Do employee well-being programs really work? In my global solution marketing role, I have found that this question is a topic of discussion in boardrooms all around the world as organizations look for better ways to provide a robust suite of well-being programs focused on physical, mental, financial, and spiritual health in order to drive employee productivity, engagement, and retention.
And considering that businesses are currently pouring upwards of US$8 billion into well-being, I know there’s a lot at stake if businesses don’t gain measurable value soon.
I’m fortunate to get to align my personal passion for well-being with my professional life at SAP SuccessFactors. With the goal of helping companies turn employee well-being into significant growth, we asked Meghan M. Biro, founder and CEO of TalentCulture, to share her insights during the SAP SuccessFactors Webcast “Feeling Good: Why Employee Well-Being Programs Are Key for Business Success.”
“We know that employee well-being programs work. For example, higher employee well-being rates have been associated with 35 percent lower turnover. That’s approximately US$19.5 million in savings for a typical 10,000 person company,” she reflected. “However, a lot of organizations are still struggling to realize significant improvements. One of the key reasons, I think, is a sense of confusion as to what ‘well-being’ really means – from what’s part of it, what works, and how to seamlessly integrate it with existing operations.”
How to Create a Culture Of Well-Being That Drives Business Growth
The vast majority of well-being programs fail because they strictly focus on employees’ physical health, instead of addressing the needs of the whole individual. “Employee well-being is not just physical health – it’s about mental and emotional health as well,” Biro shared. “Studies have found that this well-rounded approach supports and improves workforce inclusion, diversity, and, consequentially, better innovation and performance.”
Recent research at the University of Nottingham (UK) found that well-being comprises of 14 individual, relational, and organizational factors, in addition to physical fitness. They include: happiness, vitality, calmness, optimism, involvement, self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-worth, competence, development, purpose, significance, congruence, and connection.
It should come as no surprise that when all of these factors are satisfied, employees experience fewer instances of disease, illness, and injury while boosting immune function, accelerating recovery, and increasing longevity. And all of these benefits translate into a more engaged workforce. According to a study from Quantum Workplace and Limeade, 88 percent of employees who feel a higher sense of well-being also feel more engaged at work.
When organizations have a vibrant and committed well-being program, employees feel valued, supported, and that their work is meaningful. People with higher levels of well-being are 31 percent more productive at work and 87 percent less likely to quit.
More importantly, well-being is clearly a great way to achieve alignment between business objectives and employee work. People are more committed to delivering positive outcomes, work productively on their own projects as well as their team’s, and engage in more future-focused thinking – all of which can lead to 37 percent higher sales.
I think back to my wake-up call which was about seven years ago. I was working as a Marketing professional and living in a major east coast city and from the outside, my social media feed looked quite glamorous: there were near constant happy hours after work, five course dinners, and exotic travel. However, that meant that when I did find some downtime, I used it to do absolutely nothing. I was gaining weight and sleeping poorly, and I realized that all of the socializing and focus on external people and goals meant that I was neglecting myself. I made a commitment to get healthy and to this day, while it can be a battle to make the right food choices or go to bed at a reasonable hour, I remind myself that if I don’t prioritize myself, no one will.
“It really takes a comprehensive approach to change from within. The goal of the well-being program is to change your employee experience in a powerful way. It really needs to be part of operations and work with other business functions, offering employees and managers the visibility they need to track progress and identify opportunities for improvement,” Biro advised. “As more people get involved, the program can change to meet employee needs – and things just get better across the board.”
Find out what is required for a well-being program to be successful. Watch the replay of Feeling Good: Why Employee Well-Being Programs Are Key for Business Success (also available on SoundCloud) featuring Meghan M. Biro, founder and CEO of TalentCulture. And visit Well-Being at Work to explore the SAP SuccessFactors solutions that can help improve your employees’ well-being at work.
Emily Wilson is director of Solutions Marketing for Well-Being at Work at SAP SuccessFactors.