

Employees need to thrive

Offering fair pay, job security and reasonable work flexibility alone are not enough. You need connection, community and meaning at work to stand a fighting chance in the modern employment environment. For leaders, now is the perfect time to uplevel the conversation beyond the material to more profoundly motivational. Now is the time to create a sense of purpose, belonging and balance. In our work and research with companies in industries that range from financial services and airlines to hospitality and consumer goods, we are constantly collaborating with executives on creating culture and community while measuring the direct impact on their bottom line.

A leading global entertainment and media conglomerate we work with saw a precipitous fall in its voluntary attrition rates from 10% to 0.3% among the segment of their employee population engaging with Grokker’s community-driven well-being and mental health resources. The number of jobs saved as a result of the lower turnover equated to $12.5 million in cost savings per year on replacement hiring for salaried workers.

We are seeing companies take a step back from the “pay and perks” approach to try and identify what employees and the organization really need over time to thrive and perform. Not surprisingly, it always comes back to culture, and the realization that culture and cost are neither opposing forces nor mutually exclusive.

Several studies, including our own ongoing work from our research arm Grokker Innovation Labs, have shown that well-being and mental health are key drivers for employee productivity and retention. More than 2,500 employees at a large retailer reached out to their managers to share how much they loved the energy and camaraderie that came with a personalized yet community-led approach to well-being and how having this made them feel cared for. This same retailer saw retention savings of $4.8 million for hourly employees alone.

A recent discussion with the CHRO of a leading hospitality group sheds light on how leaders are understanding this need for connection. The executive teamed up with me to create a compelling case for the C-suite to buy in on well-being and mental health as a key to building a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP). We took the challenge head-on and introduced the team to the concept of Purpose, Belonging and Balance, which is an adaptable framework explained in my book.

At its core, it lays out why modern employers need to provide a human workplace that focuses on the employee’s whole self, and makes the shift from creating a workplace where employees merely go to execute job tasks efficiently and identify with their work in terms of “it’s my job” to one where employees experience a deeper feeling of connection to colleagues, corporate purpose and how their work enriches their entire life beyond the financial in terms of “I belong here.” It is very much an achievable goal and we’ve partnered with many enterprise employers to help drive this change.

Take a systemic approach

One misstep we often see in the enterprise world is community, connection and culture viewed as parts of an employee toolkit. They are not. Rather, these are the foundational elements that keep it all together.

Consider what happened at some major tech employer when the CEO opted to summon all workers back in person to the office via company-wide emails as Covid-19 subsided. A raging media and public affairs war ensued that dominated headlines for months. It created an ill will and a chasm between people who are fundamentally on the same team. This epic “loss of connection” is what happens when you don’t focus on that combination of purpose, belonging and balance. That’s what builds community and connection.

Juxtapose this to the experience at other companies that handled the move to remote work during the pandemic as well as the communication as the crisis abated in a much different way. When we were sent home to shelter-in-place back in March of 2020, we communicated to our employees that, while we did not know how long this requirement to work from home would last, we would follow the CDC and county guidelines and return everyone to the office as soon as it was safe. Arguably, we may have an upper hand being a well-being and mental health company that was already working in a hybrid model with all employees working from home on Wednesdays. But clear communication and scheduling company-wide physical and mental health breaks when we were remote kept people connected and viscerally aware that we were prioritizing their health and well-being. And when the time came to return to the office, it was a seamless experience. A good culture means we work together as a team in any environment, any situation.

Are you measuring what matters?

Companies invest untold hours and costs in cobbling perks and benefits together but rarely measure what impact it is having in the context of caring and connection. Is your benefit making people more connected with your organization’s purpose and with each other? Is it caring for all of them or a few of them? Is it caring for them in ways that match their life?

A highly effective measurement is retention. People express loyalty only when there is a meaningful benefit to each other. This is why we provide macro and micro retention analytics as well as supporting qualitative data to all our clients on how well-being is impacting their retention. I believe so deeply in the power of well-being as a cultural difference maker that Grokker co-authored a study with an industry-leading actuarial firm and contributed to a scientific model that quantifies the cost savings derived from well-being driven retention in enterprise corporations. Treat people as whole people and they will take care of your company–it is really that simple.

Approaching employee attraction and retention in the context of community and connection helps organizations avoid a race to the bottom and makes a company’s employee value proposition harder to imitate.

It prepares your organization to thrive over the long haul. Performance and productivity can never be driven by “fear of losing jobs” or by just throwing bonuses and perks. It’s the culture that drives productivity in good times and bad.

Connect with Lorna on LinkedIn to share your thoughts or continue this conversation.

(Lorna Borenstein is CEO of Grokker and author of “It’s Personal, The Business Case for Caring.”)