When workforce experts look back at the early 21st century, stressed out workers will surely be front and center as a major trend. The stats bear this out, with rising absenteeism rates, and a staggering 87 percent of workers reportedly disengaged.

However, leaders at many organizations are seeing that taking care of employees also takes care of the company, so they’re rolling out employee well-being programs. The most innovative aren’t just one-off trainings, but full-blown cultural changes.

“It’s not just that companies need to address how their people are getting burned out from a fast-changing, competitive world,” said Emily Wilson, director of Solution Marketing for the Well-Being at Work program, SAP SuccessFactors. “Programs that cultivate a culture of well-being help people and the bottom line. Using real-time data, companies can improve employee well-being, impacting recruitment and retention of the best people who are able to make the greatest contribution.”

Wilson shared her thoughts with other experts during a panel discussion I attended at the recent SuccessConnect Berlin event.

How to Bring Well-Being In

Wilson said programs need to match how ready organizations and employees are for change. Companies just starting out with well-being can easily embed activities within existing HR processes. This could include sharing the organization’s cultural commitment to “thriving” on recruiting sites, or quick surveys during onboarding to identify expected job demands and suggest personalized trainings.

Digital Coaching Gets Results

Companies further along the journey can use interactive, cloud-based solutions. Operating as digital “coaches,” they can deliver quick tips and ongoing resources based on an employee’s direct input. It’s also a way for HR to increase participation in under-utilized programs. This was precisely what happened during SAP Switzerland’s pilot of SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life.

“We’ve always had a full range of well-being offerings for our employees,” said Enrico Palumbo, HR director, SAP Switzerland. “Using SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life, employees are triggering actions immediately based on their individual needs. Leaders can review engagement levels to make sure they’re moving the needle, while HR has the data to understand workforce needs, and where to invest resources in new programs.”

The comprehensive solution addresses five personal well-being areas: body, mind, connections, resources, and motivation. Topics include activities and recreation, emotional well-being, nutrition, sleep, and social interactions. After answering a few concise questions about their behaviors, employees receive highly individualized content and other program recommendations based on their personal risk assessment. Those who create a profile receive ongoing information geared to their priorities. The multi-media content combines articles, blogs, videos, and podcasts from SAP partner Thrive Global, with company-owned training programs.

“We want to help employees reach their full potential by understanding their well-being at work,” said Sarah Traeutlein, product owner of SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life. “Employees receive information about activities they can easily incorporate into their daily lives to improve their well-being.”

Machine Learning Personalizes Well-Being

Machine learning is a major component of the software. Algorithms provide recommendations based on the employee’s individual needs. “Employees don’t have to waste time searching for programs that are right for them,” said Traeutlein. “The software continuously delivers updated content as the employee shares new interests and what they’ve found most valuable over time.”

Extracting a New Kind of Valuable People Data

Digging into program data, companies can correlate employee satisfaction levels to specific issues like teamwork or leadership capabilities. This can improve decisions about program investments.

“We can conduct root cause analyses to determine why people are dissatisfied, and see what programs are being used ─ or not ­ ─ with what impact,” said Traeutlein. “Companies could also use the data to eventually replace people surveys because it captures so much about the real employee experience. People are motivated to tell the truth because sharing this feedback benefits them.”

Employees Own Their Data

Privacy is critical to address employee concerns and comply with regulations such as GDPR. Wilson said the solution uses anonymized, aggregated employee data across companies for benchmarking purposes.

“The goal is not to creep people out. The goal is to improve people’s well-being,” said Wilson. “Data is only reported if the employees agree to share it, and it can be aggregated into groups of 10 workers or more. The power of the cloud is that we can exponentially gain knowledge from every employee who always has control of their own data.”

SAP SuccessFactors Work-Life is being rolled out to various SAP teams, including in the United States.

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